PrinceCon XL: York’s Scenario Recap

THE BACKSTORY: The background fiction made it clear to me that Drugar, the Primordial Troll, had a specially profound hatred of Daglir. At the same time it seemed clear that trolls, being essentially made of living stone, were excruciatingly vulnerable to the Lord of Stone. So I decided that two of the giant races were pulling a switcheroo: the Trolls gave the Tetrakheires charge of Daglir’s Fatestone and consequent assassination, while in return accepting a commission to take Danu’s Fatestone and see to it that Danu met the Fate inscribed thereon.

1. Luruk Kraagh, Tomb Raider: In terms of the overall plot this existed only to reveal some clues and point the way to more. I also wanted to have a short, straightforward run where PCs could get some useful items and get quickly back to Valor Hall. The situation was that some trolls had broken into the tomb of an Axe Age king to steal one of his grave goods, a set of magical Runestones that were a powerful prophetic device. (Malice aforethought, the item would allow players to extract additional information from any GM running for them and I figured with all the plots and counterplots running around the players could use as much help as they could get.) Part of Hrolf’s funeral ritual was a promise from the Gods themselves that any violation of his rest would be punished. The Valiant are, among other things, the Gods’ enforcers. So, the trolls open the tomb, thereby desecrating it, and *poof* a party of Valiant materialize to show them the error of their ways. I tried to make it clear on the poster that, although *players* had a free choice of whether to go on this run, the *characters* were, in concept, drafted without warning — in the blink of an eye you go from kicking back and relaxing in Valor Hall to being full-armed and armored, standing in a tomb confronting some trolls. No time for in-game prep like casting lasting spells.

The characters fought well but found themselves overmatched (there were only three trolls but they were higher level than the PCS). They fought effectively (among other things, they kept the Troll Guardian from ever managing to cast anything until he ran out of the room to break LOS) but they were running out of spell and prayer points faster than the trolls were running out of hit points. Magical characters who were low on power started looking around for useable items. The cleric found a magical horn which he decided not to use until it was a last resort, but a mage who was completely out of spell points rummaged up a dagger which put him into mental contact with King Hrolf’s ghost. The ghost offered help if the character would drop his saves; he assented, and was promptly possessed by Hrolf and went charging into battle berserk with Hrolf’s combat skills and Hrolf’s enchanted axe. This boosted the party’s damage potential enough that they finally managed to take down the trolls. Hrolf thanked the PCs for their intervention and gave them leave to take all of his magical grave goods back to Valor Hall — he’d arranged to be buried with them specifically to preserve them against the ultimate need, namely now. He also advised them to seek out the wisest man in the world.

One clue that emerged was a rainbow-colored stone enchanted with power stolen from Bifrost. A structure built from such stones could create an additional bridge between Mannheim and Godsheim.

2. Nikto the Undying: Following up clues the PCs went looking for the wisest man in the world, Nikto the Undying, whose last known residence was the mountains north of Hekla. Arriving, they found a cave on a high ledge with signs of recent occupancy and a door that opened onto a blank stone wall — they inferred that there had previously been a Dimension Door behind the stone door. Unfortunately they realized that a party of Tetrakheires was climbing the ledge toward them. While the rest of the party prepared to attack from the cave, the Storm Lion-worshipping berserker mage Black Sun used ashes from the cave’s firepit to make his hair look gray and charged out of the cave to make the giants think the cave’s aged inhabitant was fleeing from them. Diving over the side of the ledge, he failed to arrest his fall and ended up sliding painfully down a steep (but not vertical) slope. As it happened the lead giant chasing him didn’t manage to stop in time and joined him in skidding down the slope. A vigorous fight ensued, highlights included the sliding giant clambering back up to the ledge only to be knocked off again by a well-timed Trip spell, the Tetrakh Guardian being blinded by summoned Jub Jub birds, and one of the party’s heroes being beaten to a pulp in one round by getting caught between two gargantuan clubs (two-handed weapons for Tetrakheires, who are merely Huge, but it was wielding one in both right hands and another in both left hands, and could do massive extra crushing damage if it caught a single target between both clubs.) I should mention that this combat encounter also involved a great deal of argument between Black Sun and the Storm Lion cleric Thunder about what was or was not fair in combat.

After the fight was well over, an ancient wizened white-bearded Mannfolk arrived, riding on an oversized flying mortar (and apparently making it fly by continuously pounding its pestle into it). He summarily told the players to follow him to his current home and “led” them by simply flying off without checking to see if they would, or could, follow. Fortunately the party had some flight-capable characters who followed him home and then went back to help the rest of the party find the way (get over terrain obstacles, etc.) When they arrived they were curtly informed that they needed to clean out his stables and tend to his horse before he would talk to them; Nikto remained rude and overbearing throughout. The party worked well and industriously on this project despite a “horse” with a flaming mane, “feed” that included sulfur and mineral oil, and “manure” more appropriate to a toxic waste dump. In-character conversation between Markus the Danu cleric and the “horse” produced some genuinely delightful roleplaying. Ultimately Nikto greeted them back in his house proper and began behaving like a gracious host, now that the PCs had demonstrated that they were capable of humility as well as valorous glory. He revealed many crucial pieces of information, including the two key plots. Drugar had hidden Danu’s Fatestone inside Drugar’s own torso, opening her own flesh with a magical blade, putting the Fatestone inside, and letting the wound regenerate over it. (Drugar is female despite having somehow fathered the World-Serpent on Ratri. Examining the sex lives of deities too closely endangers one’s sanity.) The Trolls were using Bifrost-infused stones to build a tunnel from Mannheim to Godsheim, specifically from the northeast of Jannmark to underneath Alfheim; Danu’s Fate would allow them to erupt from their tunnels to abduct and slay her. Nikto could tell the Valiant that there existed a magical weapon that could pierce Drugar’s invulnerable hide and shatter the Fatestone within, but he had not yet ascertained where that weapon might be found. Meanwhile the Tetrakheires had denuded many forested slopes in southwest Stoenheim to build a huge wooden raft anchored in a sheltered bay there. Atop the raft was a wooden tower; atop the tower a vast wooden pot filled with fertile soil; growing from the pot was a majestic live-oak; and embedded in the oak’s trunk, with wood grown all around it, was Daglir’s Fatestone. For multiple reasons, one of which was his special relationship to stone, Daglir had the unique ability to destroy his own Fatestone, something no other god could do. The fate inscribed on the stone decreed Daglir would die in ambush, alone and far from the stone of his domain. The Tetrakh plan was to isolate the Fatestone as far from any stone as they could get it, and to ambush Daglir when he came after it; Mathiron-Grund the Primal Tetrakh was itself on the scene to deliver the deathblow. Nikto provided the party with a variety of useful items from his stores and wished them well.

(The party also discovered that Nikto was “Undying” because he was a title rather than a person; a secretive order of sages and magicians hidden among Mannfolk had been gathering knowledge for generations, with the wisest among them being appointed the new Nikto [a name meaning "Nobody" in an archaic language] upon the death of the previous incumbent. The party also learned that this order favored neither the gods nor the giants but rather was concerned with insuring that whatever world existed after the coming death-struggle, whether the old world preserved or a new world reborn, would be a fit place for Mannfolk and other mortals to live.)

3. Tetrakh Tetris: With the weapon for use against Drugar still missing the Tetrakh Sea-Tower was the target of this expedition. The party gambled that with stealth and guile a party of mortals might accomplish what a God in full power could not do by brute force. They landed in the hills of Stoenheim just out of sight of the great raft, and recruited local birds to scout it for them. Knowing that Tetrakheires, unlike all other giants, are diurnal with no innate ability to see in the dark, they decided to slip in by night, with one mage keeping the party airborne in a Levitation Sphere and another with a Fly spell towing them. Careful scrutiny as they approached revealed the hidden watchers with Darkvision spells, and because the watchers were scanning the sky through small slits (in order to remain hidden), delicate timing allowed the PCs to reach the pot and the tree unseen. They had planned to use lightning to burst open the trunk where the Fatestone was embedded, and use Clerical Silence to keep the noise of the blast from being noticed; but this plan failed when a Magic Mouth cast on the tree trunk began bellowing about the approach of intruders. In a hectic battle the PCs managed to retrieve the Fatestone and fight their way clear of the flying Tetrakh who accosted them, warriors who obviously had benefited from multiple spells cast by others. Once clear of the melee the players learned that they could outfly their pursuers, but that invisibility was of no avail against See Invisible. When they were halfway to the safety(?) of land they saw a flying boat emerge from the tower and chase them at a speed greater than their own; they made landfall before it overtook them and hid in rugged terrain while summoning the Valkyries to retrieve them. Although they dodged the ship, a high-level Tetrakh Guardian with a Locate spell tracking the Fatestone teleported after them with a warrior passenger. The teleport landed low, killing the caster, and while the warrior was formidable the party was (narrowly) able to overcome him. The Valkyries retrieved the party, who presented the Fatestone to Daglir; the God broke the Fatestone and rewarded the party richly.

4. Last Chance to Save Danu: The Great Weapon needed for use against Drugar was finally available; a spear that could be used in melee although its true metier was being thrown. “Fatebreaker” was a sentient weapon with various senses, an eager personality, and the power of speech. The small party (only three, a Hero, a Mage, and a Cleric) that set forth to break Danu’s Fate had a simple plan; since there was no way for them to overcome the vast numbers of trolls surrounding the Mannheim end of the Rainbow Tunnel (and the Godsheim end had not broken the surface, and would not until the trolls were actually in the act of abducting Danu), they would approach Drugar by stealth and get close enough to make a single cast of the spear against the scar on her belly. (Their plan was partly shaped by their possession of an item that could guarantee one attack roll of natural 20.) They approached cautiously, and so survived their discovery that the Troll encampment contained numerous casters and was protected by magical as well as mundane sentries. They were also somewhat nonplussed to learn that Drugar was already in the tunnel, traveling toward Godsheim. Indeed, while they were nearing her location the Locate spell broke, indicating that she had passed the Rainbow Arch within the tunnel that connected Mannheim to Godsheim. Ever adaptable, they went to the spot on the ground just above their last location for Drugar and used a Dimension Door to go to the last spot the Locate had indicated. They knew she was traveling at a walking pace and were quick enough that she would be no more than 100 to 200 feet ahead of them. They had not, however, realized that the tunnel was packed across its full width with the army of Trolls marching with Drugar. (Actually only three abreast, but Trolls take up a lot of space.) Since the tunnel was arched, there was room for the party to fly above the heads of the middle rank, and this they did, swiftly overtaking Drugar. Casters cast at them and warriors swung at them, but the party’s mage kept them alive with judicious use of Power Word: Web. Desperate improvisation kept them alive long enough for Yew the Alf Hero to get in front of Drugar, activate the “Strike True” magic, and make the spear-cast; at that moment Thunvald the Cleric was alive only by having Decreed Fate to minimize the damage of a deadly spell cast on him, and Ozymandias the Mage was alive only because of an item that would (once only) cause a killing blow struck at him to instead leave him with 1 hit point. (Ozy didn’t know his item would do that. I love the hotlist!) While magic guaranteed the true strike, it was the Hero’s own skill that caused the True Strike to also be a confirmed critical hit, doing devastating damage to Drugar herself as well as shattering the Fatestone. Fatebreaker perished (as must all mortals who break a Fatestone), wailing in agony; her destruction lit a fire in Drugar’s belly that would not be quenched until the Primal Troll was crippled. With the other Trolls now cowering in terror it was easy for the PCs to escape and return to Valor Hall.

AFTERMATH: The Tetrakh scheme against Daglir was completely defeated, but Mathiron-Grund was never harmed. (Actually, the PCs avoided ever encountering it, which probably helped their survival.) Unfortunately Daglir managed to die anyway — the fact that you’re no longer doomed to die in a specific way doesn’t mean you can’t be killed. Danu was rescued and survived, and Drugar was crippled for the next Age of the World, the War Age.

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