March 17-19, 2017 Campus Club, Princeton University Pre-Register Here! On-site registration and check-in starts at 3 PM First runs start at 5 PM Close parking in Lot 10, much more in Lot 21 Cost: $25 ($30 on-site), or $10 with college student ID ($15 on-site), or free for Princeton students. Add $40 for a D&D 5th Edition Player’s...
PrinceCon is a 46-hour role-playing marathon held on the Princeton University campus every Spring (since 1976). The character you create on Friday afternoon stays with you throughout the weekend, growing more powerful and accumulating potent magical items as you adventure in a single world with many different talented GMs. What’s the...
Princecon is organized and run entirely by volunteers, including both Princeton alumni and long-time Princecon devotees. Are you interested in taking your participation to the next level? Consider: Leading discussions in the Google and Facebook Groups. Playing in a playtest campaign (at Princeton or elsewhere) to iron out proposed system...
The Heart of Gold
Backstory: One of Gargravarr’s great promises to the people of Qoin was to tunnel through the center of the disc to create a trade route from Heads to Tails. While nobody has ever reliably reported contact with the far side of the disc, this proved to be an inspiring undertaking, spreading dreams of beautiful fabrics and exotic spices and wealth to be made.
It was certainly popular among Dwarves and Gnomes, for it created the world’s largest demand for mining and machinery. Gargravarr used a vast tunnel-boring machine, built and maintained by the Gnomes, directed by the Dwarves, and supported by mining grunts of every shape and size.
Or course, a trade route was not Gargravarr’s actual motivation…
Run 1: The Mission is Mine
As far as the Resistance is concerned, there’s one big problem with the mining operation, and that’s that it was Gargravarr’s idea. Therefore, no matter how attractive it might appear on the surface, there must be some underlying motive to the detriment of the world. The first party was sent to investigate the mine and find out what’s going on there.
They had some adventures even reaching the glacier at the center of Qoin where the mining operation was located. All shipping capacity was consumed with miners and supplies, and the captains had turned to highway robbery to allow miners or passengers to claim a spot. With strategic bribery, the party lubricated their departure, and found themselves crammed in to a ship vastly overloaded with rough-edged folk. And then the first night out, the ship’s crew abandoned them, taking the money and running (er, rowing the dinghy) out of sight.
The lack of food, water, and elbow room could have proved to be a serious problem, except for the legendary Elven secrets that the party brought on board. (Namely, an alchemist’s jug producing an endless supply of fine wine.) With a little help from one experienced hand, they managed to reach the glacier, and by following another vessel, crash-land on the docks that were the intended destination all along.
Following the crowd, they crammed into wagons headed for the mine. On their arrival they found a vast temporary city — rows on rows of tents — in concentric circles around a vast hole in the ground. Unable to locate a “headquarters” among the tents (it was revealed later that all those in charge lived underground), they opted to take over one of the wagons of tailings, dumping it and returning to the mine for more.
The found themselves rudely directed down a circuitous path by Dwarves, who appeared roundly entertained by abusing the hapless grunts directing the wagon. In fact, a little investigation established that the mine was run by Dwarves and Gnomes, who were thrilled to have the chance. The Dwarves seemed to choose the route and procedures, while the Gnomes operated the vast tunnel-boring machine, and everyone else involved attended to the mundane tasks such as digging side tunnels, clearing the waste left by the boring machine, and resupplying the proper miners. This left the enormous main tunnel, surrounded by a huge number of weaving side tunnels, and a nearly inscrutable wagon route marked only by Dwarven runes etched faintly into the rock.
More investigation and a fair bit of stealth brought the party to a room where one of Gargravarr’s advisors was apparently dictating terms to frustrated Dwarf and Gnome leaders. From the sounds of it the Gnomes were advocating a break for maintenance, the Dwarves were advocating following a gentler route that avoided harder ground and obstacles, and Gargravarr was insisting on a straight-line route. (To the Heart of Gold, of course, though this wasn’t apparent to anybody at the time.)
Before the party could take advantage of this information, a party of invisible Drow attacked, supported by spellcasters in the distance. This turned into a four-way melee, from which no side emerged satisfied. The party lost two members and was unable to secure any of the specific plans or diagrams that had been under discussion. The Drow attempted to carry off Gargravarr’s representative, but were unable to. The representative was ultimately killed, leaving the Dwarves and Gnomes in a tight spot, and Gargravarr assuredly displeased.
Still, the remainder of the party returned with excellent intelligence on the mine, the factions involved, and Gargravarr’s influence.
Run 2: Tails of Qoin
Run 3: The Enemy of My Enemy…?
Coming soon…Read More
Steve & Nayla’s Scenario #1: A Fool’s Gold Errand
Funding a resistance effort is not cheap, and someone is stealing gold. Literally out of the pockets of the Resistance. And the bastard who’s doing it needs to be caught.
Our heroes were tasked with protecting a shipment of gold between two hideouts, and the trip will take all night. While beset upon by a distraction, the entire payload was lost, replaced with counterfeits made of brass.
On the face of the counterfeits, however, there was an island that is not on any map, so obviously that was their next step. Upon the unnamed island, they overcome two sea hags with strange clothes and the alchemical symbol for lead on their head coverings –– some of the Immortals from the wheel recoiled at the sight of it. The Symbol of the Hand of Dusk!
In a cave on the coast of the island, they come across a laboratory where some Villain is minting fake gold coins that directly threaten the world’s gold supply. They look quite convincingly valuable, and are laced with magic which allows them to steal real gold coins by swapping them out with fool’s gold copies. 1 then turns to 2, 4, 8, 16… Exponentially growing. Dare I say, as “confounding interest.”
In any case, the the Villian comes home to his lab. However, the “Villain” turns out not to be an enemy, but Tabernaculus, an old dragon from The Wheel. “We’ve heard of him!” Exclaimed some of the party.
His world is dying, and he found a way back to the Wheel, into a place called the Garden of Dusk to try and salvage some clippings of the Tree of Life. However, they do not seem to want to grow in this world – that is to say Quoin – perhaps, he says, because it has an incompatible Heart. So he started experimenting and discovered how this world’s Heart of Gold is being depleted. The gold-stealing coins are a way to try and reverse the damage.
But that doesn’t seem to be working either. He stole back into the Garden of Dusk to try and find a better solution, and found out that the Hand of Dusk was guarding something called the “Seed of Life” – apparently the one last Seed of the Tree, which he stole away. However, the next day he woke up to find that it had sprouted, but apparently the Seedling was more mobile than he anticipated (think Baby Groot) and it escaped.
While discussing with Tab, the players realized that they needed some dirt from The Wheel to entice Audrey out to take root, and where Tab had virtually none they remembered the two bodies of the Hand of Dusk. Those would mulch nicely. Bedecked with flowers and a Wheelian lullaby played by their Bard, they they managed to lure Baby Audrey out and bring her back to Tab without incident. They succeeded. (One player exclaimed something about, “Essentially mulching Nazis in order to grow the Flower of Peace.”)
The Heroes ended this run with Heart-strengthening fools’ gold coins, two pages of the Guide, and the Heart of Oak, itself – Baby Audrey.
Steve & Nayla’s Scenario #2: Everything is Illuminated
“Well, let’s see what happened then, shall we?” said Merriweather.
Why does the party have an headache? And why is everything so loud? It was as if their ears had opened for the first time. And why is there so much wind whipping at their clothing? And why is the ground approaching so fast? Ahhhhhhh! They awake to find themselves falling through the air.
How did they end up here? And what is that book falling along with them?
Flashing back to the beginning of things, they were sent off to retrieve The Book! The Book! Another copy of the manuscript – The Guide to the Multiverse – that held details about what is happening with the Immortals and Gargravarr, hoping that it may give them some clue as to how to defeat him. However, the Guide is hidden away in a tower. It’s all terribly mundane: They get their Quest, they go to the Tower, they dispatch the guard… and suddenly, a strange corrosion demon besets itself upon them and – they all die.
“No, no that can’t be right!”
That is not how Heroes die! So their story begins again. They get their Quest, they go to the Tower, they defeat the two guards, they head down into the Dungeon below it and find a Goblin who challenges them to a game of riddles. And they strain to best the riddle in 3 guesses…
The corrosion beast shows up again! They remember *everything* just before they die…
“Blast it! Why does this keep happening?”
They get their Quest, they go to the Dark Keep, they defeat the *10* guards, they find the goblin *Riddlesmith,* and defeat him with one try… and…
As you can guess, the story “resets” itself several times, changing a bit with each iteration, becoming more epic, more heroic, succeeding more easily against evermore unsurmountable odds, until they get to the final room and they realize that… it’s simply not there.
Past the door, it dissolves into nothingness, and it feels awful familiar. Like it’s where they started out. And then in a moment of desperation– they break through. Everything dissolves into a thousand threads of gold, and they fall “out,” looking up at two giant Monks of Hione, who are in turn looking down upon tiny versions of the Heroes, sitting upon a page of a manuscript.
It turns out that they are not the Heroes themselves, but how history had remembered them. The manuscript – which was illuminated with literal golden letters – was damaged when the gold was drawn from it by some surviving shard of Gargravarr, and the Monks (Albus and Merriweather) were trying to repair the book along with its illuminations. However, the final portions of it (think, the explosion and falling through the air part at the beginning) were damaged irreparably. So they did what any old Monks of Hione would do: Cast Speak with Book and try and see if the book remembered what happened. They did not expect *this*.
Meanwhile, many centuries before, the real Heroes made their way into the tower – which was little more than a storage silo – searching after the Book. The Book, that could help them. Instead, with the help of the farmer who lived there, they came across a small, but powerful, magical item in the form of a figurine of a Raven. Their source had misheard. The Rook. The Rook was hidden in the tower. Granted, along with some very nice loot that certainly *could* help them turn the tide against Gargravarr.
Where their original quest was quite mundane, History remembered them as True Heroes.Read More
Run #1: Alcheringa Calling
Starring: Bran Brightwood, Bree Specklefoot, Caeleth Mutewind, Cainin, Dork, Korona Psefdiko Theo, Morti Kustos, Piddles Proudfoot XIV,
The Prologue: All the elves and half elves of Qoin have been having the same dream. The dream was troubling to all the full blooded elves because, elven trances give rest but there are never any dreams. Although the dream seemed garbled some things could be gleaned. Some words were hard to interpret as they faded in, faded out, sped up or slowed down.
The grey statue of the crocodile man stared at his feet while he held the leather-bound tome over his head. There seemed to be bandages around his right arm and the right side of his face. His robes were torn and you could see the stone reptilian skin through the holes. A blue fan and shards of black glass were strewn on the rough floor before him. The dawn lit up his face and a mouth appeared in the upper right quadrant of the book cover.
In a heavy breathed elvish with an odd accent, four mouths seemed to say the following words in various quadrants of the leather bound tome.
“Witness… the end… Gargravarr… stone prison… living place… beginning… divide… reality… peace…”
The Story: Yulga, the seer of Archeringa, an immortal from the world of dreams explained that in order to crystallize and reconstitute the energies being sent from Alcheringa and ungarble the message, there must be nine rods placed around a commonality where physical energy and spiritual energies merge. He suspected he had found a place. The location is atop a somewhat active volcano where the ruins of an ancient elven stronghold sit. It was near the border of Sardalus and the Barrowlands. The Seer of Alcheringa was a double agent working in the Lesser Council of Light and needed to be back soon before his cover was blown. He dismissed his significant other, Jordan, and went over the ritual with the party and told them there would be a ship waiting for them in the morning.
The mission left the following morning aboard the Heir Apparent. Just to be sure the immortals hid below deck as they passed the Isle of Light. They passed the ice flows near the center of the Qoin and Korona tried to convert as many sailors to his brand of religion. They arrived at Bath’s Bay at the mouth of the Iron Way River and sought passage down river aboard an ore barge captained by Lorna a female dwarven devotee to Daglir. She was very flattered by Bree’s advances but due to Bree’s lack of a magnificent beard, the effort was for naught. At each night, Caeleth and Korona, (the two who had elven blood) analyzed more of the dream and determine more details such as the embossed symbol on the books formerly leather cover now made of stone. Bree confirmed it was truly the symbol of Alcheringa, so unless this was a cleverly constructed ruse, the communication was continuing to be sent from Alcheringa, the land long thought dead and gone having been devoured by Gargravarr. Bree was sure because she was from old Archeringa.
The group arrived in Rat’s Mouth, the mining town where there is a dilapidated bridge to the Barrowlands. The bridge was in disuse because the Barrowlands is a dead land where all sentient life died about 300 years ago. The locals say the land is cursed, but the Iron Way River provides a magical barrier from the evil there.
After the group tried a confidence game utilizing arm wrestling in the Tin Swords Inn, they all went outside to investigate the sound of someone getting beat up in the street. Dork, the Aru cleric told three assailants to stop but the two spear men moved menacingly toward her. One of spearmen, named Stabbington sporting a ridiculous mustache must have been at least second level with a name like Stabbington. What should have turned into a small scuffle turned into the party murdering all three brutes and questioning the victim. When they heard the constable’s whistles getting closer, they high tailed it over the crumbling bridge in the dark.
In the morning, they climbed to the top of the volcano and witnessed smoke mephits dancing around a circular pool of lava. Despite the cackling, they trusted the mephits to not harm them. But at the first hammer strike of an iron rod, a lava elemental emerged from the pool and the mephits attacked with glee. After the battle, they arranged the nine rods and imagined them connected with lines creating a network like a dream catcher. The ritual worked by pulling the ghostly spirits of the past into the imagined networks of fiber. Caeleth witnesses the full dream before any other elf. The dream was clear, complete and is in the proper order narrated by the Dragonborn’s precast magic mouths….
“Gargravarr made history and on Archeringa, he ended history. I saw his charismatic arrival. How he spoke of peace but he only sold fear.
“I saw him divide us. I was a witness from the beginning to the end and I am a chronicler of what transpired.
“In the Dindaralu Nation, in the living place west of the Manburi River. In the seventh tower’s hidden vault, where she policed reality,…
“I will wait to be awakened from my stone prison to tell you details of how he did it. Unfortunately, I can wait forever.”
Suddenly, from across the crater, Marti, the human paladin, spied a Halfling witnessing what they had done and little one was, without a doubt, an immortal like many of them. And when the Halfling realized he was spotted he ran and jumped down the far edge of the volcano. And despite his small size he covered the ground as quickly a normal sized person would. They lost him in the brush but understood in order to get back to civilization he must also cross the bridge back to Rat’s Mouth. The party ambushed him and captured him. Under interrogation he told them his name is Charles Tantoes. He went on to tell them that he stumbled upon them and recognized them as immortals when they arrived in town but he did so from the shadows. Knowing their immortal aura sensing abilities would peg him as an immortal too, he arranged with the thieves’ guild (In Rat’s Mouth, called the Butchers) to rough up the rat piper outside their inn to ascertain their capabilities and general demeanor. However, after their display of cold-blooded murder, he definitely tried to stay clear. Despite his newly granted immortality he was afraid of death. He was still in his original body and thought, perhaps ‘this immortality thing’ might not work and he was sure it would hurt anyway.
They returned to Bath’s Bay with the help from Lorna and made their way back to the caves of Hireling Hideout with the rather frightened immortal prisoner of the Lesser Council of Light. And with the reconstituted dream being sent to all of elven blood they knew what must be done with the information. It was time to somehow travel to Alcheringa, the World of Dreams, and awaken the Dragonborn who witnessed Gargravarr eat his world. Maybe then the rebellion could figure out how to stop Gargravarr from devouring the Qoin in the same way.
Run #2: Waking the Crocodile Man
Starring: Annondolis, Belgron, Benzamfel, Craag, gmac, Red, and Vivienne
The Story: The mission was get to the fabled world of Alcheringa, the dream world. There they would reawaken the Dragonborn who was a witness to Gargravarr devouring his world and possibly find a way to defeat him on the Qoin.
With the information provided from the reconstructed dream, the party and an odd priest gained a focus on the world called Alcheringa. He told them that they should take a sacred sash similar to his and do whatever they felt naturally doing with it. For instance, wave it about, hold it on your arm, dance, feel the wave of creativity and when about a minute has passed, repeat the following words three times with conviction “But the end never came. At least not then.”
Then sight down your thumb and open the golden portal and follow the golden Broomway to Alcheringa. Repeat the same steps to get back but to get back to the Qoin your must repeat, “Don’t Panic!” three times.
They appeared in front of the steps of an old opera house. The building was covered in vines practically bursting with small bluish white berries. As were all the buildings in the area. They realized they were on a shard of the original planet. All seven moons were disintegrated and the multicolored dust blew around in the street. The sun seemed to travel at a very fast speed across the sky bringing 3o minutes of daylight and 30 minutes of darkness before a new day would begin. As the dream message had mentioned he was in the seventh tower, so as they started moving through the streets, they heard a droning humming sound, as an alarm resonated throughout the dilapidated cityscape.
They surmised the ‘crocodile man’s hidden vault’ was in the violet tower, one of three towers remaining. (as it corresponded with the last of the set of seven moons of old Alcheringa). As they travelled through the dust strewn streets they spied two humanoid figures climbing among the foliage of the buildings. As they craned their heads to look behind them, their spines seemed more flexible and the party was able to see that although they may have been elves at some point, their toothless jaws jutted upward and forward like post-spawned salmon and their left eyes seemed to be missing. The party was caught between them as they each belched forth a watery mist and obscured the streets. Many other savage twisted elves using mostly cobbled together armor and weapons joined their comrades in the battle against the party. Another pair of twisted elves missing their right eyes joined the battle and fought against the first group and tried to scavenge from the dead ones before the fight was even over. The party showed no mercy when dealing with either groups of denizens of this dying world shard.
The party found the secret door in the lower levels of the tower and discovered the red waxen walls of the vault which at one point served as the home to one of the Dream Serpents. And just as expected, the statue of the crocodile man was waiting. Using the blue fan at his feet, they waved air across the still form and it turned back to flesh. The Dragonborn was named Warrugul Tau, or Tau for short. He had willingly turned himself to stone to escape what he called the Mind’s Eye plague that was sweeping across the world. He was a historian and chronicler and expected that Gargravarr was either defeated or had ascended to godhood since fifty thousand years had passed. But of course that wasn’t the case because it hadn’t been that long. The giant mirror that had been sending the dreams to the elves across the multiverse was set to count the number of dawns that had occurred. Tau had not expected the days would slowly get shorter and shorter nor did he expect that his world would shatter without the Jade lattice Heart.
He went onto explain that Gargravarr,in the form of a Dragonborn, had come to Alcheringa and sowed the seeds of discontent among the normally peaceful nineteen nations that were ruled over by the nineteen divinely created Dream Serpents. The Dream Serpents trusted him implicitly because they could look into his mind and see no falsehoods and only good intentions. When Gargravarr asked for a ritual called the Dream Barrier near the Jade Lattice Heart because one of the other nations was trying to get into his mind and steal his power, they did so willingly. That shrank the World Heart enough that he could magically devour it. He killed everyone in the room including the Dream Serpent of the Dindaralu Nation who had cast the ritual, but the badly burned Tau had escaped in the water. After Gargravarr ate the World Heart, the ‘Jade Immortals’ of his world suddenly died. In the days that followed, Gargravarr killed all of the other remaining Dream Serpents and flung himself into the vastness of the multiverse to find his next conquest.
Using the magic mirror in the Dream Serpent’s lair, and the sky projector book, Tau set up the plan to be reawakened when any surviving elves in the far off future would hear the call.
When asked what a Dream Serpent looked like, Tau said that their forms were so gloriously incomprehensible, that the mind could not truly contain the image. The memory of their true form would fade immediately when they can no longer be seen, like a tentative dream upon waking up. But it didn’t matter anymore, Gargravarr had killed all of the celestial beings known as Dream Serpents. And now no one could possibly undo the Dream Barrier.
On the back of the gigantic stone mirror there were nine elven heads on spikes, each of them alive, preserved by magic in the middle of actual dreaming. They were sending out the images of whatever the mirror saw at dawn each day. In this case, it was the repeating message of Warrugul Tau, the ‘Crocodile man’. The party removed the heads and destroyed the mirror for fear that Gargravarr could use the mirror as a weapon against those with elven blood.
With nothing left, Tau agreed to follow the party along the golden broomway. It was discovered that the portal could only be entered if one had a sizable chunk of gold on them. It was also discovered that the reason why the immortals from Qoin could enter easily was because their hearts were truly made of gold when their bodies had formed.
Once back on Qoin, Tau set up the sky book projector in the main cavern of Hireling Hideout so people could see the glory of the sky from within the normally dark cave. Among the resistance, Tau looked for those like him but never saw another Dragonborn. He began to believe he was the only Dragonborn left in the multiverse or, at the very least, on the world of the Qoin.
Now armed with the knowledge of how Gargravarr devours worlds and his potential vulnerability without a Dream Barrier, the rebels began hatching a plan to defeat him. No more worlds would fall to Gargravarr!
- Once the message was solidified, elves in the Council of Light told Gargravarr about the details of the dream. Shortly after the party arrived back on Qoin, Gargravarr ‘s team comprised of ten immortals of the Lesser Council of Light arrived to destroy the statue of the Dragonborn witness. Luckily the party was able to get him out of there in time. Another pack of Mind’s Eye Plague victims killed three of the immortals before they realied the Dragonborn had been reawakened and taken away. Then they opened the Broomway to face the wrath of Gargravarr. If the mirror hadn’t been destroyed by the rebel party it would have broadcast the battle to the elven blooded across the multiverse. Gargravaar could have certainly found a nefarious purpose for the mirror in the aftermath.
- The Dream Serpents seek solitude because their true forms do harm to weak minds and when they appear in another form, it is uncomfortable like wearing clothes one size too small. Dream Serpents do not need to breathe or eat so solitude is generally easy.
- The Mind’s Eye Plague affected the entire population but it was only the long lived elves that survived the thousand years (or so) of scavenger society. The survivors of the original plague decended into madness as one of their eyes started to migrate to the center of their brains. For some unknown reason the ones who were missing their left eyes despised the ones who were missing their right eye. The non magical fog that they were able to produce from their toothless deformed mouths allowed them all to have a form of depth perception as things further away in the fog were less clear. If the fog had been blown away with magic, they would have had a difficult time fighting with any skill (disadvantage).
- The Jade Lattice Heart was more than just a source of power to help the population create what they needed with thoughts. It was also a dream catcher to filter the dreams of the sleeping creation gods who dreamt in the distance. Once Gargravarr devoured the World Heart, the gods started dying and when creation gods dream in their century long death throws they unintentionally create nightmares in the waking world. The nightmares took the form of things such as the Mind’s Eye Plague, the disintegration of the seven magical moons and eventually the shattering of the planet. As the planetary shard floated in the void among the debris it started spinning more and more rapidly causing the days to speed up and throw off Tau’s day counting mirror. If a cleric visited the Shard of Alcheringa, he would have discovered he had access to the prayer power of the similar gods who were sleeping . But he would have been stealing it, instead of it being granted to him. And he would have all of his prayers back at every dawn. In other words, every hour!
- Before Gargravarr ate the Heart of Jade, elves across the multiverse slept like all the other races. According to Alcheringan memory all the elves were created from a single gigantic celestial pool of soul material that was split and given to individual as each was born. Its proximity to the gods picked up their dreams so when the gods dreams became unfiltered, elves across the multiverse began to go mad from the nightmares whenever they slept. The ones who learned the ability to forego sleep and simply trance for four hours a day for rest survived. The others did not. Soon the survivors lost the ability to sleep and truly dream.
- The world that Gargravarr devoured before coming to Alcheringa was the Fey world. One of the powers he got from eating that World Heart was the ability split his mind and allow one part of his mind to think of one thing while another part thought of something else entirely different. So anyone peering at his mind would see exactly what he wanted them to see. On Alcheringa, when a Dream Serpent would look into his mind, he would see only altruistic motives. The Dream Serpents had never heard of this ability to have deceptive thoughts. To a Dream Serpent thoughts were the undeniable truth. (As a matter of fact a Dream Serpent can not lie in any language. Look up Coutls in the Monster Manual sometime).
- The large diamond with flaw at its center was actually a Dream Serpent egg and the flaw was the embryonic form of the last Alcheringan Dream Serpent. It was waiting to be born into a world where it was safe.
We’ll still keep some of our system tweaks — you won’t track gold pieces at the convention and you’ll pick from races suitable to the theme. But the core rules will be 5th edition, straight from the Player’s Handbook. Our playtest games have shown that we can still run the games we want to run, in the worlds we want to run in.
Some of the advantages of 5e include:
- Adopting a well-tested system eliminates many balance issues identified by players in recent cons. There will also be less to re-learn from con to con.
- The rule book you use at the con will be much more useful to you through the rest of the year.
- Many newer players are already familiar with 5th edition and thus will find less of a learning curve to get into playing in PrinceCon.
- Using a popular published system will open PrinceCon to more and younger attendees, expanding our base and giving us potential for future growth.
In other news, we’ll be adding a formal Code of Conduct for the convention, and we expect to be returning to Campus Club (the same location as last year). The on-site coffee maker was especially nice for those overnight games!
Please post any thoughts to Facebook or email@example.comRead More
The GMs are considering a change from our traditional system (which we converted to 3.5 OGL some years ago) to running 5th edition D&D pretty straight. For example, we might keep graft races and use our own pantheon, but we would adopt the D&D initiative system, magic system, and clerical system. As you might expect, GM opinion runs the gamut. Some of us prefer the original PrinceCon system’s approach to tone, style of GMing, and system issues, while others of us prefer the approach used by 5th edition. In addition, here are specific arguments for each side.
Update: Make yourself heard! Vote in our poll on Facebook!
GMs arguing for a switch to 5th edition give these reasons:
- Many newer players are already familiar with 5th edition and thus will find less of a learning curve to get into playing in PrinceCon.
- Using a published system that is somewhat fairly balanced eliminates many balance issues identified by players in recent cons.
- Using a popular published system will open PrinceCon to more and younger attendees, expanding our base and giving us potential for future growth.
GMs reluctant to change give these reasons:
- The PrinceCon system as currently constituted is well designed and optimized for just the kind of marathon shared-world roleplaying that we do at PrinceCon.
- Many of our GMs are unfamiliar with 5th edition and may not guarantee that they will run it well (at least for the first year) while we can run the current system in our sleep (and sometimes do).
- Change is hard, especially for us crotchety old folks (GMs and/or long-time players).
So, we are asking the player community what you think. If people are greatly in favor one way or the other, we will almost certainly go with that. If opinion is somewhere in the middle, we may need to let Leo decide and hold a formal combat between Bob and Aaron.
- Enthusiastically support a conversion to 5th edition
- Not care one way or the other, you just like going to PrinceCon
- You’ll pry my conbook out of my cold, dead hands
Your opinions one way or the other will greatly influence our final decision. And perhaps save the lives of one (or both) of Bob and Aaron.
Please post any thoughts to Facebook or firstname.lastname@example.orgRead More
An email arrived a week before PrinceCon**, asking for help to be an ‘Emergency’ GM because a few of the regulars had to drop out with short notice. Turns out to have been a good thing, as attendance was up by a healthy margin this year. Nevertheless, I was hoping to contribute a simple sidebar to consist of two, or maybe three runs. Turned out to be five short (<4 hr) runs and a lot of fun. The basic setup is described in the first run.
** [Alex's note: it was, in fact 18 days -- plenty of time to come up with a scenario! ;-) but seriously, kudos galore to Chris and Hugh for emergency GM'ing. We lost a lot of GM power late in the game to various commitments and they delivered expeditions that had consequences in other scenarios and for world events]
Run #1: “A Three Hour Cruise”
Fri 06:30 PM – Fri 10:20 PM (duration: 3h 50m)
Elf Hero “Bushmills” (Eric Eisenbeis)
Fey Hero “Connemara” (John Cohl)
Elf Guardian “Elanthros” (Brian Rowntree)
Fey Gaia Cleric “Flitter” (David Rowntree)
Fey Mage “Jameson” (Mike Scales)
Hobbit Aru Cleric “Tullamore Drew” (Steve Brescia)
Pirates have been a problem, but this is different. Merchant ships from Nassau’s Freeport harbor, on the clockwise trade route through the Inner Sea, have had some of their cargo mysteriously disappear. No pirates, no boarders, just … gone! The apparent hijacking has been occurring somewhere on the Westerly run from Kjallaga to Bhind (yes, offshore of the North Shore, but sailing beyond sight of those lands), a voyage which takes around two weeks.
Queen’s Guard: you simply must take a cruise … and go out and see exotic lands, meet interesting people – - and when you find the ones stealing from us, kill them.
The party starts by going to the Freeport Harbormaster, to ask if there’s been any more information or pattern to this ‘disappearing cargo’. They’re told that some of lost cargo wasn’t insured by Floyd’s of London, which gets an eye-roll from party member David Rowntree, who says “Nice”. He explains to the group, “I was the Con Director for that year”. (GM’s note: and I reveal that I’m wearing “Floyd’s” T-Shirt from PrinceCon XI).
The party gets access to all of the shipping records, only to then realize that they don’t have the chops to conduct a multivariate regression analysis to wade through the data … fortunately, the high persuasion skill of Elanthros is able to convince the Harbormaster to assign a dozen clerks to go do the analytical number crunching to find the clues.
The party finds no correlation with any of the Merchant Captains or the senior crew, but does find that roughly a half dozen or so of the more hardworking second mates have been on many more runs with losses than would otherwise indicate. They work with the Harbormaster to arrange the manifest of a forthcoming Merchant ship to place three of these ‘suspicious’ 2nd Mates onboard their ship’s roster…to keep a close eye on them through their voyage. Similarly, they discover that the cargo stolen is usually the most valuable stuff onboard that voyage, and that it is always from the Port (landward) side … (GM’s note: that Port is always to landward was just a coincidence of navigation – not anything more significant than that).
They join their ship as a special guard and find it to be quite Spartan and that due to the tropical climate, everyone sleeps above decks while the cargo is below in the hot & stuffy hull. To keep an eye on things, Flitter befriends a few cats and rats onboard, which might spend more time hiding down below decks. The rats are convinced it’s an evil anti-vermin scheme to make them become easier prey for the cats.
The more pragmatic Heroes set up a lean-to style shelter to keep the sun off the party – - and also acquire a wood drill to covertly drill a hole through the deck (along with a cork, in case seas get rough), so that their Spellcasters can use the “Pebble’s Eye” cantrip to keep an eye on the cargo below decks without actually going below deck.
All goes well for the five days it takes to cross from Freeport to Kjallaga; they settle into a routine with three shifts keeping watch, glancing below with the pebble eye every few hours.
Four days out from Kjallaga, while heading west across the Gulf towards the North Shore, they notice one of their ‘suspicious’ 2nd Mates climb the mast and do something topside. They find it is some sort of voodoo/fetish doll, lashed in the topmasts. The next day, the headlands of the North Shore are sighted, and with navigation confirmed, the Ship’s Captain keeps their Westerly course well out to sea.
Finally, four nights later, the cargo theft occurs. It happens late on the 3rd shift, a few hours before dawn. All that is evident is a slight tilting to Starboard, which required a Awareness DC30 roll … and which the vigilant Elf Guardian Elanthros proceeds to make that roll (with a natural 20, no less) to definitively be suspicious and to immediately check with his Pebble Eye the cargo hold, thus raising the alarm. (GM’s note: if not for that roll, the theft wouldn’t have been detected until morning!)
Quickly, they gather then cast Waterbreathing & Darkvision on Connemara, who dives overboard to scan below their ship. He finds … sharks! And returns with a tale to tell: what looks like a giant whale shark has somehow swallowed the cargo and has headed off towards the south, swimming fast and deep such that he could just barely keep it in sight until his spells were ending, allowing its escape.
The Aru Cleric Tullamore Drew (run by Steve Brescia, whose past PrinceCon cartoons can be found at URL: http://www.keytoawin.com/steve/princcon/ ), couldn’t quite accept the Fey Hero’s mundane description, resulting in their Queen’s Guard Report back to Nassau being depicted in the adjoining illustration.
Needless to say, the veracity of this ‘eyewitness’ account will be examined in greater depth.
The Party also asked an NPC Janda Cleric to question the suspicious 2nd Mate … with the Janda concluding that he was a liar and probably an insider, but nothing quite clear enough to merit casting an Inquisition prayer … at least not until a bit more is learned.
Run #2: the inventively titled “Hugh Sat morning” (thanks Con Desk!)
Sat 10:13 AM – Sat 01:55 PM (duration: 3h 42m)
Fey Hero “Astraea” (Alison Kipe)
Human Hero “Cecil Wallis” (Mykl Sandusky)
Human Mavors Cleric “Damneron” (Michael Brokes)
Perrin Hero “Noelani” (Janine Rosales)
Human Hero “Stede Avery” (Tim DeCapio)
Fehy Gaia Cleric “Zip” (Spenser Kipe)
The party spends time doing research, tying to figure out what was going on with the cargo, such as:
Is the marking on the ship important?
Is there a reason that only land side cargo disappears?
Is there any pattern to what gets take?
(GM notes: Party hadn’t figured any of this out at this point, but: “yes, not really, yes”)
A lead from the first run was that some crew were always on a vessel when it was taken, and based on this, the Damneron, the Mavors Cleric grilled the prime suspect. The suspect, knowing that he couldn’t lie to a Mavors, answered truthfully but did so so sarcastically that the Party couldn’t quite figure out just what they were learning (GM notes: yes, he was 100% truthful!).
They also take time to search a previously raided ship thoroughly, including the hull underwater. This is where the perrin Noelani finds a very odd artifact: a portion of the hull has a round patch where there’s no barnacles nor anti-fouling paint: it is just bare wood which now has around a month’s worth of new growth and around 18” in diameter. The hole’s location is forward of the cargo, near the mast base, on the Port side (landward during the heists). Searching diligently at that location inside, they find that the wood grain doesn’t quite match and conclude (correctly) that some sort of magiking was used (GM notes: yes, patterning).
Finally, they set sail, figuring on setting a trap. Arriving in Kjallaga, the Party discovers that the cargo may have been given its final re-arrangement during off/on-loading at the port of Kjallaga. They discovered the key marker of a red label on a crate of quite valuable Allspice that happens to be first in one of the rows to landward. (GM notes: yes, that red label happened to be on the target designator for this run, but it wasn’t because it was a red label, but because spices are very valuable: all of the other first row boxes were much less valuable stuff).
Four days out of Kjallaga, the 2nd Mate attached the ‘good luck’ fetish to the ship’s mast again, as he always does (GM notes: I forget if it was the 2nd or 3rd run party, but one didn’t notice the action, but noticed the fetish being present later: when the 2nd Mate was questioned, he explained that the fetish was to keep their souls from being stolen – and that it had obviously worked).
The party decides on a trap: to be down in the cargo hold when it was likely to be taken. They divided up into shifts and spent a lot of time under dark very hot decks in tropical weather (GM: being heroes of the Queen’s Guard makes this easy to say).
Finally, on the fifth night after the crossing, what appears to be a kobold appears in the hold from the location of the hull hole: in the darkness of inside hull at night, the party first notices a scraping sound, of the Kobold depositing a box. As they all silently become alerted, a large opaque surface appears in front of the targeted cargo, the size of a door (a Dimension Door!).
Things get busy fast as the Party engages, such as a return volley of a half dozen hissing coconut grenades, which redirects two party members into a game of “Hot Potato”, grabbing & return throwing these Orb variants hopefully before they go off. In the meantime, the shimmering D-Door actually moves! (GM notes: well, it actually doesn’t move at all, as it has a Spell Modifier for its reference frame to remained fixed to the Earth, so it is the ship that’s moving past it). Thus, the D-Door begins ‘moving’ sternward, which is eating up boxes of cargo. Stede Avery jumps out of the way of the D-Door, preventing him from boarding the sub (probably a good thing).
And that kobold in the cargo hold who cast the D-Door gets jumped by two Heroes, Cecil Wallis & Stede Avery, who successfully grapple him. A coconut grenade goes off, causing NonLethal damage, and with the Party’s actions spent, the submariners still below close the hole (patterning), the first step in undocking their sub to escape.
Meanwhile topside, the off-watch shift of the party has also been roused. One had moved to the stern staircase down into the hold, and put an arrow through the D-Door, nicely alerting the submariner crew down in the sub that there was trouble.
And the Perrin Hero Noelani received spells for waterbreathing and darkvision to jump over the side to have a look – - and she found, up close and personal, a large wooden submarine docked under their ship’s hull which had been disguised to look like a giant whale shark. A hissing coconut pushed out of a small side hatch (which was how they were getting the returns cast overboard) motivated Noelani to retreat.
Again, the sub went deep, heading south towards the North Shore coast.
The Kobold D-Door caster did live, which passed along the Spell Modifier knowledge and magic items, which the party took and distributed. He was thrown in a damp cell back in Nassau and forgotten about (for awhile).
(GM note: the coconuts weren’t as plentiful, nor as effective as I was hoping for them to be: my original scenario plan was for a bigger inside-the-hold fight with more than just one kobold to have been able to come up through the access hole, to have resulted in massive amounts of the coconut bombs being thrown around. My hope was to achieve a Total Party Kill (TPK), but with all non-lethal damage – not that each Player would have known that as they’re sent from the room. Thus, the bad guys would escape, the Players would gain information, and because they would have been left tied-up … survived – - although robbed, of course. For a Friday first run party, they wouldn’t have any magic items to lose, so it would’ve merely been an embarrassment. But for a later run party who would have also had their magic items stolen – - by ‘mere’ kobolds – - it would have been a bit more humiliating).
Run 3: “You found … what??”
Sat 1:59 PM – Sat 3:59 PM (duration: 4h 00m)
Fey Mage “Alizar” (Ryan Ruzic)
Perrin Gaia Cleric “Bert” (Dave Ruzic)
Elf Hero “Karia” (Tom MaCabe)
Dwarf Hero “Lumbr, Jack” (Rich Eisenman)
A run which had to be concluded in real time by Sat 4pm so that everyone could attend Queen Nayla’s Costume ball … and yes, you read that timestamp correctly: this run started a mere four minutes after the prior run had just completed.
The group has a pretty good idea of how to go about finding a pirate submarine, and they’re pretty confident that they’re fighting “only” kobolds operating them. Their plan is to become part of the cargo to be hijacked from the hold so as to try to capture said vessel on the high seas, and return it to Nassau for the Queen.
They go about doing so, and have cleverly crafted a partial crate (its back and one side are absent) which is nearly the last (closest to the stern) box which they expect to be taken. As the submarine attack transpires and D-Door sweeps the cargo hold, they crouch inside … well, only the Elf Karia really had to crouch, as the rest of the party was short.
Appearing in the submarine’s hold, the party attacks, first with a snowball (GM notes: what, no sleep?) and a web, which immobilizes most – - thereby dodging a massive coconut orb attack…a stern steersman and two forward are still standing, who take their actions to open petcock valves to flood the sub’s interior. Why? Because these are Marine Kobolds with gills, so they can drown the air-breathing invaders. Needless to say, this wrinkle makes the Party a tad upset and even more motivated: they respond heroically, firing off a second web to immobilize the rear helmsman and a Hold Person forward, which successfully captures the last two … and the party can now secure the scene, quickly shutting off the petcocks to save themselves from drowning. In the meantime, the sub has been undocking and is getting underway by the Captain and Pilot – - who the crew now realize are not secured – - they’re in a separate compartment forward. They search for a door, only to discover that there isn’t any: they’re in an air compartment and that the wheelhouse is a wet compartment whose only access is via swimming in through the fake shark’s mouth. The Players make menacing threatening gestures for them to surface the sub, only to receive a decidedly negative reply of a single finger salute. But as they ponder their options, the helm stops the engines – - and ‘engines’ is a term used loosely, as it consists of eight undead kobolds on crank petals – - to then swim out the ‘sharks mouth’ to their escape.
Our party now has a stopped sub, which is slowly sinking in deep water, and no one at the helm. They find and man the pumps, and the sub surfaces: Bounty Secured! They search and recover some loot, including neutrally buoyant Chitonous Armor being worn by Kobold marines and figure out how to modify the helm to add an air-based compartment so that one doesn’t need gills (or waterbreathing) to drive. They question their prisoners and conclude that “Leo, Zell, Zell, and Zell” are in charge. Two weeks later – - and one minute before the Costume Ball is to begin – - they arrive in Freeport with their prize.
(GM notes: inter-GM scenario coordination called for a submarine to be captured before the Ball – - this was cutting it a bit close. One of the Suitors had been marked for assassination if a covert means was not found for then to leave Freeport after the Ball, and the sub was used to smuggle him back home).
Run 4.: “So ver iz dis ‘secret base’?”
Sat 5:26 PM – Sat 9:26 PM (duration: 4h 00m)
Human Mavors Cleric “Armond” (Bob Cook)
Human Mage “Dr. Odde IV” (Bob Peterson)
Human Hero “Harthguard” (Chris Schilling)
Human Hero “LT Frederick Von Berg” (Dave Shilling)
Human Hero “Krumbo Krumbo Krumbo” (Charlie Heller)
Perrin Mage “Len” (Colin Sandon)
Perrin Aru Cleric “Verrah Markann” (Camilla Greer)
The Party debates how to best go about finding the secret base, including if they should also attempt to capture another submarine. They settle on a plan of going out to retrieve the previously captured sub (now in a port along the North Shore), and follow behind an “innocent” merchant ship and upon it being robbed, then follow that sub without them knowing of their presence back to its base.
The retrieval task goes quite quickly and uneventfully (GM notes: since the sub was in a town in another GM’s scenario, I explained that in Meta-terms that if they try to do anything more than ‘get the sub’, we would all be flying blind. Fortunately, they made their real world Wisdom saves, and Rich Eissenman handed over the Item Card).
So, “Sub chase Sub” it will be. The Party cleverly salts the to-be-stolen cargo with Attuned objects to aid later “Locate Object” spell castings to keep track of where it may be taken. They shadow the merchant ship. They do successfully notice the night pilfering and begin to trail the raider sub in their captured sub. Oops, they discover that the patterning & rework that the prior party had done on helm modification for air-breathers leaks dangerously, so they cast patterning to fix leaks and strengthen, plus resist tempting fate by not diving any deeper. Fortunately, as dawn approaches, they have a Locate spell running at the right time, and they discover that they’ve nearly overtaken the raider sub, as it has slowed and is above them, rising to the surface. They go full stop … just before they could have run smack dab into a marine cliff, which rises from 900 feet deep to mere fathoms in but only a few dozen yards (GM notes: this is no fantasy, but actually a real place, namely the Three Fathom Wall area of the Bloody Bay Marine Park located on the northside of Little Cayman).
In dawn’s low light, they quietly surface and get some fresh air. They find that the surfaced enemy sub has proceeded, maneuvering into the shallows of an island that’s only 400 yards away. Nevertheless, because they’re still in ink blue deepwater and but only a few hundred yards away, some in the party mutter that they suspect that the shallows and the island may all just be a huge illusion.
From offshore, they quietly watch as the raider crew proceeds to unload cargo to deck and begin sorting through and inspecting the goods. One individual is pointing out stuff, which the crew works on for a movement; the Party realizes that their attuned objects, hidden in the cargo, are systematically being found and removed. Within an hour, the cargo inspection is done and reloaded, and the raider sub begins to move slowly west through the shallows; some crewmembers go for a quick swim. The party follows their same path into and then along the shallows, keeping back to avoid being spotted. Rounding the island’s western point and out of the lee of the island, three rear guards of the raider sub spot them finally, and a brief combat takes place. The Marine Kobolds are dispatched by the Heroes, assisted by electric eels summoned by Dr Odde. One guard is brought back to the submarine and revived by Aru Cleric Verrah Markann – so that they can then be pumped for information – quite effectively, thanks to an ESP Medallion. Toby reveals that the secret base is at the East end of the next island over, five miles away. The party sails home to report their success.
Run 5. “Col Mustard in the Den with Fireballs”
Sun 10:30 AM – Sun 03:00 PM (duration: 4h 30m)
Fey Mage “Alizar” (Ryan Ruzic)
Perrin Gaia Cleric “Bert” (Dave Ruzic)
Fey Gaia Cleric “Barrett” (Kelly West)
Dwarf Hero “Lumbr, Jack” (Rich Eisenman)
Cat Hero “Ushan DeLucca” (Tim Sullivan)
The Sunday final run: ‘Destroy the Raider Submarine Base’. The party first goes and questions ‘Toby’ the marine kobold prisoner, who complains about his prison cell being too warm, sunny and dry: they arrange for him to have a dark damp cell dripping with slimy water…which makes Toby quite happy and cooperative. They learn that the base is inside a large bluff on the second island, at the base of sheer 140ft tall cliffs near where a few centuries earlier, a house-sized rock fell from the cliffs broke off, forming a small island next to the island, separated by mere yards.
They head out, once again in the captured submarine – this time so as to avoid any possible encounters en route which may jeopardize their mission. They also find that Dr Odde IV had spent some time on the prior run’s return voyage improving the design – there’s now patterned portholes to Port, Aft, Starboard, Above and Below to improve visibility in all directions. They know some basics of the island that they’re going to be heading towards, including that the Marine Kobolds don’t live on the island – merely inside it. Except for a manchild who is accompanied by a huge bipedal bear, the residents are anthropometric animal forms, such as a long armed hairy orange ‘bugbear’ of sorts, supposedly created by a ‘Doctor Scott Morrow’, plus there’s a very big & nasty feline who prowls the bluff lands, preying on the many chatty monkeys that talk too much the bush. The kobolds get a few of these occasionally, when they fall through one of their secret cave’s skylights while trying to escape the Tiger (GM: scrawny, but tasty – kind of like spam). The group thinks that it is reminiscent of characters from Kipling’s ‘Jungle Book’ (GM: yup!).
Finding the prior landmark island, they proceed to sail East. As the island ends, just visible across a five mile wide straight is the island that they’re looking for. They search for a reef-protected anchorage and find one on its Southwest corner.
The group sinks their sub in the bay’s shallow waters to hide it, then proceeds East (up-island), towards the bluff highlands on a found path along the southern shore.
As they walk, the island’s interior to their left (North) slowly gains elevation; it is already twenty feet by the first fork in the path but a mile from where they started. They debate on if to cross to the highlands and march up through the jungle, or stay on the easier flat shore side path. They stay down on the path. Five miles later, the elevation is now a hundred feet and is separated from them by a cliff; the group starts to become concerned about how they will climb up – but they shortly find a fork in the path where the trail north goes through large, old cut in the cliffs (large enough for a horse-drawn cart) to climb up to the top of the bluff. How convenient.
The party bravely tromps up the hill without any scouting or concern of ambush.
Shortly thereafter, the party is ambushed.
Fortunately – or perhaps not – it was by a troop of the Bandar-log monkeys, a loud chattering gaggle of scatterbrained anarchy almost as dangerous as the Fox News echo chamber: “We are great. We are free. We are wonderful. We are the most wonderful people in all the jungle! We all say so, and so it must be true!” Now since the two Gaia clerics, Bert & Barrett automatically can talk & understand animals, it is particularly hazardous to them, as it is enough to literally drive a sane person mad. Fortunately, they both make WIS save vs. Insanity, which motivates them to leave this growing circus of attention behind, like immediately. That they disappear (Hide Among Plants) and go silent (15’r) which becomes yet another novelty for the monkeys, attracting even more, so the group makes haste to go invisible to sprint away, which since this was hastily done resulted in a daisy-chain of party members holding onto each other without a rope.
Fortunately, they all Zig’ed when they should have Zig’ed and stay together, avoiding a Zag that would have left half the party alone with a 21 HD tiger who had come to investigate the noise. Having thus escaped from the maddening crowd (literally & literally), they cross the last few miles along the top of the bluff, and start peering over its Northern edge to try to find the ‘little island’ landmark.
Once they do, they search for any of the ‘skylights’ that they had been told was large enough for a lost monkey to fall out of. They succeed in this task as well, finding a modestly sized sinkhole that has a tree growing up out of it. The fey Barrett, with the silence 15’ and dwarf Lumbr, Jack, who has a pick which can dig through stone, proceed down the hole in order to make the passage large enough for all of the partymembers to sneak in through this route … to discover immobilization in the form of magical web traps. This also signals the silent watch to attack the topside party, which consists of some 7HD skeletons, which were also using Hide Among Plants. About the same time that the tunnelers free themselves from the web, the party has dispatched the small undead ambush.
Digging proceeds and they all descend to a pocket where they all peer down into the subterranean submarine base .. and plan their attack.
Meanwhile, those traps (GM: and Auguries too) mean that the bosses inside aren’t clueless. An invisible Wizard Eye (with auditory modifier +1) is cast to join the party, unbeknownst to them, which proceeds to listen in on their whispered final planning session specifics.
The party decides that they’ll summon two elementals (Water, Earth), for which the Gaia clerics Bert & Barrett have appropriate gifts that they had previously prepared to help in soliciting their aid. As they do so, mage Alizar will cast a two-way D-Door right at the front door to the large ‘Boss’ building (right), for Heros Ushan DeLucca and Lumbr Jack, holding their actions will combat step through and charge in.
One, two, three … cast!
The Elementals are summoned, the D-Door appears, and our Heroes charge through its opaque surface.
… oh, and the light from the skylight (behind/above them) goes out
… oh, and the Heroes don’t appear in front of the door of the ‘Boss’ building.
A heroic shout is heard from below: “Zombies!”
The Heroes are found, offset a short distance but behind the bars of the zombie paddock, with lots of friends. And they also find that ‘their’ D-Door, which they had just exited, isn’t a two-way, but an opaque one-way exit only.
(GM’s notes: thanks to the eavesdropping, the opponents cast a Wall of Iron to block the skylight exit behind them, as well as also casting a second D-Door virtually right at their intended exit. Thus, the Heroes charged through not one, but two D-Doors … and this evil schemer chose to NOT buy the option for having his Door be a two-way).
1. Heroes fight zombies in the paddock.
2. Clerics parlay/soliloquy with their summoned elementals, with Fey Barrett flying from the skylight down to be near his Earth near the cook’s station (along the ‘bottom’ of the map). This was about when Bert realized that he was now: (a) alone, (b) the skylight exit was blocked, and (c) the D-Door was a highly unsuitable means to get to the main level.
3. Three blue furred perrin are seen on a balcony over the Zombie paddock, gesticulating.
4. One black furred perrin is spotted down near the cook’s station, also gesticulating.
5. And there’s some Marine Kobolds around too .. but they quickly will break morale and just scatter in chaos, hightailing it for various exits over the next few rounds.
A snowball bursts near the skylight, also making Bert feel even more vulnerable. Bert asks, and is told it is merely a 100ft dive from the skylight pocket into the water below .. although he will need to push out, as directly below its a shallow sandy beach, not particularly deep. As Bert’s water elemental rises up to accept his Gaia gifts, Bert decides to leap, and body-surf down the body of his water elemental to descend. Just in time, as a Dispel hits his water elemental, causing that raised column of water to collapse and crash down around Bert on the beach.
The Zombies and Heroes tangle. There’s a few missile shots made at the blue fur shamen, resulting in him disappearing (GM: a mirror image dispelled). In return, Ushan DeLucca is hit with a Fear, failing his roll. Ushan will desperately grab up the magical pick that Lumbr, Jack had dropped to missile, as the only real means of escape from the paddock is to use this item to cut through the metal bars of the prison, all whilst Zombies freely attack Ushan from behind.
On the other front, Barrett and his elemental close to engage the black furball … but gets interposed by another elemental! Hey, where did that come from? (GM: the second unseen caster, perhaps?). Not to be outdone, Alizar casts Monster Summoning, for three Hydra to enter the fray.
Another missile at a blue fur .. and another poof of a mirror image (GM: really!). In retaliation, a Finger of Death is thrown at Lumbr, Jack .. who fails his save and goes down. But because of a regeneration ring, he’s not quite dead yet.
As chaos reigns, a missile does finally connect with the last standing blue … which also disappears (GM: not quite: Alizar? saw a bat appear with an arrow in it). And the hydra takes down the black fur … but the Lich’s fallen body then disappears. Rocks start falling from the earth elemental duel … and the Party retreats for the dust to settle. When things quiet down, the discover what remains of the compound empty of all living things (and unliving too), some documents of an independent corporation with just two bosses, Leo (the Grey), an occult perrin shaman, and his undead partner Zelll (the Black lich), an undead perrin lich. There were also more incriminating notes, which lead back to Queen Mare as a silent partner, and finally, one undamaged submarine, which they proceed to take back to Nassau as a war prize for Queen Nayla.
GM Notes & Wrap-Up:
The Raider’s subs were made in Vosgod, a tie-in not exploited. The enterprise was an ‘independent corporation’ bankrolled by Queen Mare to undermine Queen Nayla.
The legends in the region included occult zombie lore: locals knew that such creatures of the night were not mere fiction, which meant that totems and fetishes that some of the Merchant crews carries were based in a belief that they could help keep evil spirits away. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen to prevent them from being Attuned, so as to help locate candidate Merchant ships. Thus, there was a clear correlation to a crewmember … although if they were really an ‘insider’ remains in question.
The Marine Kobolds were from a small colony that lives on a small islet off of the southside of the island that the 4th run party had found. They were hired with an interesting insurance policy: any who die would be reanimated as Zombies, allowing them to continue to serve and earn income for their families after death.
Finally, the reason why the final run had so many opponent spellcastings was because the lich Zelll had a Thrice Ring. One was running the Wizard Eye spying, another was directly in combat and the third had summoned & controlled the elemental. When the one spellcasting in combat fell, the jig was up: its body was teleported back to the others and with Leo already also fleeing in bat-form it was time to declare the company bankrupt. In diminished form, the two remaining in the triumvirate carries his own body away, out a submerged hidden exit by the islet rock.
All in all, it was a fun scenario to sketch out and run, particularly since I’ve not GM’ed since PrinceCon37 (2012). Having short notice was actually a blessing, as it forced keeping things simple and with less complicated theme interconnects to worry about. Plus I’m thankful for the Costume Ball on Saturday afternoon, as this forced breaks, and while I did do five runs (most ever?), they were also all short, which is much more fun and less draining than to grind through a marathon session. Finally, not having months to prepare also meant that I didn’t have time to invent locations, so I used the trick of using real locations. This meant that without having to invest time to write anything down, I had a ton of depth if a player asks, which could be done without pause in game play to look stuff up: the only map I had to make at all was of the submarine base.
Wounded, a dark gray bat flies up into the jungle canopy to land, rest and wait for nightfall. Miffed, and drained of his casting abilities for the day, he watches the Party emerge with – - his belongings! Their search found everything, although they unknowingly also desecrated the last of his mother’s lovely old totems. Well, that will teach them all, for the May Cow will now be loose and it will go find them.
Out in the blue, below the cliff, a cluster of black bodies stumbling across the sea bottom reaches the edge and tumbles off of a deep drop-off into the blackness below. At 40m, there’s a shelf on which the two stop. Holding the third between them, they combine back into but one. It then finds a large lionfish, which it grabs and absorbs, both its life force as well as its venomous poisons, which it makes its own. Sleep now, to plot revenge against those living Gaia’s; it closes its eyes and whispers “Duppies is…”
Run #1: Seeking Talian Shipwright
The party met with Lady Shipwright at her shabby estate near the docks. They were tasked to negotiate the safe return of her son, Lord Talian Shipwright, from the Royal Harem of Byrsa, the desert country to the north. Lord Talian had disappeared about 15 years earlier and was presumed dead. In their teenage years, Queen Nayla and Lord Talian were courting each other and, to many, were very much in love. The party’s mission to see Shia Zaik, the Mistress of Concubines, was a secret, so the party spread the misinformation that they were hunting wedding gifts for the Queen Nayla’s upcoming nuptials. At a great expense to Lady Shipwright, she had procured a set of two glass shards that could pass along the skill of the Byrsan language and another that allowed the skill of sand sailing if you cut yourself with them.
They sailed to the northeastern corner of Shiang and then walked over the mountain pass into Byrsa. As soon as they entered the country itself, they encountered the blowing winds and grinding sands of Byrsa. They hired some guides who rode on giant mirror-abdomened spiders for passage to the closest city of Jakutru.
At sunset they heard what was later described as the Thunder Gong emanating from the capital city of Thulak Kolom. As an undertone to they heard what was described as the voice of the Dido, the ruler of the country. In the announcement, he offered good tidings to the population and he named names of citizens and their associates that needed to be captured for ‘ill thoughts’. The gong and announcements happened everyday for the last three years at sundown and sunup and could be heard all over Byrsa.
At the inn in Jakutru the windows were mortared closed. But during the night a trained spider flipped a hidden latch which opened the window. Half the party was attacked by two members of a street gang. Each of their assailants was under the effect of a dust of silence and one of them was wielding a glass shard dagger with a spider silk grip. It was a weaponized version of their memory shards but delivered jumbled nightmares. (No one told the thieves to be wary of invisible wrestling anthropomorphic horses.) They ended up killing one assailant but spared the other whose name was Thraal. They promised him safe passage out of the city if he went with them right then and there. They left before the police force arrived and rented a glass sand ship for passage to Thulak Kolom.
When they arrived at the forest of stone and glass towers known as the capital city of Byrsa, a guide was waiting for them. They were taken to see the Mistress of Concubines, Shia Zaik. She was happy that they were ready to negotiate for the release of Talian Shipwright. Of course, all promises would be null and void if it was proven that it was not indeed Lord Talian Shipwright. In exchange for returning Talian, Shia Zaik would want the person that gave Talian to the harem fifteen years earlier. That person is a much more valuable companion to the Dido. This must remain a secret especially to Talian. That person was Mare, Queen of Jum. The Queensguard explained that they couldn’t agree to that person exchange. Shia Zaik was willing to give them Talian as a sign of good faith, knowing that if the royalty of Nassau intended to bring Mare to justice, that they would do whatever was in their power as Queensguard to guide Queen Mare into the Royal Harem of Byrsa. Some were against this, but once it was explained that the Byrsan royalty does not take single spouses like most of the world’s royalty but instead strengthens peace with other countries via acceptance into the Royal Harem.
The party verified the identity of Talian Shipwright by comparing him to his portrait over the Lady Shipwright’s fireplace, and quizzing him on the name of one of his childhood toys. Once satisfied, the party and Thraal departed via glass ship back west. Talian explained that he was never intimate with the Dido, or at least with anyone who was so perfect behind their mirrored mask as to be dazed. He theorized that they were just the royalty that wore mirrored masks like the Dido’s iconic mask.
A few hours outside Jakurtra, the party saw another ship forging an intercept path. The captain believed that they were not in any danger and that they would not meet up with them. Using the memory shard of sand sailing, one of the party members realized that the captain was either mistaken or lying. Upon closer inspection with telescopic vision, the other ship was readying for battle and had archers on deck. The Queensguard started preparing for battle. Even Lord Talian was getting excited for a little battle. They told him to get into the interior compartment. The party was getting ready to plan their own intercept course, when the mystery ship started to back off. The party theorized that they too had used telescopic vision and saw them preparing and possibly saw the captain give some sort of signal for them to cease their attack.
The party stayed in Jakurta just long enough to get Thraal’s younger brother out of the city. They took a glass sand ship back to the mountain pass and escaped Byrsa with Talian, Thraal and Thraal’s brother. They set up Thraal to be a privateer in the Nassau navy.
It was told by messenger that Queen was happy to know that Lord Talian was alive and excited to have him back in Nassau. And that they should only share the secret of Mare’s treachery with the members of the Queensguards. No other outside members should know or it would alert her enemy or her enemy’s agents.
Extra Information: The Dido knew the party was coming because of his air elemental spies. (See Run #2 for an explanation)
The captain on their return trip had been bribed by the Hesperian kidnapping team on the ship preparing to attack them. The fact that they had bows showed that they were not from Byrsa. The captain fed them signals that they could see with their telescopic vision spells.
Talian had a surprise waiting in his lung (See information contained in the Run #3 description.)
Run #2: Tunnels to the Sea
PCs: Albert Alexander, Krischi Drumpf, Liam Silverbeard, Shideem, Silas Silvertear, Tim
The party of Queensguard was asked to procure the use of giant tunneling machines from the Iron council of Vosgod. Byrsans have very maneuverable glass ships that travel on sand. But less than a century ago they also travelled on water until Hesperia cut off their only access to the sea. Once the tunnelers get to Byrsa they can tunnel downward into the mountains until they reach the central sea. The glass ships could provide much needed support to the Nassau fleet.
The party arrives in Talin in Vosgod and meets with a member of the Iron Council who is a short dwarf with a magnificent beard. They soon realize the Iron Council is all about making weapons for sale to all members of the upcoming war. They care less about the dwarven citizens and more about production. The citizens are being over worked. The ale is terrible and there are signs of a secret uprising. Graffiti saying “RUST THE IRON COUNCIL” have been seen around areas of sabotage.
In exchange for the use of the tunneling machines, the Iron Council wants the backing of Nassau to root out and crush the rebellion. But for now they will allow the Tunnellers to be taken and the crews to run them released to Byrsa. The party explains that they will need to get higher approval but they will take the diggers anyway as a sign of good faith.
They load the three tunnelers and 4 dwarves in digging armor onto the three ships located in the central sea. While on their way, one of the digger operators, a female dwarf, lets a cable dangle into the water and after an ‘accidental’ surge of electrical energy, a giant squid / electric eel hybrid attacks the ships. Because of mostly quick thinking and teamwork (and a well placed weakness spell), they prevail and did not lose a single tunneller. After they checked the ropes they saw that they had been partially cut through. When they confronted the digger operator she tried to fall overboard wearing a strange glass helmet screaming “RUST THE IRON COUNCIL!!!” But they caught the rebel by the ankles, beat her up and questioned her. Her name was Elga. She maintained that the Iron Council were goblins in disguise and did not have the best interest of the Vosgod dwarves in mind. They restrained her in the hold until they removed the tunnelers from the ships in Shiang.
The party crossed over the pass and into Byrsa and after an arduous journey ended up at the digging site just outside the prosperous tent city of Carthu. During the first night, about half of the party played in the city while others were awakened by the sounds of murder. There were invisible attackers in the large tent housing the tunnelers and they had just slit the throat of one of the machine operators. The mage on duty cast a faerie fire spell and was shocked by what was highlighted. Not only did it show the three attackers but it also illuminated the hundreds of small air elementals filling the tent! The attackers, who had Hesperian accents, seemed just as shocked. Elga saved the life of her digging partner by finding a healing potion in a designated chest pouch that she knew about. When two attackers were knocked down the last one fled outside the tent but was killed by one of the party members returning from the tent city. It seemed the Hesperians were there to sabotage the tunneling devices and to kill the operators.
The battle over, their attention turned to the now visible flying creatures made of air. They watched them react. One kind similar to an ephemeral piranha spied on them them from a distance and then flew outside the tent to be picked up by the heavy winds. One of the creatures that was similar to a small squid with a human mouth was seen lingering around Liam Silverbeard’s ear issuing subaudible whispers shortly before he gave all of Elga’s items back to her and set her free to do her job. And lastly, a small shark with immensely long catfish-like whiskers seemed to cause Albert Alexander to yawn and when he opened his mouth wide to draw a breath he drew in one of the tendrils into his lung. It moved within him briefly and almost tenderly, and then withdrew.
Once the three tunnel digging machines and the four armored dwarves began and the project was underway, the party left via Jakutrau and the Shiang pass.
Extra Information: The helmet that Elga wore would have allowed her to breathe underwater as she walked along the bottom of the central sea to shore. It was of Byrsan origin. If she had escaped, her companion digger would likely have died in the murder attempt in the tents of Carthu.
The creature in the mouth of Alexander was something called an Almumradat (nurses) and was tending what was dormant inside of him. (See information contained in the Run #3 description.)
The creatures with the large eyes are called the LuyunSid (Eyes of the Master) and were the government’s little invisible spies. They reported to the palace along the fast moving winds. This lead to the general belief among the population that the Dido could hear people’s thoughts. It was a rumor that developed over the centuries that the Byrsan government was happy to foster.