Andy’s scenario recap (PrinceCon 44)

OVERVIEW

My scenario was a series of 4 one-shot Holds, each based on a different Dwarven Clan (Subrace) invented for PrinceCon 44.  Thank you to all the players who ran with me this year.  You made the experience even more fun than I had hoped. It was an honor to run for you.

Run #1: AMAGRA FARAKHDUM (Lost Hold of Diazoden Dwarves; focus: Bureaucracy)

PrinceCon 44 Andy's poster

Background

The entrance to this hold was found in the library of Drozvindrian (GM: Conway Niles) buried beneath veritable a mountain of overturned books.  This is an “Easter Egg” scenario which can only be unlocked by characters exploring

As the bureaucrats charged with keeping the Empire running, and being inclined to efficiency, Clan Diazoden was naturally put in charge the Arnagra Farakhdum, the Bureau Imperial Measurements.  Naturally they establish an orderly system to ensure the precision of Imperial Standard Measurements (ISMs). Over time, the loss of their obsessive quest to maintain the ISMs has caused much former Imperial technology to fail or become substantially less reliable.

The Party

Claire Vaywont (Human Wizard)

Korthos Firerose (Klaxton Dwarf Monk)

Pholiccular (Human Cleric)

Shamash Silverbeeard (Half Elf Paladin)

Sir Gen Tell (Human Cleric)

Thorgal Graniteaxe (Klaxton Dwarf Barbarian)

The Adventure

The door to this hold read simply, “Imperial Business Only!”  The party pried open the huge doors and were immediately confronted by a giant clockwork spider with the torso of a woman.  She bore the Mark of Parok (GM Alex Reutter); her name was Khoh.

She inquired if they had an appointment, and learning they didn’t, began a countdown after which they needed to vacate the premises. Her job was to keep out the riffraff.  Pointing to their Observe, the party claimed they were official inspectors sent by the Emperor himself to assess the state of the hold. Khoh allowed them to pass to the elevator behind her.

An assistant met them and led them to the to the Bureau Chief’s office.  A long and winding series of halls, stairs, and passages led the party to conclude that this hold must be incalculably large.  The assistant explained that due to the space requirements for their scientific experiments, “the Bureau may be a tad larger on the inside.”

The Bureau Chief seemed both haughty and obsequious, the very model of a CEO perhaps a bit out of his depth.  He pointed out that the facility had not received its Imperial Funding Allotment for the last “857 ayarus  2 ‘uf 16 narat  16.45987 adaram (hours).” He was completely unaware of that his hold had been lost, and the party determined it was best not to reveal this to him.

The Chief admitted that the Bureau needed to recertify the dragon glass rods that function as the SIM’s for distance: the kafka (Shard), the kargh (Dove’s Egg), the sulum (Full Step), and the khuzdsig (Dwarf-Height).  They were last known to be in the Heart of the High Temple of Hione in Velzan-Gol (GM Michael Tumerello).  The party was asked to retrieve them.

Before setting out, the players cast an Augury to ensure that the rods were still at that Temple.  When they got to the Old Imperial Capital, they saw that the magnificent sity had been utterly destroyed in the Collapse of the Empire.  The Temple of Hione, being an enormous Ziggurat, seemed to have survived largely unscathed however. Using magic, they uncovered an entrance into the ziggurat’s base.

Inside the Temple was a labyrinth of corridors with windowless rooms off them.  Exploring several of the rooms, the party determined that something had bored through the solid stone construction and despoiled the rooms over the centuries.  They soon determined that the burrowed tunnels converged near the center of the ziggurat, quite near where the rods were supposed to be.

Good news: They found the dragonglass rods still in their magically protective case.  Bad news: the case was being sued as a pillow by an eldritch horror. As the group debated their next move, Korthos decided to explore a nearby room.  He entered the burrowed tunnel, realizing that it was an alternative entry to the room with horror.

When the party finally opened the main door and engaged the horror, Korthos used the distraction to grab the case with the rods and flee back to the passage.  Alas, he flubbed his stealth roll. The horror whipped around, and began to chase him through the tunnel which was juuust big enough to accommodate the case, slowing down Korthos’ escape. The party met Korthos as he emerged back into the original room inches ahead of the horror which they soundly defeated.

The Burueau Chief was delighted at the party’s success.  He noted that the glass rods and case were being sought by the Ffloyd’s of Fflondon The Arkinthel Governemnt used the insurance payment to “make up” the missing past-years funding for the Bureau, so it was best that the party not mention their find to Ffloyds.

Run #2: GIBASHEL (Lost Hold of Potenkhan Dwarves; focus: Belief)

Background

Many years ago, a charismatic Visionary arose among the Potenkhan Clan. As his visions proved prophetic, his following grew; as his following grew, his visions turned very dark. He foresaw an inevitable race-ending tragedy that would consume the great dwarven empire.  The Visionary used his Marker to ask the Beating Heart of Stone to help him lead his followers safely through these trials, that the Dwarven Race and the Visionary’s followers would not be extinguished.

He and his followers secretly delved Gibashel and retreated into it, sealing the doors behind them. Once the doors were sealed, the Visionary revealed that the group had a quest: to discover the True Nature of the Heart – a concept that has come to be known as Commonality. Only then could the Heart be made fully manifest and save them from the Disaster To Come.

The Party

Farro Lastwell (Elf Druid)

Myko Hypha Dikaryaon Cerevisi (Gnome Druid)

Chadwick Thistlewick (Hafling Fighter)

Nokrun Boneminer (Dwarf Wizard)

Jold Sonpher (Human Barbarian)

Gregreg Toregy (Human Paladin)

Maystorh (Half Orc Barbarian, convinced he is also a Bard)

The Adventure

Myko had in her possession the bones and a magic locket of a Potenkhan woman which had been found in the Necropolis (GM Jacob Lisner).  The woman’s ghost asked Myko to ensure she was reunited with her true love who possessed the other half of the locket and her 3 daughters.  She told her when to look for the hidden entrance to the secret hold.

While searching for the entrance, the party found an abandoned shaft in which a canary in an ancient cage had been left.  Recognizing this must be an antique magic item used to detect toxins while mining, Myko attuned to it. She was resistant to poisons, she could scout ahead and keep the others from danger.   It was not long, however, before she (alone) began to hear the bird whisper in her ear, “Dig deeper! Come closer!” She began to talk to the bird, eventually speculating if she was becoming Potenkhan herself.  The players handled this perfectly in character. Myko never told them what she heard from the bird, and the rest began to wonder if she were succumbing to Miner’s Madness for the rest of the run.

Further on, Nokrun used his mason skills to detect an unusual patch of tunnel construction.  Farro used Produce Flame to look for changes in airflow, which turned out to help him find gems embedded in the walls which “ate” the magical flames to project a puzzle on the unusual construction.  Nokrun then used his prodigious linguistic skills to decipher the puzzle which all party members contributing to the solution, revealing the portal to Gibashel.

Inside, the party found a veritable paradise although the architecture (Nokrun) and the fashions (Chadwick) determined were clearly centuries old.  Myko used her half of the locket to summon the other half, thus meeting the many-greats granddaughter of the woman from the Necropolis.

The party was brought to the Great House of the hold to meet The Visionary, who improbably was still alive although very, very old.  He stunned them slightly by referencing the adventures in finding Gibashel before they had told him anything. He explained to them the Quest of Commonality.

The party explained the state of affairs in Khazthand and the surface, asking if Gibashel could offer refugees a place to settle.  The Visionary invited them to tour Gibashel and learn more about life there.

The party found that society is organized into Thaiku (Mines) in which a “great question” about the Beating Heart’s Nature is examined, discussed, and debated.  Within these Thaiku are groups attempting to answer questions realted to the “great question.”  These are called Ganad (Shafts, Delvings).  As in mining, Ganad can converge and diverge depending on what the deliberation process requires. New Ganad are constructed when a new question arises, ending in a room for discussion of the new issue.

For example, the Thaiku of Divinity is where members go to discuss if the Beating Heart is a god.  Those who answer the question affirmatively dug a Ganad to a new room to begin discussing what kind of god.  Those who answer negatively dug a different Shaft to continue discussing what else It could be. Eventually, members believe all Ganad in every Thaiku will meet at one point, and  they will have reached Commonality.

In the meeting with The Visionary, Farro had asked if non-Potenkhan, indeed non-Dwarves could join the Quest.  During the tour of the Thaiku of Salvation he was show the new Ganadi being mined to explore his question.

The party played central roles in the interment of the bones they had brought, fulfilling their promise to reunite the women from the Necropolis with her true love.  They gathered copies of The Visionaries prophecies which later proved valuable as some of them provided clues to the opposition in a Hold near Velzan-Gol, the old capital.

A Note About Gibashel’s Design

This run was designed to play either of two ways, depending on the mood and inclination of the players involved.  The first possibility was that the players would take everything at face value and “get into” exploring the question of what the Beating Heart truly was.

The second possibility was that the players would treat The Visionary with deep suspicion.  Could he be a cynical, false prophet-messiah, who is taking advantage of his followers? Or, could he be sincere-but-delusional with enough Xharisma to lead others astray. My intent would be to run this so that there was never definitive proof either way.

The goal of either possibility was to examine the role of faith and belief – that of the Potenkhans as to the nature of the Beating Heart or that of the party as to the nature of The Visionary.

Run #4: IMHDUM (Lost Hold of Klaxton Dwarves; focus: Artisanship)

Background

Almost years ago, a group of Klaxton artisans created this commune in order to “focus on their art” and avoid the constant distraction of war. They accidentally isolated themselves when an art installation was incorporated into the gateway to the hold.

Free from outside intrusions, they have pushed the technological boundaries of artistic techniques to dizzying heights. However, they tightly closed nature of their society naturally lead to the formation of competing “schools” of art.  As with anything endeavor where the stakes are purely subjective, the rivalries have grown irrationally fierce.

The Party

Algwyn Tevantian (Elf Wizard)

Brogmira Axeborn (Klaxton Dwarf Barbarian)

Eldeth Grayforge (Klaxton Dwarf Barbarian)

Jiro Zincharvest (Diazoden Dwarf Fighter)

Kvadrato Thundergrip (Dwarf Wizard)

Larth (Half Elf Bard)

Morticia (Bugnear Druid) – NPC, guest Played by DM Hugh Huntzinger

The Adventure

After finding the portal gate to Imhdum, the party set out for the only monumental structure in the Hold, The Heykal (Great Temple) of Tabnimi, Dwarven Deity of Beauty and Artisanal Prowess.  The single-family dwellings were scattered about the temple; most had workshops or studios attached. Interspersed among the dwellings were several multi-story buildings which the party later learned were the homes to the main “Schools of Art”.  Beyond the dwellings were the fields that supplied the hold with food.

Each century, Imhdum celebrated the Festival of Grand Creations in which Schools present Masterworks to be judged for possible inclusion as Grand Offerings in the Heykal.  Fortuitously, the party arrived on the cusp of the next Festival.  Alas, the commune roiled on the verge of fracturing. A vandal had defaced many of the past Grand Offerings to Tabnimil.

The rivalries among the Schools ran so deeply, that no one within Imhdum could investigate the crimes credibly in the eyes of all citizenry. The party was pressed into service since they had no allegiance to any of the Schools.  In exchange, the community’s leaders agreed to hear the party’s proposal that Imhdum accept refugees.

The party decided to start by interviewing the Masters of the main Schools to determine where the rivalries and fault lines lay. They learned about the aesthetics of each Schools as well as their takes on their rivals.  It quickly became clear that every School had been victimized and no School could be eliminated from suspicion.

Now the significant advances in artistic techniques in Imhdum meant that all the works were immersive and experiential. In fact, several artisan from various Schools had died trying to repair the works from “the inside,” something which should normally have been impossible. So, the party decided to enter the lethal works to gain some insight into the vandal’s mind and motives.

To aid them, the priests of Tabnimi gave the party several Tools which the Schools had developed to create/repair the works.  The list of the art works they entered is bulleted below. After repairing each artwork (or at least neutralizing the danger), they found a symbol which they correctly assumed was the mark of a “hidden school” – one that rejected all of the others.

The hidden school was comprised of residents who had tried several of the schools and found them all lacking. Their School followed the principle that the only way to give art meaning and value was to strip it of all meaning and value. They called themselves the Paradox School or Doxxers. They had not just defaced the artworks, but they had robbed them of their originial meaning, thus turning them all into Doxxer Masterpieces.

The art was saved and the Festival was observed while the party was celebrated as honored guests and heroes.  In future years, their exploits became the subject of several masterworks displayed in the Heykal.

The Damaged Artworks

  • Paradise, By Design (porcelain, Designism) – this large platter has a decorative border with the interior disk covered by an opulent garden, all done in the blue/white style of Chinese porcelain.  Visitors are transported into the Garden and may walk its grounds – smelling flowers, listening to fountains or birds, and feeling the gentle breezes while admiring the meticulous design;  the vandal has introduced a troop of flying monkeys, however, who fling poo at visitors and pick them up only to drop them from heights; there is also a section with deadly poppies which Charm nearby viewers into walking into their midst and putting them to sleep with poison spores before devouring them. Monkey’s livery is emblazoned with the Doxxer Sigil.  (This is based on an actual commercial product: https://calamityware.com/products/calamityware-plate-1?variant=430269697

  • Velocitrons (sculpture, Emotionalism)– a collection of metallic spheres of various sizes (radii ranging from 6 inches to 4 feet) held in one piece but uncannily appear to be spinning on their axes; viewers grip handles attached to central box and their consciousness is transferred to a place on one of the spheres which then begin to move around one another, giving them the sensation of “riding” that sphere; the spheres had been flattened into disks and the party used the Bellows tool to re-inflate them.

  • Thread of Infinity (collage, Surrealism) – animated fractal in which a construct spider generator has been placed   the construct spiders shoot webs that electrify; They are stamped with Doxxer Sigil; the artist sent to fix this work was killed; The party destroyed the  spiders.

  • The Fall of Goth (painting, Formalism) – depicts the glorious victory of the Klaxton Forge Furies over the Visi Drow of Goth; defaced by someone using the “Spot Heal” Tool to turn the Gith invisible; the Formalist sent to fix the painting was killed by the Invisi-Goths; it took 76 tries, but the party eventually used the color brush to “paint” the drow, allowing the Forge Furies to massacre them.

  • Facet-nating (painting, Surrealism) – defaced by being completely empty – everything was turned to the same shade of black; entrants are effectively blind, needing to rely on sound and other senses to determine what is out there;  Surrealist sent to fix painting was crushed by moving objects he couldn’t “see” them coming; the party did not attempt to fix this work.

  • Hydra, and Lions, and Dwarves (ceramic amphora, Designism) – this amphora is composed of parallel scenes separated by decorative borders; all in the same black tone, emphasizing designs/patterns; visitors enter a band of figures and experiencing the sights/smells/textures as the figures of that band “come to life.”  The vandal twisted the bands causing them to cross and interact with each other as well as patches of weird gravity. The point where the bands are twisted for the Doxxer Sigil; there is a Doxxer Sigil on the forge table. The party did not attempt to fix this work.

Tabnimi, Dwarven Deity of Beauty and Artisanal Prowess:

  • Domains include all Arts, Crafts, and Competitions of things hand-made or created

  • Symbol is a obsidian mirror with downward-pointing ox horns as tine for its handle

  • Depicted most often as female or androgynous, but gender unfixed

  • Always holding a mirror or hammer; depictions can have many arms

  • In some eras, considered Consort of Daglir

  • Worshippers most often Klaxton although not all Klaxton by any means worship Tabnimi

  • name derived from Neo-Khuzdul meaning “cause to become or make beautiful and graceful.”

Run #3: KHELUZDUM (Lost Hold of Myletha Dwarves; focus: Hospitality)

Background

This hold was a major rest stop along the main Hypogean Way between Velzan-Gol (Old Imperial Capital) and Arkinthel. Run by community of Myletha Dwarves, the hold was more popularly known as MADAMAI – an ancient Dwarven word meaning “All Are Welcome.”

During the last days before the fall of Velzan-Gol, it was used as a refugee center by those fleeing the fighting deeper in the Middledark.   As Arkinthel was preparing to seal its connection to the rest of Kazthand, Kheluzdum sealed itself off from the Hypogean Way and was never heard from again.

The Party

Alice Lucia (Half Elf Bard)

Dr. Richard Reterson (Half Orc Barbarian)

I’m the Trashman (Klaxton Dwarf Bard)

Jane “Twice” Rachnell (Human Ranger)

Pip, Imagainative Rascal (Human Ranger)

Shiroi Akagi (Half Orc Paladin)

Skalgan Mrishni(Half Orc Paladin)

Thokk Hammerfist (Half Orc Barbarian)

Tim the Enchanter (Landrrol Dwarf Bard)

The Adventure

The party found the turn off leading to the hold easily.  However, they immediately encountered strange signs, indicating that something horrible lay ahead.  These include heads on spikes (typical warning/wards of orcs) as well as graffiti left by Drow and other ancient enemies.

The outer doors of Kheluzdum were locked and sealed with three blood-red runes of protection.  Adding to the mood, the party realized that these wards were placed as if to keep something IN mot out of the hold.  But, they had a mission to accomplish; in they went.

Immediately they were met by a Parok-made clockwork construct named Marvin.  He informed them that all weapons needed to be checked before entering the entertainment and recreational areas of the hold.  He was quite depressed that there had not been any visitors for him to greet for so many years, although he was unable to calculate the precise time since the last visitor.

Marvin conducted them to the Gamboling Gelding Inn where they were offered food and drink by the proprietor who leads the hold.  The only other “customer” in the joint was a Half Orc Barbarian, out of whom Thokk attempted to wheedle information. He bitterly revealed that  he had been a guard escorting refugees along the Ways when he became trapped here along with them.

It soon became clear that the residents were older than they appeared.  They seemed to have memory problems about their past and trouble judging the passage of time.  The party began to suspect that they were the original inhabitants of the hold when it was sealed over 800 years before.

The residents were hiding something, but what?.  The inhabitants had managed to arrest the plague that forced them to institute the quarantine, but they had not found a cure.  As long as the party left before dusk, they would not be at risk for contracting the disease.

Deciding to look around the hold for clues, the party decided to visit the hold’s Wise Woman, an herbalist of great skill.  She explained that the disease was an aggressive fungus that, left unchecked, would consume host and turn it into a giant fungus.  The refugees brought it into Kheluzdum.

When the disease was detected, they isolated the refugees, but it was too late.  The entire hold had been infected. The initial victims formed a “field of fungus” between the village and the Refugee encampment.

The party decided to visit the refugees next to gain further information about the fungus ith hopes of deciphering a cure.  On their way, they were intercepted surreptitiously by one of the inhabitants, a young man. He led them to a secret chamber below his home where he introduced his extended family.

Unlike the other villagers, these Dwarves did not suffer from memory problems.  Confirming the earlier suspicions, they explained that the others were the original inhabitants and that fungus was a bit of a cover story for something much worse.

Unlike the others, these people were the descendants of a particular family from the time of the quarantine. Something about their family home brew had protected them from the greater evil that the refugees brought with them.  The memory lapse side effect has aided them in keeping the secret that they are immune.

One of the refugees was indeed infected with the fungus.  By the time they learned to arrest its progress, however, most of the inhabitants had become violent monsters.  Each night they transform into beasts with claws and tear into any person who crosses their path. Come the morning, they appear in their Dwarven form, none the worse for wear.  They have virtually no memory of their rampages the night before.

 

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Fflondon Calling (Alex’s scenario recaps)

Overview

I ran 6 expeditions in “Fflondon Calling”

 At the beginning of the Con, Fflondon and the other holds of the Ashpool Complex were in trouble.  Three were under Imperial Seal (Tyrol, Balad Naron, Volan), one was locked from the inside (Parok), and Fflondon was under the dominion of a Mind Flayer.

Despite the bumps along the way, including saying goodbye to a special Kuo-Toan friend (RIP, Jimothy, you will never be forgotten!) and a con-long intraparty discussion over whether to kill the mind flayer, convince the drow to kill the mind flayer, convince the mind flayer to brave the nameless horrors in Volan Hold and get himself killed, or make the mind flayer mayor, all five holds in the Complex were made safe for colonizing.  The furnaces of Balad Naron were lit. The forges of Tyrol were running. Parok Hold was secure. The kruthink xenomorph threat in Volan was neutralized. And Rory Destle-Ffloyd was mayor of Fflondon!

Fflondon Calling

Starring:

A’kanom Depaix, Gnome Cleric of Ratri

Adrie, Half-Orc Cleric of Aru

Bragwell “WideEyes” VonStathe IV, Human Wizard (Ratri)

Shagra Marsa, Half-Orc Barbarian (Pantheist)

Valetuda/Vallie, Clan Myletha Monk, Way of the Drunken Master (Pantheist)

Zelta Cirvis, Wood Elf Rogue Thief (Ratri)

Remy’s crew was a group of retired con artists, thieves, and mercenaries that were being blackmailed into one last “job” to help Khazthand retake the Lost Holds.  The exception was Shagra, who was the daughter of a member of the crew, and was honoring her mother’s memory by taking her place on this mission. Prior to reporting to Reclamation HQ, they all met at a tavern owned by Vallie.

In their own words:

“Remy’s Crew”

  • On our journey to assess Fflondon’s requisitionability, we were approached by the Ffloyd Brothers, a couple of “insurance” guys who want us to retrieve a list of items vital to restoring the family business.  It was supposed to be in the Ffloyd’s mansion strongbox — but it was gone!

  • As for the requisitionability… the area has been claimed and inhabited by what we suppose is around 7,000 people.  “People” being kuo-toa, kobolds, goblins, drow, orcs, and… a Mindflayer controlling them all!!

    • The Emmissary — Mindflayer — is scared of the drow, since they do not believe in the religion it’s spun to control the other factions.  Which could be used to potentially clear the area by way of war, except…

    • There is a group of goblin children in a beneficial existence with a group of machines with long lost knowledge (?).  The children work on the machines due to the size and dexterity of their hands, and the machines give them knowledge in exchange.  These children are friendly… if not a little playful, and surprisingly powerful

    • Meanwhile, a character named sharkie in the big house with the emissary has requested visitor’s presence… is it connected to the house of elves that went extinct in this area?

A map of the area can be found on the back… oh yeah, and –

IS ANYONE ELSE BEING BLACKMAILED HERE!?

Outcomes:

  • Met the Ffloyd brothers, “insurance” guys whose family went bankrupt and trying to get back in the business

  • Discovered a nest of Hook Horrors near the Tube that allowed fast travel to Fflondon, but left it for the next party to deal with

  • Explored Fflondon and discovered

    • It’s currently occupied by a number of factions

    • The factions seem to be relatively peaceful because of the presence of a mind flayer; however,

    • Maybe the drow faction (a group of big-game hunters who want to test their mettle against the rumored nameless horrors locked in Volan Hold) and the mind flayer could be played off each other?

    • There are machines teaching goblin children clockwork magic, and keeping it secret from the mind flayer

    • The mind flayer (“Sharkey”) wants to meet with the party, but the party ducks out and leaves it to the next group

Other notables:

  • “IS ANYONE ELSE BEING BLACKMAILED HERE!?”  — Adrie, bringing all conversation in Vallie’s tavern to a halt.

  • “If my crimes are ever discovered, I’ll be executed.”  — Adrie, sharing a bit too much in front of people outside the crew

  • “So, you were spotted by goblin children?” — Adrie, to Zelta, after Zelta reported the results of scouting around the abandoned Ffloyd family mansion in Fflondon and encountering the goblin children who were learning from machines

The party also befriended “Jimothy”, an undersized kuo-toa who won the hearts of Vallie and Shagra and almost resulted in a big intra-party conflict when they had to decide whether to allow the mind flayer to eat Jimothy’s brain (since Jimothy had won the lottery to meet “the Great Tentacled One”) or intervene.

Vallie kept a sketchbook with some renderings of Jimothy.  The “where’s my spear?” comes from Jimothy putting his spear down, having it stolen by the rogue while interrogating the PC’s, and then totally forgetting about the spear because he’s so delighted that the PC’s have come to help celebrate the Festival of the Great Tentacled One (as evidenced by Vallie, a drunken master monk, carrying a cask of ale).

Dangers of the underdark, as reported by Remy’s Crew:

The Mind Flayer of Fflondon

Starring:

Bray, Rock Gnome Wizard (Pantheist)

Ren, Human Rogue – Arcane Trickster (Ratri)

Rick Parker III, Half Elf Warlock – The Archfey (Pantheist)

Thorgal Graniteaxe, Clan Klaxton Barbarian – Totem Warrior (Daglir)

 

“We should kill the mind flayer.”

“How do we get the drow to kill the mind flayer?”

“Is that really what we want to do?”

 

This party continued adventuring in Fflondon:

  • They investigated the Ffloyd mansion more closely, and found a box with red clogs.  When removed, the box would create another pair of red clogs, which would perfectly fit whoever took the clogs from the box.  Ren began to distribute red clogs throughout Fflondon and spread rumors that “when the dwarf with red clogs comes, it will be a time of great prosperity for the hold.”

  • They accepted Sharkey’s invitation, and found the mind flayer was interested in having Fflondon rejoin Khazthand, so long as he was officially recognized by Arkinthel as mayor.  He even had papers drawn up for Arkinthel to look at! The party agreed to take it back to Arkinthel for consideration.

  • They planned to try to convince the drow to work against Sharkey, but Sharkey had already helped the drow to open Volan Hold.  When the players investigated, they came across a sole survivor, who described the horrors in Volan Hold as a mutated form of Kruthik

 

“this hold believes in the Red Clogs.  They trust those who offer Red Clogs. They await the chosen dwarf who, it is said, will rule this hold, clad in the Red Clogs…”

Notable

“Never trust a human without clogs.”

  • Ren

 

I’m Sorry, Dave, We Can’t Do That

Adrie, Half-Orc Cleric of Aru

Alice Lucia, Half-Elf Bard

Brogmira Axeborn, Dwarven Barbarian

Korthos Firerose, Dwarven Monk

Morrig Dunron, Dwarven Monk

Pho Liccular, Human Cleric of Aru

Shamash Silverbeard, Half-Elf Paladin

Zelta Cirvis, Elf Rogue

The first two parties ran away from the Hook Horrors and left them for the third party to deal with.  :-) Even this party had trouble with them, because the hook horrors used the environment (several levels of catwalks around an open space) to their advantage, since they’re excellent climbers, so it took about 3 hours of strategizing, hunting, and fighting for the party to finally drive them away from the subway station and burn the nest.  The mothers and young escaped, but are unlikely to come back.

 

 

Act II of the expedition involved delivering a contract from Arkinthel to Sharkey that would make the mind flayer officially the mayor of Fflondon.  This was complicated by the appearance of David Tessier, the long-lost heir to Parok Hold (near Fflondon). Clad in his own pair of red clogs, he wanted to exploit the party to retake “his” homeland.  Alice, however, had previously encountered David on a previous run, and knew him to be Bad News(tm). The party delivered the contract to Sharkey, who happily signed it, and Khazthand settlers began to head to Fflondon.  The party trapped David in a Zone of Truth, and under interrogation, got him to confess to his crimes. While telling them they wouldn’t be able to enter Parok without him, Zelta beheaded him.

Outcomes:

  • It was now safe for people to travel to Fflondon

  • It was uncertain how future groups would enter Parok Hold (apparently the center of all the clockwork mechanisms running throughout the Ashpool Complex)

 

Notable:

  • “I don’t know if anyone wants me to spore you… (rest of the party looks extremely dubious) … but it gives you resistance to psychic attacks.  (party suddenly looks extremely interested because a mind flayer may be in their immediate future)” — Morrig, at the beginning of the expedition

  • “Let’s turn him into a turtle and toss him down the chute.”
    “Wait, you have polymorph?  Why don’t we turn him into a bird?”
    – during a debate over how to approach the hook horror nest

  • “This is either a good idea or a terrible idea.”
    “Why can’t it be both?”
    – continuing the debate

  • “There’s a time for kata, and a time for fighting.”
    “That’s not funny.”
    “Everyone else was laughing”
    – Shamash, admonishing Korthos

 

The Furnaces of Balad Naron

Alice Lucia, Half-Elf Bard

Brogmira Axeborn, Dwarven Barbarian

Gyges Ness, Human Wizard

Korthos Firerose, Dwarven Monk

Pho Liccular, Human Cleric of Aru

Shamash Silverbeard, Half-Elf Paladin

 

Arkinthel wanted the golem forges of Tyrol reopened.  The party escorted the Elder Tyrol (of the Tyrol family that founded Tyrol Hold) to Tyrol; unfortunately, it looked like *something* had gotten into the forges and spoiled some of the golems.  The party discovered that it was the mutated kruthik, which could propagate themselves using the golems as hosts! They managed to trap and kill the few that had just been born.

 

The party then looked to restarting the furnaces of Balad Naron, which involved Alice distracting an Ash Golem while the others searched for clues.  Restarting the furnaces involved calling the Balrocs back to Balad Naron. The ceremonial rites were carved into the temple walls; unfortunately, Bishop Aku’s bird stump vase was missing!  (That must be why the Ash Golem is shouting “thief!” at us…)

 

The party wondered, “If I were a 1200 year old stolen bird stump vase, where would I be?” and then searched the Daglir temple in Fflondon.  The priests, newly come from Arkinthel, had been cleaning up, and noted that they *had* seen a particularly ugly iron bird stump vase, but had given it to some goblin children who wanted it for parts.  This led to Gyges noting, “I swear to god if I have to beat up goblin children for a flower pot…” Fortunately, the flowerpot was recovered outside the Ffloyd’s mansion, and with the Ffloyd’s help, as Bishop Acu’s bird stump vase was one of the insured items on the Ffloyd grand list.

This was followed shortly by Alice’s “with friends like these” adventure (see below), which ended up being of help to the party after all, since it opened Parok Hold.  While Shamash pleaded with the Aru temple back in Arkinthel to raise Alice from the dead (offering all his possessions), Korthos and Pho explored Parok, initially with the intention of destroying Winter, the arkenstone of Parok.  However, after following some directions to fix Winter’s vocal systems, they were able to discern that while David Tessier was a monster, the rest of the Tessiers were not, and many of their consciousnesses were in fact stored in Winter, and one could be “downloaded” into a Tyrol golem, and thus become the next “Winter’s Queen” and lead Parok.

Outcomes:

  • The Tyrol forges restarted, fueled by the furnaces of Balad Naron

  • Parok opened, and the new Winter’s Queen to be forged

  • Alice raised from the dead; after the con Shamash to be an honorary Paladin of Aru

With Friends Like These

Alice was a bard whose driving goal was to seek and share lost knowledge.

Alice was on Steve Caruso’s expedition where they discovered a prison that was stuck in a time dilation where 1 year equalled 1000.

David Tessier was imprisoned there 8000 years ago, for crimes against Daglir, and during the expedition, he tried to kill the party.

Somehow, David escaped the destruction of the prison and wormed his way into the good graces of the Empire.

Alice was on the expedition where David intended to use the party to help him seize Parok Hold.  Alice convinced the party, based upon her experience, that David was seriously bad news. The party got David to confess his crimes on live observer and executed him.

Alice then became convinced that, as the last remaining Tessier, David was the only way to retrieve the lost knowledge of Parok Hold.  So she conspired with a mind flayer to steal DAvid’s body from a Daglir temple, reanimate him long enough to open Parok, and then kill him again.

Enchanted with the thought of all the lost knowledge that would soon be hers to explore, Alice began to investigate Parok, turning her back on the mind flayer, who promptly stunned her and ate her brain.

The New Mayor of Fflondon

A’kanom Depaix, Gnome Cleric of Ratri

Adrie, Half-Orc Cleric of Aru

Chadwick Thistlewick, Halfling Fighter

Rory Destle!, Dwarf Barbarian

Shagra Marsa, Half-Orc Barbarian (Pantheist)

 

The mind flayer having absconded, Fflondon was in need of new leadership.  The party decided to enlist the Ffloyd brothers’ help in making Rory Destle! mayor, and ran an ad campaign.  Initially, it was going to be an election campaign, but then remembering that democracy didn’t exist, made it an informational campaign that Rory was the new mayor.  the signs were brilliant (see below).

 

Shagra also gained some closure on her orcish heritage.  She sought out the (small) orc community in Fflondon, which tried to reject her.  She won a shoving match with an orc that tried to bully her away *and* rolled a nat 20 on an intimidation check to earn the respect of the tribe.

 

Shagra and Adrie then rejoined the other’s at the Ffloyd’s mansion, rolling *another* natural 20 on door knocking to perfectly tap the wooden door with her warhammer without leaving a dent.

 

Outcomes:

  • Fflondon has stability with a new mayor and powerful backing; as the earliest sponsors of the new Mayor, the Ffloyd Brothers will want to ensure Rory is successful, otherwise they will lose the trust of people who might otherwise do business with them.

It’s a Bug Hunt, Man

Ardent, Half-Elf Paladin

Bartlebumf Higgenbottom, Halfling Fighter

Bray, Gnome Wizard

Ren, Human Rogue

Shiroe Akagi, Half-Orc Paladin

Smash, Human Barbarian

Xandrial, Dwarven Cleric of Aru

Things were looking up in the Ashpool Complex, but there was still the matter of clearing the xenomorph kruthik menace from Volan Hold.  When given a set of missions to choose from, this party opted for the most dangerous! Bray commented: “Let’s do dungeons of unspeakable horrors.”

 

Volan Hold was full of twisting tunnels, and the party was in search of the Kruthik Hive Queen.  Using an invisible Owl familiar to scout, they eventually found a seemingly wounded Kruthik that led them further into the tunnel system. However, the injury was a ruse, and the party was surrounded by Kruthik that attacked in small groups to minimize the number that would be caught in a fireball blast.  Upon realizing this, Bray hissed, “They’re intelligent. That’s why we have to destroy them all.”

 

After the first waves, the party discovered the Drow (from the first run!) being kept barely alive in what appeared to be a larder.  Ardent woke them and laid on hands, and the Drow priestess agreed to ally with the party, though they had difficulty keeping up and were eventually separated.

 

The party discovered the location of the Hive Queen, and prepared to burst through the Kruthik’s defenses with Ren in a Wall of Force “hamster ball”, being pushed by Smash, Shiroe, and Ardent.  They manage to hit the Hive Queen with some powerful attacks. It tried to bring the ceiling down upon the party, and Bray used his final spell slot to catch it with a Wall of Force, allowing the others to safely finish off the Hive Queen before hightailing it out of Volan Hold.

 

Outcomes:

  • The entire Ashpool Complex was now safe from the Kruthik xenomorph menace!

 

Notable:

  • On their first push with the hamster ball, Ren rolled a 20 to keep his balance, Smash rolled a 20 to push the ball into the kruthik, and the kruthik rolled a 20 to push back!

  • Meanwhile, the Drow fought their own way out.  Oddly, they experienced little resistance, and the kruthik seemed unwilling to attack the Drow priestess.  Unbeknownst to herself or the other, she was the host for a larval kruthik xenomorph queen…

Genesis of a PrinceCon Scenario

When Michael floated the idea of the Lost Holds, I started thinking about interesting dwarven settings from old cons.  There was Dain Makair, the supposedly impregnable dwarven fortress that Hugh ran in PrinceCon 17, which could have been lost surprisingly easily/early during the shrinking of Khazthand.  There was Balad Naron, the city hung by chains under the discworld of PrinceCon 18. As far as I knew, PrinceCon 44 wasn’t a discworld, but Balad Naron could be hung over, say, the caldera of a volcano.  I liked that and wanted to run with that.

A little later, thinking over all the things that people must have lost when evacuating the Holds, I realized that this would be a good reason to bring back the Ffloyd’s of Fflondon from PrinceCon 11, and even better, 44 is a multiple of 11!  The Ffloyd family would be currently paupered, but could recover their wealth if players could return enough lost items. The Ffloyd NPC’s would be brothers Randolph and Mortimer, loosely based off the characters from Trading Places.

I was thinking about possible “hooks” for Holds, like one entirely run by Clockwork, perhaps with a HAL-like AI in charge that the PC’s would need to face.  Maybe one that manufactured weapons of war, or golems, or something. Maybe there would be a monolith that opened a Gate, either to Balad Naron (which would otherwise be inaccessible?), or to another Hold elsewhere.

During the summer, I finished reading John Crowley’s Aegypt quartet.  Part of the story of the books covers the defenestration of Prague, and Frederick and Elizabeth, Winter’s King, how they were driven into exile, and how their descendants eventually recovered their heritage.  That seemed to tie into the Lost Holds theme well, so Prague –> Parok Hold, and the AI would be “Winter”, thus the leaders of Parok would be Winter’s King/Queen. A lot of the clockwork in Parok and the surrounding holds would be broken, so Winter couldn’t speak with the PC’s until repairs were made (“Winter” was “mute” -> Wintermute).  To complete the Neuromancer reference, I called the family that founded Parok the Tessiers, and decided the surrounding group of holds could be known as the “Ashpool complex”.

Well, if cyberpunk was going to inspire part of the scenario, then the Hold that manufactured golems might as well make golems that were more dwarflike than dwarves.  Tyrell corporation becomes Tyrol Hold, and Eldon Tyrol is there with his construct owl. I had ideas about a confrontation between Eldon Tyrol & Roy Batty golem, but those ideas didn’t solidify, and examining the golems more closely wasn’t a direction any of the expeditions seemed to go in, so it was quietly dropped during the con.

It was natural then for there to be a hold that was infested with xenomorph kruthik.  Weyland -> Woland -> Volan Hold.

Finally, Balad Naron would, in fact, be the location of the furnaces that powered the other holds, but I had trouble figuring out how the furnaces were fueled, and how they were shut down, and how they might be restarted.  An aperture that needed to be held open like Thor in Nidavellir was one possibility, but then I recalled the Balrocs from PrinceCon 40, mighty birds of fire that nested in volcanos. And so the Balrocs returning to Balad Naron would be like the swallows returning to Capistrano.  Acú was the bellringer at Capistrano, so the ceremony involved ringing the bell of the Bishop of Balad Naron.

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The Athenaeae of Drozvindrian (Conway’s Scenario recap)

Conway’s scenario recap:

Session 1 – First Contact

The session begins with an expeditionary party being formed with the mission of heading to the ancient library hold – The Athenaeum of Drozvindrian and their Naga & yuan-ti stewards – and investigating why it/they ‘went dark.’

The following adventurers took up the challenge and ventured into the hypogean way after much praise and promise on the part of the Khazthand/Arkinthel governance:

Dwindle Stonefoot, Dwarven Paladin of clan Klaxton

Egork, Dwarven Warlock of clan Potenkhan

Gregreg Toregry, Human Paladin

Narro, Half-elven Rogue

Verna Tealeaf, Halfling Rogue

Zaranez, Half Elven Warlock

The journey to Drozvindrian lasts about one week, one that is more boring than anything else. Drozvindrian is one of the closer holds – connected directly to Arkinthel via the hypogean way. The adventurers make the journey laboriously, anxious about that which might lie in the dark, but come out of it unscathed, face-to-face with the large gilded gold & jade doors separating the caverns from the Athenaeum before they know it. The gate appears scathed, large marks and dents in the metal, but otherwise functional, and they attempt to open it. After much effort, it budges, opening slightly, and reveals large supports barring it.

The group searches through a number of ancillary tunnels that have been carved out around and about the hold, and note that they were carved out by Umber Hulk, insectoid creatures that confuse & confound those who gaze upon their eyes. Some of the casters in the party begin to use familiars as scouts and patrolmen – moving independently through the tunnels to ensure their emptiness. After some time of investigation one of these familiars is attacked by an Umber Hulk, hastening the party’s efforts. They realize time is running out and decide to attempt to mine through the wall of the hold to get inside. They are surprisingly successful until they are met with a thick sheet of purple crystal through which arcane magic flows. Without much time left, they force their way through, blasting into the hold and running in with just enough time to turn and face the Umber Hulk just as it discovers them.

A small fight ensues and the group is able to cause the Umber Hulk to flee. In the calm, everyone takes in their surroundings, and they find themselves in one giant cylindrical hall, the walls lined with the same purple crystal they broke through. The cylinder descends as torches dimly illuminate circular walkways that jut outward from the cylinder’s inner area every 20 or 30 feet. Investigating the crystal, they find it is actually thin film containing a number of books and journals, all dated from very long ago.

Traveling downward they find the books become more and more recent, though all far outside the useful range of knowledge. Extrapolating, they climb further down and find a pair of yuan-ti guarding a horizontal gate. After much convincing, the two yuan-ti open the gate and provide directions to Raas’Goa. As the gate opens, a number of Umber Hulk begin swarming through the opening the party created in mining into the hold. The yuan-ti force the party through and close the gate quickly as the party obliges, somewhat stunned.

They find themselves in another cylindrical section similarly shaped, ringed on the inside with purple arcane crystal film throughout. This time the donut-hole in the middle is filled with a rapidly flowing waterfall originating from nowhere, called the Stream of Consciousness.

The party follows the directions of the yuan-ti pair, and climb down, water from the waterfall flecking a number of them. As this happens, the minds of those affected is invaded with streams of thought and knowledge, almost unfilterable. After catching their bearings, the party heads down to the designated level (level 77) and find a small passage that leads to a well-lit golden hall with palm trees planted in oases lining a path to an elevated throne. About a dozen yuan-ti and Naga are enwrapped about the trees and a giant Guardian Naga sitz upon the Jade throne – Raas’Goa. She wears a wooden mask with three feathers, one red, one white, one yellow.

The party approaches, and Raas’Goa welcomes them. A black yuan-ti of some status, holding a crystal staff slithers to her side and begins speaking in deep speech, unintelligible to the party.

A number of the yuan-ti audibly demonish the adventurers, and Raas’Goa explains that they are not welcome. “Khazthand abandoned us. Those thousands of years ago, when we needed aid, you did not respond. So we kept this hold – defended it from all manners of darkness and dread. It is not yours anymore – it is ours. If you want us to consider that crest you wear as authority – you must understand you owe us much.”

The black yuan-ti introduces himself as vizier to the queen, Netazi, and vehemently derides Khazthand as a wretched city-state, but Raas’Goa silences him and gives the party an offer – clear this part of the middledark of Umber Hulk, the principal threat to Drozvindrian, and the snake stewards, and she will consider reintegration. The party leaves successful, out of a secret passage, with a proposition for Khazthand. The passage is actually an intersection – leading to another hold deep within Drozvindrian – Arnagra Farakhdum.

Session 2 – Die, Insects.

After making contact with Raas’Goa, Khazthand agreed to deal with the principal threat facing the Drozvindrian, an overpopulation of Umber Hulks located in a large warren near Drozvindrian. In return for negotiating the threat, Raas’Goa agreed to consider integrating Drozvindrian back into the empire of Khazthand, even though many of the Yuan-ti & Naga who are stewards of the hold, felt betrayed & abandoned by Khazthand.

The following warriors gathered to slay the monstrous umber hulks and their queen deep within the insectoid warren:

Adrie, Half-Orc Cleric of Aru

Agrus Kos, Dragonborn Barbarian

Celeste, Half-Elf Bard

Dinen Hyanda, Elven Monk

Gregreg Toregry, Human Paladin

The Trashman, Dwarven Bard of Clan Klaxton

Jameson, Human Fighter

Kvadrato Thundergrip, Dwarven Wizard of Clan Klaxton

Ravenswood, Human Warlock

Skalgan Mrishni, Half-Orc Paladin

Tullamore, Human Barbarian

The Umber Hulk warren was located easily enough. And now the grizzled warriors of Arkinthel ready themselves for the coming slaughter. That is what this is. They have a single mission – kill the Umber Hulk Queen.

The party travels the tunnels for a week – finding themselves outside the Gold & Jade doors of Drozvindrian. Following a laid out path they begin to make their way to the warren. As they approach, they are attacked by a number of Umber Hulk, which they dispatch quickly enough. Just outside the warren they find a number of recently dead yuan-ti bodies, killed by magic. As they investigate the bodies, they notice a tailed figure move around a corner far down the tunnel. Putting these concerns aside, they enter the warren and begin to sneak their way through.

They make it through the first few areas undetected, covering themselves with the scent of other Umber Hulks and using in-depth knowledge of the creatures to evade them. They travel down a tunnel and find it overlooks a large open space with a great purple crystal emerging from the center, a number of Umber Hulk, big and small surrounding it, basking in the light. The party begins discussing how they would approach the situation, as they discuss they are found out as an umber hulk bursts through the wall and attacks. They kill it quickly but the damage is done – the hive is on alert.

A bloody battle ensues, as the group fights their way through Umber Hulk after Umber Hulk, killing all different kinds until they begin to flee. Some of the more injured in the party head back to Arkinthel, as reinforcements arrive in a timely manner in the form of Adrie, Cleric of Aru, who heals the battle ready and helps prepare them for the assault on the queen.

The group plows through more Umber Hulk – fighting even flying, exploding, Umber Hulk and find themselves in the queen’s antechamber, Umber Hulk fleeing from them. They kill a few more and the insectoid creatures simple stop as they enter the queen’s cove, the Umber Hulk are no longer fighting and seem to have given up. A number of the party remains skeptical, and hang back while some walk forward and investigate. As they reach the queen, dozens of the Umber Hulk surrounding the queen explode spontaneously, destroying the queen and mortally wounding a number of the party. Adrie is able to heal many of them as those wary members are able to find a white feather in the wreckage, implicating Raas’Goa as it is potentially from her mask. However, one adventurer who had met Raas’Goa identifies it as a fake, definitely not one from Raas’Goa’s mask. Looking about further, they find magical evidence that the explosion was planned.

The party returns the Drozvindrian, and tells Raas’Goa of their success, who seems on the surface to be happy to hear of this news. The party neglects to tell her of the explosion which nearly killed them. Raas’Goa appears unphased and agrees to begin integration into Khazthand.

Session 3 – The Athenaeum Deep

With the Umber Hulks defeated, Khazthand turns its attention to the orchestrated attempt on the lives of those who had been contracted to kill the Umberhulks. Before much headway can be made in the investigation, diplomats sent to Drozvindrian are killed and another group of adventurers is amassed to make their way back to Drozvindrian and meet with Raas’Goa to determine what is happening.

The following envoys volunteered (with pay) to investigate these turn of events:

Diggory MacGabh, Elven Rogue

Dimble Pint, Gnome Wizard

Feyli Vasilida, Half-Elf Wizard

Neil Mac-Gabhann, Dwarven Paladin of Clan Klaxton

Perrick Silver-eyed, Dwarven Wizard of Clan Potenkhan

Valin Procyon, Half-Elf Fighter

Arriving in Drozvindrian, the party meets with Raas’Goa – who is desperate for help. Netazi had taken a number of yuan-ti and Naga deep down into the hold and formed a splinter faction deeply opposed to re-integration. The party must go deep into Drozvindrian through the traps and magic meant to keep creatures out and either convince him to join Khazthand or kill him. The party makes their way down to the bottom of Drozvindrian and are ambushed by contingent yuan-ti along the way. Killing them they follow those who run through a tunnel into a large library floor with many bookshelves and a shallow ceiling.

Stalking through the shelves, the party makes their way through a number of traps – arrows, lightning bolts, magic barriers, poisonous gas, and are ambushed by more yuan-ti. The party persists, fighting their way into a large chamber directly under the main cylindrical structure of Drozvindrian. In the center of the circular chamber is a large purple crystal much like that in the Umber Hulks’ lair. At the base of the crystal is Netazi flanked by two spirit naga.

A large brawl ensues and the three party wizards entrap Netazi in a wall of force, and summon a wall of fire within it, burning Netazi alive over the course of half a minute. Numerous concentrated fireballs destroy him while a number of the fighters fight against the two Naga and yuan-ti. The party emerges victorious, killing the entirety of the splinter-faction.

They return to Raas’Goa – but find she doesn’t seem perfectly happy with their perceived success. However, she says that there should be no more problems with reintegration.

Session 4 – The Arcane Gate

All seems finished… Netazi’s revolt against Raas’Goa was shut down and he was killed in the deepest part of the Athenaeum and the remaining stewards agreed to integrate themselves. However, when reports coming from others involved in the Reclamation effort note that Drozvindrian is supposed to be one of the gate citadels abjuring the great psionic lich dragon Keri, from even deeper in the earth, a small force is sent back to Drozvindrian to try and restore power to the long lost Arcane Gate to aid in the defense of all of Khazthand’s new empire.

The following expeditionaries were sent to ‘flip the switch:’

Aux Bristlebelly, of Clan Llandorel
Chadwick Thistlewick, Halfling Fighter
Morrig Dunron, Dwarven Monk of Clan Myletha
Pyrus Cardin, Tiefling Sorcerer

The small party heads to Drozvindiran without much perogative or guidance. They have just been told they need to “turn on the Arcane Gate,” but there wasn’t much definition to what that exactly entailed. Raas’Goa’s compliance had been not much more than passive, and some tension remained as a result. The party anxiously meets with Raas’Goa, and demand to know more about ‘The Arcane Gate.’ She proportes to know nothing, but says there might be information deep within Drozvindrian. The party heads downward to the library floor, however, one of the adventurers decides to shower himself in the Stream of Consciousness, receiving thousands of thoughts. They are able to filter through them and determine that there is in fact the Arcane Gate in Drozvindrian, in the form of all the knowledge in the library, siphoned through magic crystal and amplified, however, it was turned off by accident thousands of years ago. He mentally recovers as the party begins to head to the site of Netazi’s death.

Along the way, they find a book, titled the Opus of the World, which is auto-scribing the history of the world in it. They also find they can scribe in it themselves, and this will occasionally make what they write real. They use it to determine what Keri’s (the psionic lich dragon) phylacteries are – and they are revealed to be the Spore Hearts of the Mycon Dwarves.

At this point the party splits, half of them manipulating the Opus of the World to help allies elsewhere while the other half seek the Arcane Gate, found inside of the great crystal in the center of the lowest chamber of Drozvindrian. Inside the crystal is a single switch. The adventurers are hesitant to throw the switch, currently in the ‘off’ position, but one takes the dive and does. Arcane energy surges through the crystal, instantly killing him – but powering the Arcane Gate in the process.

The party reconvenes and provides as much help to allies fighting against great threats using the Opus of the World, until they are called back to Khazthand by the expeditionary leaders with one resounding fanfare: “Victory!”

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PrinceCon 44 theme recap

Note: The first two sections of this recap deal with the fully revealed background of the Con setting. If you would just like to read what happened during the Con, please jump to the third and final section, “The Events of PrinceCon 44”

Background: The History of Khazthand

10,000 years ago, the subterranean dwarven empire of Mezuldahrk was the largest, wealthiest, and most powerful empire above or below the ground. As they delved ever deeper into the darkest recesses of the earth, the dwarves of Mezulhdark stumbled upon Kerintsabsmedis (AKA Keri), a dragon whose might was beyond mortal comprehension. In their greed, the dwarves of Mezuldahrk sought to enslave and exploit Keri to their own ends, but they had underestimated her power – she broke free of her chains and unleashed terror on the august empire. Legion after legion of stout-hearted Dwarven warriors was sent to subdue Kerintsabsmedis, their banners proud and their burnished armor resplendent as they marched forth from their homes, and legion after legion perished. At last recognizing that they could not defeat Kerintsabsmedis, the dwarves sent the last of their armies to stall Keri’s advance while the rest of the population fled upward to the higher regions of their empire, collapsing the tunnels behind them – all the tunnels save one, for though the dwarves of Mezuldahrk knew they had lost the war, they believed that one day their progenies would become powerful enough to defeat Keri and reclaim their ancient homeland. In that tunnel they built a gate of unimaginable size, strengthening it with every magic and mechanism known to them and fueling it with psionic, arcane, biotic, kinetic, and divine power harnessed in five “gate citadels,”  and when Keri finally reached the Great Gate she found that she could not pass – even her empire-toppling powers were of no avail against the Gate.

Shielded from the manifestation of their past sins, the dwarves began to rebuild. They shed their old name of Mezuldahrk and all the memories of defeat it Kerid in favor of a new name: Khazthand. The passing months turned into years and the years into centuries. Khazthand grew and prospered, and as it began to enter a renaissance of culture and technology, many facets of dwarven life changed – including the language, which evolved from the ancient Mezulan tongue to modern Dwarven. Every passing year saw fewer dwarves able (and interested enough) to decipher the ancient texts; eyes turned towards the future as the past was forgotten. Though maintenance of the Gate and the five Citadels was still undertaken as so doing had become a tradition (and dwarves are rather keen on matters of tradition), by 5,000 years after the construction of the Great Gate no one knew what purpose the Gate or the Citadels served. Khazthand prospered as Kerintsabsmedis slumbered in the ruins of the ancient capital.

Khazthand’s renewed glory drew the covetous attention of all manner of unsavory creatures. Approximately 8,600 years after the construction of the great gate (around 1,500 years before the events of PrinceCon 44) the outlying hold of Goth was attacked by an army of Duergar. Though the Duergar army was repelled without major loss of Khazthandian life, the floodgates had been opened; every side of the empire was attacked by sundry unpleasant forces, though most groups of attackers bore no love for the other groups – indeed, they fought amongst themselves as much as with the dwarves of Khazthand. Though repelling each individual force was a relatively trivial matter for an empire as mighty as Khazthand, the relentless torrent of raiding took its toll in the form of attrition: decades of constant war saw the dwarven population begin to drop. As Khazthand’s population (and its armies) dwindled, underdefended holds slowly began to fall.

After two hundred years of fighting, Khazthand’s situation was dire – though every dwarven archmagister and master engineer was delving headlong into unexplored realms of arcana and science to develop new tools to defend their realm, even the holds in the heart of the empire were turning into ghost towns. In a last-ditch effort to stabilize their population, Khazthand’s borders were opened to the surface races by imperial decree approximately 1,300 years before the Con; anyone willing to join the fight against the inexorable tide of darkness could earn their citizenship with axe and pick. The flood of humans, elves, halflings, and other surface races stopped the hemorrhaging of lives and territory as the Khazthandian numbers began to recover. Though the fighting continued, an uneasy stalemate broke out, lasting for more than two centuries.

Nevertheless, the creatures of the deep would not be denied; as years passed holds once more began to fall. Recognizing the hopelessness of the situation, Khazthand’s top administrators and generals began to quietly organize successive safe and orderly withdrawals of inhabitants from the outermost holds to reduce the length of the borders needing to be defended. The withdrawal plan would eventually culminate in all the residents of Khazthand retreating to the capital city of Velzan-Gol, whose defenses were deemed impregnable, where they could defend themselves indefinitely – or at least, that was the theory. Unfortunately, the top brass new little more of Khazthand’s ancient history than the average citizen and were thus unaware that Velzan-Gol, the metropolis at the heart of Khazthand, was built on top of the Great Gate – a living location maintainers of the Gate had found quite convenient thousands of years past, but that now spelled doom for the empire.

998 years before the Con, as Gate Citadels fell into disrepair and the flow of power to the Great Gate faltered, Kerintsabsmedis (awoken from her slumber by the centuries of warfare above her resting place) forced the Gate open, annihilating every member of Military High Command and the National Assembly, the emperor and the next forty-four members of the imperial succession line, and several hundred thousand civilians in the blink of an eye. Those few unfortunate enough to not fall to their instantaneous death along with the city proper in the caverns underneath Velzan-Gol were hunted down mercilessly by Keri; within a day, the most powerful city in the world was erased down to the last child, leaving no witnesses to warn the other holds. Kerintsabsmedis was not satisfied with the destruction of Velzan-Gol; she lusted for the total eradication of every Khazthandian. Using psychic powers unmatched in their strength and subtlety, Keri spread a psychic contagion of parasitic hate which infected the minds of the disparate enemies Khazthand had fought for centuries and bent them to her will, forging a unified force from the prior chaos of competing warbands. Khazthand’s reckoning had come.

Faced with the unexplained disappearance of every major leader in Khazthand and foes that were suddenly organized and capable of advanced tactics, Khazthand’s defense network disintegrated. In the absence of a unifying authority, each hold tried desperately to fend for itself. Throwing every ancient safety code out the window, the mages and engineers sought the magics and technologies to defend their homes at any cost. Though the advances in science and arcana made in the years following the fall of Valzan-Gol were unimaginable, so too was their price: engines of incalculable complexity misfired, erasing entire holds in eruptions of molten metal and flame; magics capable of laying low whole armies went awry, tearing other settlements asunder (and sometimes the very fabric of reality along with them). In the throes of their civilization’s extinction, some mages even turned to the denizens of other planes of existence for aid, often inadvertently letting loose entities beyond mortal comprehension, blinded to the risks of such rituals by the direness of their need. Entire holds silently vanished overnight, as did the armies sent to reclaim them.

Knowing the realm was beyond salvation, those few members of the nearly extinct imperial government who had not been in Velzan-Gol cobbled together a final plan calling on every surviving hold to send its inhabitants to the hold of Arkinthel, formerly the trade hub of Khazthand by virtue of its exclusive possession of safe tunnels to the surface world. There, they would seal themselves away from the rest of the doomed empire. The journey to Arkinthel was perilous for the holds’ inhabitants, bereft of their defenses; it was said that the number of dead left on the roads to Arkinthel was greater than the number of stars in the sky they would never see.

857 years before the Con, the surviving archmages and artificers in Arkinthel oversaw the creation of a massive stone gate and reinforced it with the most powerful runic magics above or below the surface of the world. Though Arkinthel waited as long as it could before closing the gate to allow as many refugees as possible to arrive, when the forces of darkness neared the city the gate had to be sealed or else Arkinthel and its tunnels to the surface might fall. No one could document just how many Khazthandians reached Arkinthel only to find the gate sealed and met their ends on its threshold, but the surviving population of an empire that had spanned nearly fifty holds now fit with room to spare into one.

Though the price paid in blood for Arkinthel’s survival defied mortal comprehension, survive it did. As the years passed and the gates held fast with no sign of breaches, the inhabitants of Arkinthel were at last allowed to lower their guard after centuries of constant warfare. With the danger passed, they eventually returned to the trades that had first made their empire so affluent. Though their civilization had been reduced to a pale shade of its former glory, they persevered and once more returned to a state of (more moderate) prosperity. Their borders remained open to the surface races, and Khazthand became a “dwarven” realm in name only – the other races present in Arkinthel had long ago earned their citizenship.

The Time of the Con

857 years later, the only traces of Khazthand’s origin as a dwarven empire were its renowned legal codes, a national propensity for hard work, thrift, and stout-heartedness, and a (mostly ceremonial) dwarven ruling family. Nearly a millennium of peace had allowed Arkinthel to become one of the largest and wealthiest cities of the world; its treasure vaults ran over, and even the most “destitute” citizens went to sleep each night in their own homes with full bellies.

The Khazthandians did not forget the never-again matched splendor of their empire of old, however. The vast libraries of ancient lore, the workshops filled with schematics of lost technologies, the sturdy vaults filled with priceless artifacts – every citizen of Khazthand still longed to reclaim them.

Thus, when the surface world was ravaged by a colossal famine and its nations became unable to sustain their current populations, Arkinthel saw its chance to repay the surface nations for their help in Khazthand’s hours of need while also furthering Khazthand’s interests; they proposed a bargain that was immediately accepted by the surface nations. According to the terms of the treaty, the surface nations would pool what food stores they had to feed their populations for the next month; in the meantime, Khazthand would fund sending adventuring parties out to explore and reclaim the lost holds. When the food stores ran out on the surface, the surplus population would be allowed to resettle the (then hopefully safe) lost holds as citizens of Khazthand, and with all the help from Arkinthel that citizenship entailed.

The surfacers would have a place to live, and the citizens of Khazthand would get a chance to reclaim their heritage and homes of old. If all went well, the empire of Khazthand could yet rise from the ashes of its millennium-old defeat and climb to never before seen heights! But of course, before that could happen, the holds had to be reclaimed. To that end, the adventurers of Arkinthel’s Hireling Hall ventured forth.

The Events of PrinceCon 44

Under the command of Expeditionary Marshall Dumac, the valiant players of PrinceCon 44 participated in the Reclamation. Though the expeditionary marshall and the NPC forces under his command took care of the logistics of resettling and rebuilding the reclaimed holds, the suicidal courageous mission of actually retaking the lost holds was left to Hireling Hall.

Over the course of the Con, sixty-eight adventuring parties set out to save the surface world from starvation and take back their heritage as proud citizens of Khazthand. Age-old puzzles were solved, old wrongs righted, and revolutionary discoveries made as the forces of darkness were met with spell and steel. Many a brave adventurer fell along the way, but in the end nearly forty holds were retaken – enough to house and feed every surface refugee.

As the first parties returned to Arkinthel laden with loot, mysterious runic inscriptions were discovered on many of the magic items they brought back. Though no one in Arkinthel could speak the language, it was eventually identified as Ancient Mezulan – the language spoken by Khazthand’s progenitors ten millennia before the Con. Initial attempts at decoding the language were unsuccessful, but the intrepid players sent to explore the hold of Dûnbrink managed to learn the language thanks to some time-traveling hijinks and a lot of work. The item inscriptions were found to contain snippets of information surrounding the creation of the items, as well as occasional mysterious fragments of prosody about a mysterious evil.

Thanks to the collection and translation of those inscriptions by all the members of Hireling Hall, a group of puzzle-solving players was able to connect the dots and realized that retaking the holds had only been half the battle. They learned that Kerintsabsmedis, who was (unbeknownst to the players) slowly roused from her slumber in the ruins of Mezuldahrk’s ancient capital city by the events of the Con, would return through the Great Gate and once again lay waste to the newly reclaimed holds and their settlers unless the players could power the Great Gate by finding and reactivating its power sources in the five Gate Citadels: Korvaxxus (psionic power), Drozvindrian (arcane power), Uth-Garadan (biotic power), Alkaraz (kinetic power), and Gorzelchunthar (divine power).

As parties frantically tried to turn the Gate Citadels back on, it became clear that Keri would emerge before the Great Gate was rendered operational unless she was delayed. To that end, a number of adventurers volunteered for a suicide mission to travel through the Great Gate and battle Kerintsabsmedis on the far side to buy time for the Great Gate. As the volunteers stalled Keri in a (real-life) twelve-hour battle, players were able to bring Korvaxxus, Drozvindrian, Gorzelchunthar, and Alkaraz online. Though the mission to Uth-Garadan was unsuccessful in that regard, backup power sources were discovered in the form of the Arkenstone of Parok and an ancient sylvan tree of immense magical power in Gáttargáttin. With more than enough power supplied to the Great Gate, Kerintsabsmedis was once again sealed away, bringing peace and prosperity to the players’ reborn empire.

Thanks to the bravery of the players of PrinceCon 44, almost every ancient hold was reclaimed and their continued security ensured, saving the surface world from famine and heralding the dawn of a new golden age for Khazthand. On behalf of Emperor Mithas, the Assembly, Khazthand, the surface nations, and all the PrinceCon staff, thank you and congratulations! We hope you enjoyed battling the forces of evil, solving ancient mysteries, and laying the sins of your ancestors to rest as you journeyed through The Lost Holds.

PrinceCon 44 end summaries

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Chris’s scenario recap (Pcon 43)

My run was “The Cave of Wonder” a very simple poster in line with my art skills. 

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The actual name of my scenario was “Journey to the Center of the Mole People” for reasons that will become obvious around the second run. I offered chances to hunt for dinosaurs and other time lost creatures as well as crystal mutants, but my run was mostly centered on the meta plot about the changing of the Gods. 

My first run was with

Barry “Bare” Trap
Green
Gronk
Irwin Stevens, (Soon to be named Kangaroo Lizard Wrangler)
Jack “Lucky” Rabi
Tenacity
 
Our Heros ™ were tasked with exploring a newly discovered permanent teleport circle and bringing back any unusual animals found. After some brief preparation they were lead to hole in the ground with magical runic circle inside it. Some brief investigation discovered that the runes include the symbol of Magus a long lost god and the following statement in a long forgotten tongue “This is the door to my hiding place, to follow me is to die for I run from death”
 
On the other side of the teleport there is a cave covered with softly glowing pink crystals. After some investigation they manage to pull all the giant crystal spiders in a fight of about 10 rounds winning pretty easily and thereby avoid the ambush, backstabbing, webbing and slow poisons. More investigation they find a decapitated lizard the size of a horse filled with Rat/Snake hybrids. A nice swarm with weakness poison! This eats some AOE fire and none are recovered for the Menagerie. Finally they encounter the first big fight, a t-rex! 150HP, 2 attacks a round doing an average of 33 pts a hit! A nice fight, should really tax the party you’d think. If they were still poisoned might even lead to a fatality or two. Instead Irwin Stevens sits up straight, his eyes glowing “THIS IS WHAT I DESIGNED MY CHARACTER FOR!!” Yes, my big fight ran into a character specifically designed around winning that fight instantly. So now that fights over and Irwin is riding the T-rex as they exit the cave into the Land of the Mole People.
 
The Land is an oddly distorted underground cavern, the air is supersaturated with magic making detect magic trigger a con save or stun for 1d4 rounds. Distances do not match with travel times and there is a giant D12 shape glowing red in the sky. 
 
The players take all this in and go exploring a bit where they chance to find a fight in progress between some 7 ft tool naked mole rat barbarians and a pack of raptors lead by a mutant crystal raptor. They get a chance to watch the fight and learn that crystal powered mutants cancel spells, clerics of Magus are a thing and raptor packs with AOE magic defenses are nasty. After a brief debate they decide to help the more people looking side and jump into the fight. The remaining Mole People, having no idea what’s going on, bug out leaving one berserker to hold off the party if they turn out to be evil. However, they ignore him and instead whip out some AOE heals and he runs for it after the raptors go down. As a side effect of the heals, one of the down Mole People wakes back up and they manage to have a nice chat and arrange to meet the Speaks-with-God. 
 
So the party (which contains no clerics or people in armor higher than chain) wait around to see what happens. Lo and behold a group of Mole People approach with 2 barbarians for every PC, 2 wizards and a cleric of Magus. Just dripping with powerful magic items if they dare to take them. However, the players decline to take the bait and instead talk to the Mole People learning that magic is ridiculously empowered, the only god they know is Magus, they have no healing magic, they are fighting the “Hard Shells” who take them and use their bodies (“Aha, slavers! says the party”) and that the Mole People are able to learn new magic just by carefully observing it. 
 
Finally they learn the location of the city of the Hard Shells and make arrangements for to how signal peaceful intentions on meeting the Mole People (Drop all weapons and lay down on your back with your hands over your head) Sadly, this last piece of information doesn’t make it into the notes. 
 

My second run was with:

Arlahk Dawntusk
Bobbins Kettleblack
Claw
Dershawkin
Malon aka Kit
Pollein
Professor Paelias Galanodel


 
This group was more interested in the glowing dodecahedron in the sky and head that way with scouting by familiar. In this way they soon encounter a civilized looking naked mole rat named Vert in heavy armor that had been lost in the wilderness. No one remarks on how  Vert always keeps his teeth clenched while talking.  He treats the group as saviors, tells them he lost his mount and gear during a hunt and asks if they will escort him back to the city. Interested in getting a native guide, they agree and he activates an item that hastes everyone within 30 feet while in use. Under the affects of this they rush to the city with a very brief fight with some hasted raptors that they easily win. Once they reach the city Vert deactivates the item and they all receive 3 levels of exhaustion.
 Given the severe penalties from the exhaustion, the party is very cautious moving through the city, the citizens give them some odd looks but generally ignore the party with Vert. Many strange and wondrous devices are seen, boxes with moving pictures, clocks that fit on a wrist, large moving boxes on wheels to name just a few. They hole up at Vert’s house to try and recover, Vert suggests they take their feet off and get some rest, he is going to take a nap and then get a reward for them for saving him. He mentions that he might need to go for the Ritual of Renewal at the Temple of Magus. 
 
At this point, the players decide to split the party.
While most of the group tries to rest, Claw decides to search the house and the Professor and Dershawkin go to find the Temple of Magus that had been mentioned for the Ritual of Renewal. Utilizing care and diligence, the two external party members make it to the Temple without incident, discovering that it’s in the center of town and has a moat around it of some odd non-liquid. Meanwhile Claw has found that Vert’s is hanging in an empty room from two wooden rods on the wall with his head tilted back and mouth wide open. After some poking, it’s concluded that Vert is alive. In the next room is a giant tub of dirt with large holes in it which disgorges a giant millipede after being disturbed. The millipede asks in Verts voice why they are awake and suggests some food, then goes through a hole in the wall to the room with Vert is who soon walks out. 

 
At this point the party realizes that Vert is just a Meat Suit for a giant Millipede and that everyone in the city except them are actually giant millipedes that like to wear Meat Suits. 
 
The Professor and Dershawkin are met by a priest who starts pushing for them to have the Ritual of Renewal “You’ll feel like all new people!”, they decline and book it as soon they can, chased by the priest and some guards. They are able to evade with the help of invisibility and sneaking, but a sharp smell fills the air from the temple outward spread from each person as they smell it. 
 
Meanwhile the remainder of the party are lunching with Vert who has taken a liking to Claw and given him some of his favorite gear to wear. “Yeah, that fits nice. You’re going to be a good look. Here take these two weapons, why not get yourself used to pulling them out and putting them back, really build that into a reflex.” Claw is disturbed by the overtones, but likes the gear. 
 
There is some communication via sending, and the party reunites. Vert comments on the Alarm Scent filling the air, but is charmed into compliance and helps the party escape from the city. On the way back to Hunters Hall, they have a brief fight with a regular mole person and end up binding everyone  with rope and gags and delivering them to menagerie. 
 
 
 

My third run was with:

 
 
“Big Dick” Richard William Johnson
Bones
Diegona Godsteel
Kuu
Selna
Tenacity
Virago


 
 
This time when the party teleports in they are met with a ring of heavily armed Mole People riding giant star nosed moles who demand the return of their kidnapped companion. This leads to a cross connection with Megan’s run as the players sneak into the menagerie using some connections to find and return the Mole Person without further complications. The party is somewhat fractious and has some “friends like these moments” when they decide to drop a magic grenade into the teleport circle that happens to have the side effect of causing unstable magical side effects blending things together. 
 
After returning the kidnapped Mole Person, the group is recruited into helping with the war that has broken out among the Mole People vs the City of the Hard Shells. Bolstered by the magics they had learned from the previous parties, the Mole People are laying siege to the city, while the Hard Shells fight back with magi-tech including giant battle mechs, self powered cannons and all manner of atrocity. The party uses several illusion spells to create a distraction and run through the gaps in the fight, taking some hits but overall getting through lightly scathed. Once behind the lines they get lucky with a magical surge to teleport to get inside the city after a brief fight with a fomorian giant.  Using stealth and magic the party heads to the Temple at the center of the city where the Mole People have told them lies the core of the Hard Shells power. Dodging patrols in the mostly empty city, they get to the temple without incident and sneak in. 
 
Inside they discover that the temple is a mostly a hollow shell with streams filled with large millipedes running down the sides in 4 streams of not-liquid and in the middle is a great pool of non-liquid acting like liquid that is filled with large millipedes turning into giant millipedes and floating in the middle of the room is a giant glowing red brick box shining down on the pool. The party reflects on the mysterious glowing box, the pool teeming with (brain eating body controlling parasites) and decides that they have successfully scouted, and it’s someone else problem to actual do the work.  
 
Bones: I run for it. 
Diegona: I run for it. 
Tenacity: I run a little way, but stop and hold my action.  
Richard Johnson:  I shoot the corner of the glowing brick box!   -  The brick falls out easily, releasing an even brighter glow! The giant millipedes (brain eating parasites) start to get bigger, the pool is frothing as the swarm is agitated! 
Ku: Ooooh, I use telekinises to try and throw a grenade into the open hole in the box! (hands over hotlisted magic grenade of merging effects that he threw in the middle of the land of magic empowerment) Oops, wild surge! (In the middle of the temple of the god of magic where literally a pool of liquid magic fills the floor)
Tenacity: I use my held action to fireball the box, I should be just outside the blast radius.
Everyone else still inside the blast radius: Wait, what?
Grenade is empowered by the ambient magic, swelling in size! Telekenisis warped by the wild surge goes wild! Fireball is empowered by the ambient magic swelling in size! Grenade absorbs fireball! Combined empowered mutating wild surged grenade fireball detonates!
*SLOW MO SOUNDLESS EXPLOSION WASHES OVER PARTY*
Fade to black
———-
Ku wakes up in an endless white room getting boomed at “WHAT DID YOU DO! YOU SHOULD NOT BE HERE! SOME OF YOU ARE DEVOTED TO MY FELLOW GODS!” Magus proceeds to drop all kinds of information on Ku about how the gods work, how they change every so often, the purpose of the contests, and what Magus specifically is looking for to win his long overdue contest. (a way to transfer bodies while keeping consciousness and all powers) Then the GOD OF MAGIC asks Ku what he wants, Ku has done him a service and is being granted a boon.
The rest of the party is not permitted to offer suggestions.
After some thought, Ku says “I would like to go to an Inn.” (THE REST OF THE PARTY IS REMINDED THEY AREN’T PRESENT FOR THE CONVERSATION) ”AN INN. YOUR WISH, YOUR HEARTS DESIRE IS TO GO TO AN INN.” (Shush! You can’t offer suggestions!) ”A good inn!” “GRANTED!!”
———-
Fade in
Everyone is sitting around in the Inn they used as the base of operations for the heist at the start of the session. The room is otherwise empty. “YOUR REQUEST HAS BEEN GRANTED. I WILL NOT LEAVE YOU EMPTY HANDED. FOR YOUR SERVICE, I WILL RAIN TREASURE UPON YOU.” A shower of magic items falls from the air around Ku, clattering off the floor ( I play 52 pickup with a stack of magic items all over the players)

My fourth run was with:

Adrie
Nash
Phynian
Ripper
Shofar
Toblorone
Vetran
Sent in to find out what happened to the last party since they didn’t come back via the teleport circle, this group walks into devastation. The Mole People have lost the war and are scattered in camps trying to protect themselves from the brain eating giant millipedes that want them for meat suits. They find one such camp and after some back and forth Adrie teaches them the ways of Aru making this the first true conversion of the Mole People who have been starving for true option for their faith. He is amazed at how easily they find the way to Aru and convert to being level 1 clerics.
The Mole People guide the party to the city where they discover that the wondrous machines no longer work along the way that the constant empowerment of magic is now more fickle. Dodging patrols and traps they make it into the temple in the middle of the city. Using stinking cloud to extremely good effect (millipedes cannot vomit) they are able to get past the ensuited (meat suited) guards and use magic to scout the temple finding that it is roughly 1/3 full of empty meat suits and chock full of giant (brain eating) millipedes as described in my previous run. However, this time there is no glowing brick box, but instead a number of glowing red blocks scattered around and a glowing humanoid figure at the bottom of the pool of not-liquid (swarming with giant (brain eating) millipedes. This time the millipedes are stirred up and notice the party, luckily the party realizes that some of the millipedes are swimming back up the streams on the walls to try and get to the meat suits. The party counters with area of effect attacks, alert fighting tracking the millipedes and summoned elementals that are empowered by the ambient magic and become both independent and amiable to the requests made. it’s
The elementals are used to bring up the glowing figure after some side effects from the pool and after some experimenting the party realizes that it matches the impression of the inside of the red blocks and the residue left from Magus’s shelter is successfully contained. Without the constant flow of excess magic, the pool of liquid magic starts to fade and the large millipedes stop mutating into giant (brain eating, intelligent) millipedes. The power of the Hard Shells is broken, the Mole People are saved!
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Alex’s Scenario Recap (Pcon 43)

Gotta Catch ‘em All

Overview

1800 years ago was supposed to be Iniki’s contest, but Iniki has no use for Ronkel’s machinations, and so Iniki’s “competition” was to flood the world and not be replaced.  So Iniki sent Ophelia, avatar of Storms and Drowning, to destroy civilization. El, a moleperson and high priestess of Magus, came forth from the underdark to gather four compatriots.  They built a giant humanoid construct that they piloted together to defeat Ophelia and send her back to to the depths. This device was too dangerous to be allowed to fall into the wrong hands, and so they disabled certain important systems and scattered the pieces around the world.

When Hione announced this year’s competition, Ophelia awoke from her slumber, and continued her original mission.  Over the course of seven expeditions, the players discovered the existence of the construct, found the necessary parts to fix it, all the while making other captures for the menagerie, and finally learned how to work together to control it and used it to defeat Ophelia and make her part of the menagerie.

The Lightning Squirrel

Enticed by the following words on the poster:

Like fresh air?
Like being in the great outdoors?
Then capture creatures for Whiggam!

 

Bire Fringent, Elven Ranger

DerShawkin, Gnome Rogue

Jolynn Huxley, Half-Elf Fighter

Lazlo “Squeaks” McGee, Gnome Warlock

Loafe, Half-Elf Warlock

Raymond Stiggyn, Human Monk

Usidoor Neckbeard, Half-Elf Druid

 

The party was tasked by Delilah Zyland (see Megan’s runs) with retrieving a lightning squirrel for the menagerie.  They don’t know much about the squirrel, except that it’s a rare creature native to Whiggam, and can be found in the woods near Whiggam’s Institute for Arcane Studies.  They party traveled there without incident looked for Professor Tulgey. He wasn’t in his office and the passing students suggested that he’s rarely there. Going through his notes, they find out out some information on the Lightning Squirrel, some extinct creatures like the jub jub bird, and that there exists a larger cousin to the shambling mound, the spotted and herbaceous backson, which the Professor believes may have played a role in the jub jub bird’s extinction.  The party figured the poor Professor may have been eaten, but the students assured them that the Professor is often out for several weeks to months at a time. All they have to do, according to the students, is go off the path, then Tulgey will eventually find them, but try not to disturb the animals too much if they don’t want Tulgey to be in a bad mood.

 

The next day they set out along animal paths into the deeper woods, pausing every so often to detect Lightning Squirrels (5 mile radius, sadly not finding any) and Spotted and Herbaceous Backsons (finding some *every* time, but not wanting to fight one right away).

 

Setting camp for the night, they’re approached by Professor Tulgey, who is checking in to make sure they’re not disturbing the animals.  He approves of their careful campfire building, though of course he’d prefer they not use fire at all. The party mentions the Contest, and the Professor is quite firm in his belief that the Menagerie is a terrible idea.  Quickly rethinking their approach, they casually ask him about the habits of the Lightning Squirrel, purely out of academic interest. He becomes animated in discussion, and offers to take them to a spot where has has sighted a Squirrel before.

The next day they travel to the blind, and while they’re waiting for a Lightning Squirrel to appear, there is commotion not far off.  Two people come crashing through the woods, claiming to be students attacked by backsons. A yowl of a large cat can be heard in the distance.  ”That’s an Angrak windsteed! They’re not native to these woods!” cries the Professor, and he rushes off in the direction of the sound. The two students went off to find help, and the party decided this was the time to go off in search of the nearest Lightning Squirrel!  They do find one, but it eludes their initial attempts to trap it, and runs off to its lair, a hole in a small hill covered in grapevine.

IMG_20180401_125958

Exploring a way to trap the squirrel in its nest, they discover that the hill hides a much larger structure of demihuman manufacture.  Negotiating a truce with the squirrels (the one they followed has a mate and baby squirrels!) they explore inside and find the following projected image message:

“Welcome; I am El, the high priestess of Magus.  This temple was built to protect the people from <static> storms and drowning.  We managed to send Ophelia back <static>, but we fear what could happen if the temple fell into the wrong hands.  Therefore, we, the original knights, Gretta Opusdottir, Riven <static>, Kusakabe of Orviska, Broseph of Illselia, and myself, decided to hide the temple and certain vital systems until it was needed again.”

There was a system of tunnels under the surface, and several panels revealing complex machinery.  At each of these panels, something appeared to have been removed, and the panel labeled in undecipherable script.  In the tunnel system they discovered a lamp; when its light was shone on the script, it revealed the names of each system removed.

The party promised all the nuts the squirrel family could eat, and left quickly before Professor Tulgey found them out.  However, upon returning to the Institute, they learned that Tulgey’s head had been thrown into the courtyard by a group of windsteed-mounted Angrak warriors, declaring that the thief had been punished.  Deciding that it was probably best if no one questioned them about Tulgey’s death, they claimed not to have encountered him in the woods, and returned triumphant to the menagerie.

GM note: the two “students” in the woods were Godonia agents disguised as Whiggamites.  They had stolen the windsteed and were trying to make it look like Whiggam was responsible for the theft, in order to sow discord.

 

Irontown

We need brave adventurers to travel to Eren to secure a shipment of Greenheart wood!  Possible creature capture!

 

Adrie, Half-Orc Cleric of Aru

DerShawkin, Gnome Rogue

Kuu, Tiefling Sorcerer

Nash, Human Cleric of Hione

Phynian, Human Sorcerer

Rigger, Elven Fighter

Shofar Walowitz, Half-Elf Bard

Vassago, Half-Elf Warlock

Vetran, Elf Cleric of Ratri

 

“It’s much easier to lie when I think it’s the truth.”  Vetran

 

Faced with a choice of missions, they decide to participate in a trade mission for Greenheart wood in Eren.  During their sea voyage, they encounter refugees from Firviria, which has been ravaged by Hurricane Ophelia. They pause to help repair some of the most damaged ships and see to the most wounded, and Adrie directs them to Aru temples in Whiggam where they can find shelter, Sending to those temples to be prepared for the refugees.  Vetran, IIRC?, discovers that a few specimens from Firviria’s menagerie were rescued in the refugee fleet, and they determine to report this later in order to bolster Whiggam’s menagerie, once the Firvirians are resettled.

 

In Eren, the shipment of Greenheart wood from the interior has been delayed, and the party travels into the forest to determine what happened, following an expedition of Eren Paladins.  They discover a trail of toppled wagons laden with Greenheart wood, their crews apparently murdered by animals of the forest. Upon reaching the Greenheart logging camp, they find a few survivors, and the Paladins have gone further into the forest, cutting down Greenheart trees in search of “the one” that they believe is controlling the attacking animals of the forest.  The party is able to convince them to stop until the Queen of Eren can decide what to do here; they make it out with the desired shipment of Greenheart wood, but are concerned that Eren has cut too many of these trees.

We want… a Flywheel!

We need brave adventurers to escort Professor Maynard on a mission to Vandorel – a missing piece of the Temple of El and a possible creature capture are at stake!

Davos Rosencrantz, Human Bard

Galarin, Half-Elf Druid

Grandmaster Bato, Human Monk

Mr. (Elwig) Mackena, Human Warlock

Ryld, Elven Monk

Urist Vorpalbeard, Dwarven Fighter

 

During the sea voyage to Vandorel, they spied in the distance a Godonian airship of orcs and hobgoblins.  It was traveling slowly enough that they could catch up, just at the edge of their Fly range, and decided to attack.  In a daring raid, they defeated the enemy Godonian Heroes on top of the bag of the airship, but before they could overpower the crew, the orcish crew cut the gondola and scuttled the airship, sacrificing themselves.  There were a few tense moments as Ryld and Grandmaster Bato fell into the ocean and had to be retrieved before drowning, and Mr. Mackena nearly fell off the bag, but managed to catch hold of a rope thrown by Davos.

 

Continuing on, they discovered the cave of the “Legendary Black Beast” of Vandorel, which hid in the darkness of its cave.  They cautiously entered, leaving lights on the walls as they went, while Mr. Mackena’s familiar (an imp) waited outside as a lookout.  They eventually discovered a seemingly empty nest, which Professor Maynard eagerly explored for clues to the writings of Broseph of Illselia.  Mr. Mackena’s imp reported that the lights visible from outside the cave were being snuffed. When the imp went in to investigate, it was eaten (running theme; see the “Never Gonna Give You Up” expedition) by a huge creature of surprising stealth.  A waiting game ensued, with the party expecting an attack, and the Beast creeping about hoping for a good opening to strike. The party manages to Locate the Beast while it’s within Faerie Fire range, and lights it up.  The Beast is a Huge reptilian creature, with green scales and only two legs, numerous eyes and teeth, brown hair on his head, and a pair of horns.  Galarin transforms into a giant turtle in order to provide a target for the Beast, and while its mouth is full, the party brings it down while trying to avoid its tail sweeps.

 

It’s then that Professor Maynard excitedly reports finding some Ancient Bones and a Flywheel Gear (the Regenerative System) in the nest, along with some of Broseph’s writings.

 

GM note: During the fight on the bag of the airship, there was a sequence of 1, 20, 1, 20 rolled for Mr. Mackena to fall off the bag, then catch a thrown rope, then Davos to slip while the rope thrown to Mr. Mackena tangled about his ankles, then catch another line attached to the bag.

Tonari no Totoro


We need brave adventurers to travel to Orviska to investigate a lead on a missing piece of the Temple of El!  Cover provided by a trade mission for sorghum and rice.

 

Richard William Johnson, Human Fighter

Green, Human Druid

Irwin Stevens, Kangaroo Lizard Wrangler, Human Bard

Jack “Lucky” Rabi, Human Sorcerer

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In their own words:

Upon arriving in Orviska, we were met by a ranking trade official named Ukeuith.  At his request, we headed to Kusakabe province to assist with the removal of a haunt in a local home.  Upon arriving we discovered that the local governing family had all died under less than normal circumstances.  Further inquiry** found that a young girl named May was the only surviving heir, being hidden as an orphan by the rest of the village.  The trade official had been trying to remove the locals’ claim to the area by destroying the home and line of the family. When he showed up to meet us with around twenty men, we were ready for him.  While Green launched a surprise moonlight spell, Irwin grappled and pinned him while RWJ sniped his men, and a polymorphed Lucky, in kangaroo lizard form***, bit one in half (he got better) and forced the rest to surrender.  We let the men go after ensuring their silence. Ukeuith we forced to come with us to Whiggam in order to ensure his exile from Orviska. We managed to find a piece from the Magus temple, the Power Drive System.

 

**Inquiry preceded by “I’m not very smart, but I’m very good at jumping to conclusions. — RWJ”

 

 *** a “kangaroo lizard” looks surprisingly like a tyrannosaurus rex

 

Never Gonna Give You Up

Caim Vorgies, Tiefling Warlock

Koura, Human Warlock

Toblerone, Gnome Wizard (and Toblerone’s four zombies)

Vashi Vorgies, Tiefling Cleric of Aru

 

The party is told of an “Auxiliary Menagerie” that Pervanda has for dangerous creatures not yet integrated into their main menagerie.  Whiggam isn’t sure what’s kept there, but the party should go have a look around and bring back whatever they can. Starting from a point off the remote coast, they sent an impish familiar to scout around.  There were five puffy pink things in cages, kept out of earshot from one another, plus a cave mouth that was being guarded. The imp ventured into the cave, and the last images Kouri received was a flash of teeth, claws, and white fur.

 

They bluffed their way past the guards by posing as contractors who were there to fix some of the outer walls, with the zombies disguised as workmen, and also to transport “uh, the creature”.  The guards laughed at this last bit, but allowed them through the gate in the barricade to retrieve the Killer of the Cave of Pervannog. The zombies went first, and at the mouth of the cave, were attacked by a creature with the appearance of a small, white rabbit.  The Killer of Pervannog didn’t like the taste of zombie, so it fled back into the cave. Toblerone animated some darts, and sent them after the rabbit. The guards wanted to know why the “workman” wasn’t killed, figured out they were zombies, and started firing at the party.  In turn the party distracted the guards with a figurine of Bob West, which began telling them a story that they couldn’t ignore.

 

With a few lucky hits, the party managed to knock the Killer of Pervannog unconscious, and flee as the guards roused from the story.  Another unique creature added to Whiggam’s menagerie!

 

GM note: the “pink things” not retrieved by the party are a mob creature called the Rykrol; when encountered individually, each one would speak a single word, “gonna”, “up”, “give”, “never”, “you”.  If brought within earshot of each other, they say the words in the order in the name of the expedition.

Flight of the Porgs

We need brave adventurers to travel to the remote Isle of Achto to capture creatures in the path of the Hurricane Ophelia!

 

Dr. Odde IV, Human Wizard

Grusk Lager, Dwarf Fighter

Pollein, Human Paladin

 

The party encounters a number of other groups collecting the near-flightless, cliff-dwelling birds, and all decide to keep an eye on each other, but cooperate to save as many creatures as possible.  They discover a group from Angrak has been to the top of the island, where one of their party has been “lost” to the a mad hermit. Investigating, the party finds a red dragonborn listening to the teachings of a human in weather-beaten robes.

 

A sampling:

“Ronkel is the same.  Ronkel is the only true god, though all gods could be like Ronkel if they only knew.  Aside from Ronkel, Iniki is the only one who is unchanged, and therein lies the paradox of Iniki who is both always changing and yet unchanged. The legacy of El is failure, for Iniki still flooded the world.  Don’t be a warrior, work together! Hione was once the Hermit, but then became Hione.”

 

Dr. Odde concluded that he wants some outside verification on what the mad hermit is saying, attempts to Contact Higher Plane, and goes insane.  Everything his fellow adventurers say is complete nonsense, yet he understands when the mad hermit tells him, “It’s time for Hione to end.”

 

The party flees the island with their catch and has Dr. Odde restored at Hunter’s Hall.  He decides he wants that question answered and attempts to Contact Higher Plane, and goes insane AGAIN.

 

GM note: Dr. Odde was using my cursed dice.

Whiggam Rim

Let’s go fight a hurricane in a robot in a fantasy setting! — Ripper

 

Adrie, Half-Orc Cleric of Aru, “Green Lion”

Nash, Human Cleric of Hione, “Rainbow Belt”

Phynian, Human Sorcerer, “Blue Lion”

Ripper, Elven Fighter, “Red Lion”

Shofar Walowitz, Half-Elf Bard, “Yellow Lion”

Vetran, Elf Cleric, “Black Lion”

 

Our heroes, with the missing pieces from the Temple of El, decipher the instructions that tell in what order the pieces should be reattached.  Success! Each takes a position within the temple, and they practice moving together (you might have seen them walking in sync through Campus Club).  They then set off to defeat Ophelia, positioning themselves downriver of the Dymarip. Ophelia arrived, and a titanic struggle ensued, in which neither side could gain the upper hand.  The Temple of El creaked, and began to take structural damage (“Point to the part of this picture of Voltron where Ophelia hurt you.” -Phynian). Nerves frayed and tempers flared, but the party eventually discovered how to truly work as one, knock Ophelia unconscious, and transport it to the Whiggam Menagerie.

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York’s Scenario Recap (Pcon 43)

Session 1: Leomund’s Tiny House

PCs: Adrie, Half-Orc Cleric (Tim DeCapio); Giltun, Dragonborn Warlock
(Elissa Hoeger); Nash, Human Cleric (Mykl Sandusky); Phynian, Human
Sorcerer (George McBride); Ripper, Elf Fighter (Corwin Knaff); Shofar
Walowitz, Half-Elf Bard (Alan Zitomer); Vassago, Half-Elf Warlock
(Colleen Moore); Vetran, Elf Cleric (Ron Seidel)

Our Heroes were recruited by Miroslav, a human Cleric of Hione, for an expedition into Whiggam’s mountains. Doing library research, he had
found fragmentary notes about a long-vanished Warlock who had spoken,
occasionally, of a land holding many bizarre creatures found nowhere
else in the world. Tracking these clues, he found no more about the
land (except that it was on some continent other than Whiggam), but he
managed to pin down the identity of the Warlock, a gnome named
Leomund. (No, not *that* Leomund. Apparently this Gnome admired the
ancient wizard and spell-creator Leomund so much that he adopted it as
his magical name when he came into his powers. The Gnome’s original
name is lost to history.) He had established that Leomund vanished
about 80 years ago, and had found the location of his remote,
fortified home.

Guided by Miroslav, the party swiftly traveled into the mountains,
learning at the last town in the foothills that this particular
stretch of mountains had an evil reputation — “nobody goes there,
it’s scary.” As they climbed toward the presumed location of Leomund’s
home, they began to hear the eerie peals of a distant bell, which
brought on increasing feelings of unease. The bell rang once every 15
minutes, and the sound came from ahead of them, growing louder (and
making them increasingly nervous) as they traveled. Eventually they
reached a clear slope leading up to a structure at the peak of a
ridgeline, which both matched the location on Miroslav’s map and could
be clearly identified as the source of the mysterious bell sound,
which at close range induced fear so strong that it could be briefly
paralyzing.

Approaching the house, they were attacked by a trio of Galeb Duhr, or
rather by one Galeb Duhr and two boulders it had animated into minions
with physical abilities equal to its own. Though bruised and battered,
Our Heroes prevailed, only to discover a problem. Leomund, a recluse
with no interest in entertaining visitors, had built a house to suit
himself — a solidly-built stone structure with a 4-foot-high roof and
a 3-foot-tall door. It was at this point that our adventurers
realized, with some chagrin, that they hadn’t thought to recruit
anyone Small for this expedition. The house had an attached
observatory that was a 20-foot-diameter half-dome, which offered
plenty of room inside, but unfortunately had no exterior doors.

The smaller and slenderer members of the party squeezed through the
door and found that the main house appeared to be solely living
quarters. A puzzle-lock on the door to the observatory was quickly
solved. Another puzzle-lock in the middle of the observatory area
opened a trapdoor into stairs leading down. This stairway apparently
had been intended to pass large loads at times and so was wide and
high enough for the party members to descend at a crouch, rather than
squeezing through in a crawl. The party’s Half-Orc, however, had to
leave his armor outside the building entirely, since there was no way
he could squeeze through the front door wearing it.

At a landing on the stairs a bizarre creature sketched itself in the
air from the lines and angles of the  stairway; fully formed, it
looked more like a wireframe animation than a solid object, but it
proved capable of dealing large amounts of slashing damage as the many
thin lines of its structure cut through armor and flesh. Although
resistant to many weapons it succumbed to magical fire, and the party
made their way to the bottom and Leomund’s true workroom.

This was dominated by a mural occupying the entirety of one wall. A
sinister landscape beneath an impossible night sky held shadowy hints
of menacing creatures lurking behind various elements of the terrain;
in the foreground was a brightly-painted image of a cloaked,
staff-wielding Gnome with his back to the viewer. As the party
watched, the bell-tone sounded from the mural, somehow not frightening
when they could see its source, and the picture animated. Dark
creatures emerged from the landscape and charged toward the viewers,
while the painted Gnome fought them off with Warlock cantrips and
spells, and the power of his staff. Once the last of the onslaught was
done, the painted Gnome froze back into immobility.

The animated picture produced sounds, including some comments from the
Warlock suggesting that he was trying to keep the creatures from
getting past him. On the next animation cycle the party discovered
that they could fire missiles and spells into the mural and affect the
animated creatures in it. This caught the attention of the painted
Gnome, who turned to face them and apparently could see them. Although
only snippets of conversation were possible as the painting froze
after each wave of attackers was done, the party conveyed an offer of
help and the Gnome asked them to get turpentine and wipe his painted
image from the mural. When they did so they found that a live,
three-dimensional Gnome was emerging from the wall as the paint was
erased.

Ultimately Leomund thanked them for the rescue and explained that the
mural was a portal for accessing the realm of the Great Old One from
which he (and many other Warlocks) drew power. He had intended to use
it to attack and seal off a pathway by which other denizens of that
alien realm could attack the living world. The portal was so designed
that only images could pass either way, a safety feature that he
thought would keep it from being used as an alternate invasion route
itself. He had circumvented that safeguard by painting himself into
the mural with Nolzur’s Pigments, thereby putting an image into the
mural-world that was also real. To his chagrin he learned that his own
presence in the mural made it a two-way pathway that the monstrous
denizens of the other world could use to escape – unless he stopped
them. Fortunately he found that after each onslaught there came a
brief period of immobility which functioned as a rest. but he was
unable to extricate himself until someone outside the mural could
remove the paint. Once he was out, the mural was once more impassable.

Grateful for his rescue, and shocked to learn that he had been trapped
in the mural for eighty years, Leomund told his rescuers that the land
of exotic animals they wanted to find was in the Deep Forest on the
continent of Surelant. He told them a few particulars, including the
fact that the people of the Deep Forest were secretive, suspicious of
outsiders, and tended to use mindpowers of the local fauna to befuddle
uninvited guests. He recommended making friendly contact, with
patience and persistence, as the best way to get access to the animals
of the Deep Forest. Leomund also, as a token of gratitude, gave the
party a quantity of magical gear he had used in his earlier
adventuring days.

LITERARY SOURCES: This scenario was inspired by the writings of HP
Lovecraft, with just a touch of Looney Tunes.

Session 2: Explore the Forest!

PCs: Amaya Rein, Human Monk (Hannah Tandy); Farryn, Elf Ranger
(Danielle Coates); Hildur, Dwarf Barbarian (Clara Shikhelman); Lilith
Stormweather, Tiefling Cleric (Sydney Chiang); Oswin Hornblower,
Halfling Bard (Kevin Lee); Sycorax, Tiefling Cleric (Kayli Marshall);
Vitis Vinifera, Half-Elf Ranger (Riley Chiang)

Surelant is a continent friendly to Whiggam. Since every continent is
trying to build up their own Menagerie, collecting animals from
Surelant’s Great Forest might risk straining relations. Fortunately,
the folk of Surelant believe that the depths of the Great Forest
(hereafter simply the Deep Forest) is populated entirely by ignorant
yokels who cannot possibly have anything of interest to trade. Whiggam
was able to negotiate a deal where Whiggam adventurers would have a
free hand in the Deep Forest, under the sole condition that if they
retrieved more than one of any particular exotic animal not found
elsewhere, they would leave one with the Surelant authorities. Whiggam
also learned that, while the Deep Forest dwellers had relatively
little contact with the outside world, they did sell exotic timbers
and unique apothecary formulations in exchange for precious metals,
platinum especially.
Travel between Whiggam and Surelant involves a long sea voyage –
essentially halfway around the World, about the same distance sailing
west or east. When this expedition launched, storms at sea made the
western route impassable, so the trip involved sailing eastward
between Eldruent-Vangruldear and Melkanth, both continents hostile to
Whiggam. There are two reasonable places to make landfall in Surelant,
Westport on the extreme western tip of the island (which serves the
Great West Road, running from the coast to the Great Forest), and
Norbury in the northern mountains, which connects directly to the
Great Forest through a steep but short mountain pass. The players
elected to take the more northerly sea route, passing closer to EV to
land at Norbury.
Sure enough, about 2/3 of the way to Surelant a large EV ship was
spotted and changed course to shadow the Whiggam courier carrying the
party, staying about 3 miles back. The PCs sent a raven (a character’s
familiar) carrying a small rock with a message tied to it; the message
said they had the means to defend themselves and would do so if
attacked. After receiving the message the EV ship dropped back to 5
miles separation but continued shadowing the party. The players
deduced that the EV ship wasn’t going to attack but intended to shadow
them to wherever they were going in search of Menagerie finds.
The players hatched a scheme where during the dead of night their
courier would pass close to shore and drop them off in a lifeboat,
which they would quickly row to shore and hide. They felt that with
two rangers, one of whom specialized in coastal terrain, they could
make their way overland to Norbury and reach the pass without too much
delay.
Coming into sight of Norbury Harbor, they could see their Whiggam
courier (which had been instructed to wait and bring them back, and
supplied with ample funds for docking fees) anchored at a wharf, with
the large EV ship that had shadowed them anchored about three slots
away. The party split at this point, one contingent going to scout the
pass, one going to the Surelant authorities to make sure their mission
was acceptable, and one group (the party Bard, posing as a wealthy EV
merchant on holiday) went to ask questions on the EV ship. Results:
the pass looked to be in good shape for travel, the Surelant
authorities were quite supportive of the Whiggam mission and happy to
sell them additional travel supplies at cost, and the EV captain was
cozened into admitting that he was on the lookout for the Whiggam ship
to send out a party of adventurers and had a group of sailors with
land and wilderness skills ready to go follow them
whenever they appeared. Our Heroes avoided this headache by simply
making for their planned rendezvous out-of-town without ever going
back to their own ship.
Travel through the mountain pass involved an encounter with a gang of
bandits led by a middling-high level Warlock, who used Hallucinatory
Terrain to set up an ambush. The fight was made lively by taking place
on a narrow ledge between a rising cliff and a ravine; jockeying for
position to push an enemy into the ravine was a major tactic.
Arriving at the Great Forest, the party quickly made friendly contact
with the Foresters, a mixed society of elves, half-elves, and humans,
with elves in the majority. They were taught recognition signs for
friendly passage, and warned that the Deep Foresters were a
suspicious, unfriendly bunch who had nothing of interest aside from
the herbal concoctions and exotic timber that they sold for trade
goods. Undaunted, Our Heroes pressed on, until one day two members of
the party succeeded in a difficult saving throw and saw that their
comrades had suddenly fallen into a trance and they were being
confronted by people in forest-camouflage clothing holding small,
furry, big-eyed creatures facing toward the party.
The big-eyed creatures are Spirit Tarsiers, and the Deep Foresters
explained that they have a gaze attack that can put people into a
trance where they don’t remember anything that happened. Their plan
had been to knock out the party members, transport them past the Deep
Forest, and  let them continue through the forest without ever seeing
anything of interest. With two of the party having saved, though, the
amnesia approach was off the table. The party called attention to
their trade “goods” (essentially money, given the prior information
that the Deep Foresters accepted gold and platinum as payment), and
persuaded Rudra, leader of the Deep Forest scouts, to bring them to
their village to negotiate with the headwoman.
The PCs were treading carefully and on their best behavior as they
were led into Ni-Hau, an almost invisible village in the Deep Forest.
Like the outer villages, it was inhabited by a mix of Elves,
Half-Elves, and Humans, but for some reason Humans were the largest
part of the population in the Deep Forest. All the buildings were
treehouses, their walls obscured by layers of live leaves; all access
involved rope ladders which could be raised from above. This was
explained as a necessary defense against the more dangerous
inhabitants of the Deep Forest.
Negotiations with village headwoman Durga went well. The PCs confirmed
the existence of a number of creatures known nowhere else in the
world, and negotiated the conditions for future parties to come on
collection expeditions. The primary condition was that new expeditions
should bring a suitable fee, and MUST check in at Ni-Hau and get a
guide before proceeding further into the Deep Forest. Some creatures,
it was explained, could be captured and taken away safely, but others
needed to be left alone; the distinctions would be long and difficult
to explain, hence the necessity for a native guide.
The party then returned home without incident, bringing along one
Menagerie specimen: a Spirit Tarsier that had been “tamed” and was
used to human contact.

LITERARY SOURCES: Assorted Cold War spy fiction; Conan Doyle’s “Lost World”

Session 3: Negotiations and Captures

PCs: Bobbins Kettleblack, Dragonborn Fighter (Andrew DeMario);
DerShawkin, Gnome Rogue (Michael Brokes); Fencili Hartthsol, Gnome
Warlock (Stevie Chudomelka); Malon (aka Kit), Half-Elf Rogue (Lee
Mendelson);  Vassago, Half-Elf Warlock (Colleen Moore)

–THE OFFICIAL STORY–
The expedition got to the Deep Forest without any seagoing
difficulties. Arriving at Ni-Hau, they had an in-depth discussion with
Headwoman Durga about what exactly they might hope to retrieve. They
arrived at a list of creatures guaranteed unknown in the outside
world, which might have some specimens that could be collected without
harm:
1. Carnivorous Sunflowers, a powerful and dangerous Medium-sized
ambulatory plant.
2. Lightning Panthers, apparently close relatives of normal panthers
with silver-stippled black fur and silvery vibrissae (whiskers). They
have a lightning “breath weapon” which they use for defense and
hunting (they don’t actually breathe lightning, they project it from
their electrically conductive whiskers).
3. Culverins, a Medium-sized ambush predator who have a long snout and
the ability to shoot pebbles from it at high speed.
4. The Spirit Basilisk, a Large reptilian predator/scavenger only
vaguely similar to true basilisks. It has no gaze weapon; instead,
whenever it is hungry, angry, or frightened, it emanates a psychic
paralysis field in a radius around itself. To make matters worse, it
is completely immune to magic.
5. Razorwings, Small flying reptilian predators. Their wings are
rigid, like an insect’s, and as the name advertises have razor-sharp
leading edges. They fly at very high speeds, like fixed-wing aircraft,
growing organs beneath their wings that function as pulse jets.
6. Forest Behemoth. Gargantuan reptilian herbivore. Impressive only
for its size and tremendously tough armor.
7. Monopods. Medium plant creatures that resemble large mushrooms when
at rest; in motion, they kick off from the ground with a single
powerful foot (the “stem”) and use a wide, thin mantle (the “cap”) to
maneuver aerodynamically, even being able to glide considerable
distances without having to touch down again. Monopods are sentient,
though less intelligent than humans; a number of them have learned the
Common tongue. (They understand its spoken form, but lacking voices,
can only reply by writing on the ground with their powerful slashing
tails.)
8. Sentient carpenter ants. More specifically, a ten-foot-tall ant
mound houses an ant colony with collective intelligence. No individual
ant is particularly bright, but the colony can reason, act, and
communicate about as well as a human being. As with the monopods, the
colony living near Ni-Hau understands spoken Common and replies by
arranging large numbers of ants into written letters.
The party was quickly able to negotiate with the sentient creatures;
a breeding pair of Monopods were pleased to become an exhibit, and the
ant mound was eager to send off a young queen to found a new colony in
a welcoming environment. Following native guide Rudra, the party
stalked and killed a carnivorous sunflower without coming into range
of its narcotic perfume (kudos to highly effective missile fire from
the party Rogues), collecting 100+ seeds and suitable mulch for
sprouting them. [Note on mistreatment: Carnivorous sunflowers are NOT
sentient and are unrelentingly aggressive against any animal in range
of their senses. Moreover, being killed causes them to set seed and is
therefore an important part of their reproductive cycle.] The party
was attempting to capture a Culverin but eventually decided that they
needed to return home with the prizes they had in hand.
LITERARY SOURCES: Appalachian folklore, assorted fantasy and SF by
Piers Anthony, John Varley, Mercedes Lackey, E.E. Smith. And of course
you should be able to figure out which of the eight creatures is an
homage to A Certain Movie.

–WHAT REALLY HAPPENED–
This is what earned the expedition a Friends Like These award, for
managing to be trustworthy friends AND traitors at the same time. They
promised the Deep Foresters that they would keep their secrets, and
true to their word did not mention any of this on their expedition
reports, nor, as far as I could tell, in conversation with other
players. Everything mentioned above is true and happened approximately
as described, but a great deal else went on…
***
The first clue that something was odd about the Deep Forest community
was when Fencili the Warlock used her Awakened Mind class feature to
mindspeak Rudra the scout leader. He *replied* telepathically,
admonishing her that she was being rude and should be very circumspect
in using that power.
***
Another clue showed up during the negotiations with Headwoman Durga.
While others spoke with her, Bobbins, a Battlemaster, used a class
feature to gauge his relative abilities against the Headwoman. Bear in
mind, this is a large, powerfully built Dragonborn in the prime of
life, comparing himself to a petite elderly Human woman. The GM was
obliged to report:
“She’s stronger than you are. She’s faster than you are. She’s tougher
than you are. She’s smarter than you are, wiser than you, and more
charismatic than you.”
***
But the real revelation came when the party’s scouting allowed them to
hear a crash of falling wood and a feline scream. Native guide Rudra
took off toward the sound without paying the slightest attention to
them; the PCs followed as best they might. They arrived to see Rudra
lifting a large fallen branch off a badly injured Lightning Panther.
Then they saw the cat morph into a badly injured Human girl who bore a
strong resemblance to Rudra. They offered healing potions, but Rudra
waved them away while talking softly to his daughter – talking her
through the process of drawing her bones back together and into their
proper places, closing the rents in her skin and refastening her
muscles to their attachment points.
At this point, Rudra decided that his best course was to explain more
fully to the outsiders and try to engage their sympathies. A fraction
of the Deep Forest folk (about half the “humans”, about 10% of the
“half-elves”) are secretly natural shapeshifters. [DM's note: these
are not monsters from any standard supplement. I invented them for
this scenario, just as I did the weirder animals.] They keep this a
deep secret, not to deceive their neighbors, but to deceive their own
children; their children are born as completely normal members of
their apparent race, and show no sign of being unusual until their
powers start to develop after puberty. The Shifters have learned
through bitter history that nothing is more toxic to a child’s
personality than the sense of entitlement that comes from being raised
to see themselves as different from and better than the people around
them. So they live among non-shapeshifting folk, as members of the
community, in order to raise their children as responsible people
rather than self-centered monsters.
But once their powers start to manifest, adolescent Shifters need
practice with them. All of the Deep Foresters spend increasing amounts
of time alone in the forest during their teenage years, learning how
to live alongside the Forest creatures. The non-shapeshifting
Foresters simply don’t realize that some of their neighbors spend that
training time *being* Forest creatures. That’s the real reason they
wanted to vet the selections of hunting parties; many creatures might
actually be adolescent Shifters, and only the telepathic Shifters
could tell the difference. Thus the guides, and thus the accident:
Rudra’s teenage daughter was shadowing her father, feeling very proud
of her ability to be silent and unseen in animal form, and missed a
jump leading to a catastrophic fall.
The party all agreed to keep the Shifters’ secrets and asked if a
Shifter would be willing to come to the Menagerie – surely such a
remarkable being would be a prize display. Rudra explained that the
Whiggam Menagerie already had a Shifter in residence. It turns out
that there is no such animal as the Spirit Tarsier. As part of
concealing their own possession of mindpowers, they invented a
fictitious animal with mindpowers and had mature Shifters turn into
them as needed,  to provide sightings in the forest and to be “tamed
and trained” specimens when a Forest patrol needed to befuddle
strangers.
In exchange for the party’s commitment to secrecy, the Shifter
villages of Ni-Hau agreed to help more actively with future
expeditions from Whiggam. One particular item of assistance was that
the village herbalists would distill, from the remains of the
Sunflower the party had killed, a nonmagical drug that would help the
next Whiggam expedition subdue a Spirit Basilisk.

Session 4: Bring ‘Em Home

PCs: Davos Rosencrantz, Human Bard (Matt Reichardt); Galarin, Half-Elf
Druid (William Reichardt); Grandmaster Bato, Human Monk (Chris
Reichardt); Urist Vorpalbeard, Dwarf Fighter (Joshua Reichardt)

The mission brief for this expedition was simple: thanks to trade and
negotiation which had led to good relations with previous expeditions,
the Deep Foresters of Surelant would have a number of captive animals
ready to transport, needing only supervision from the Whiggam party to
get them back to the Menagerie. It was known that one of those beasts
was a Forest Behemoth, which could not possibly be brought across the
steep passes to Norbury. The plan therefore was for the party to bring
the animals out of the forest along the Great East-West Road of
Surelant that runs to Westport on the western tip of the continent. A
large cargo ship with a specially-built hold would be used to
transport the Behemoth (as well as the more manageable animals).
Travel to the Deep Forest proceeded well, and on arrival the part
found waiting for them a docile Behemoth and rolling cages containing
a breeding pair of Lightning Panthers. An additional bonus was
available if the party chose to attempt it: the villagers had a
substantial supply of sedative on hand, which could be used to knock
out a Spirit Basilisk and keep it unconscious until its arrival in
Whiggam, However, none of the Foresters had been willing to volunteer
to administer it to a live Basilisk. The Whiggam party was welcome to
attempt the feat themselves. After brief consultation, they decided to
go ahead.
The capture was well-planned and successful. Native guides brought the
party to within a mile of the Spirit Basilisk’s current den, the
closest they were willing to approach. Galarin used Commune with
Nature to find a clearing with the best possible features for an
ambush site. The party killed a deer and set the carcass in the middle
of the clearing; then, while the remaining party members lurked at a
distance (and safely out of paralysis radius), Grandmaster Bato dosed
the carcass with sleep drug and then butchered it quickly and messily,
so that the smell of blood and carrion rose quickly from the remains.
The Grandmaster raced to safety using his enhanced movement, although
such speed was unneccessary; while the Basilisk woke up the instant
the wind carried the smell of the kill to its den, it took several
combat turns to reach the clearing. While the party hid, it ambled up,
devoured the deer carcass in a disturbingly small number of bites, and
presently fell over unconscious. The party hauled it back to the rest
of their caravan on a wheeled travois and set up a drugging schedule
to make very sure it would stay unconscious untill delivered.
The overland trip to embark on the ship for Whiggam proved uneventful
but the sea voyage to Whiggam had to contend with a pirate attack.
More precisely, the attacking ship appeared to be a privateer out of
Melkanth seeking to seize the PC’s ship and claim the prize beasts for
themselves. The pirate’s initial attack plan was severely impaired
when Galarin used Control Water to capsize their ship. However, two
Sorcerers took to the air with Fly spells and moved to attack.
Clustering at the facing rail, preparing to meet the oncoming
Sorcerers, the party overlooked the arrival of a quintet of rogues
wearing Cloaks of the Manta Ray who had swum under their ship to board
on the far side. All except Grandmaster Bato failed to save against
the Wand of Fear wielded by one of the rogues. Davos and Urist dove
overside into the ocean, while Galarin, who had taken the Wild Shape
of a water elemental, simply poured himself belowdecks to hide in the
ballast. Bato charged across the deck to engage the rogues in melee,
only to find himself caught in a Web spell from one of the oncoming
sorcerers.
Gato learned very quickly why it is a bad idea to find yourself
restrained while facing multiple rogues making coordinated melee
attacks with poisoned blades. Fortunately, both Davos and Galarin made
successful saves to break out of the Fear effect as soon as they broke
line of sight to the Rogue who had created it. Urist, unfortunately,
did not, and being in possession of his own Cloak of the Manta Ray was
swimming away from the ship at high speed. Ultimately, it took him
three tries to make his save, which meant a total of six turns of
combat spent swimming away from and then back to the cargo ship. Bato
was at 0 hit points and had failed two death saves when he was rescued
by a healing spell from Davos. Meanwhile, Galarin the Elemental was
battling with several rogues and the high-level Warlock who had landed
atop the Behemoth’s pen, while the Sorcerers flew about flinging
cantrips at whoever seemed a likely target. The battle raged for
several turns, with the attackers taking some casualties while
inflicting massive damage on the PCs. When Urist finally returned to
the ship, accompanied by a pike-wielding penguin he had summoned from
the Menagerie using an item, the attackers not yet slain decided it
was time to flee.
No further hostile encounters took place and the PCs arrived safely at
the Menagerie with their cargo of unique and impressive animals.

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