Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The real story begins to surface (Chapter 6)

The holidays are close and also final exams are still a concern for two of our players, so there were just three PC's for this session. Aeldrick the Warlord, Minos the Warrior and Rendrill Halfmoon (from Thunderspire labyrinth) the halfling Rogue were present. Absent characters were off doing their own things for a time.

This session was almost completely devoid of dangerous combat and as such, it was filled to the brim with story development.

  • PC's return to Shinar, hear rumors of a courier from Prauld arriving yesterday. There's some speculation about the courier's message, but no details.
  • PC's meet with King Yutsen, to inquire about what's up. Yutsen says that there have been reports of Hobgoblin movement in the northern forest. He also mentions that the heroes that scouted the giants armies have returned and are currently in Drunduin (Drunduin s the fort the dwarves captured from the giants in Estvald last year.) Yarl Hastel and his brother Hagel have been sent to Drunduin to gather information, coordinate with the Dwarves and to form the basis of a lasting trade agreement with Drunduin and the new Krondheim.
  • PC's stop by to visit with Dre and Oran the dragons that settled north of Derros. They ask the PC's if they could carry a valuable package to Nolton in the Republic of the Isles. The PC's agree to stop by on their way back from Drunduin.
  • On the road they see that the Dwarves are working on a highway through the hills between Drunduin and Derros. A wide path has already been cleared, and bridges are being built across ravines and gullys. Once the highway is complete, it will allow easy trade through the hills.
  • In Drunduin, the PC's see recent development of the area; the silver and mithril mines are in full operation. Drunduin's forges and factories are busy building war machines, weapons and armor for the anticipated confrontation with the giants.
  • The PC's meet with the "old heroes" (The "old heroes" are from a previous campaign, that took place in OY 603, whcih ended with the old heroes following the giants off to the war in the west.) According to the "old heroes":
    1. The Giants fought in a civil war backed by Kryve. and then against an invading Kryve army. The giants were victorious driving the Kryvans back out of the mountains, and using a powerful ritual the Stone Giants of southern Estvald, cracked the earth and raised a giant gap across the western edge of the mountains, effectively defending Westvald from Kryvan invasion.
    2. The "old heroes" made contact with the Stone Giants and explored parts of Kryve and old Kryvan ruins. They discovered a change in the religious leadership oin Kryve seems to be the cause of recent warlike activity out of the Kryvans.
    3. They do not think that the Giants will attack the hills. The Giants have already born the brunt of a major invasion and feel that there are world-shaking events on the horizon.
  • During their stay in Drunduin, the PC's were contacted by Hagel and his assistent (Jenkins in disguise). They tell the PC's about Jaryl Hastel's recent strange behaviour, and wish the PC's to stealthily break into his guest chambers while he's meeting with the Thanes. He's been particularly secretive about the room's contents and they want to know why. A key is provided, a dwarven guard in the area is bribed to take a short walk, but the key needs to be returned before the council is sceduled to finish in one hour.
  • The PC's break into Hastel's room and discover several arcance traps and glyphs protecting the room and it's contents, setting off one trap and making the break-in quite obvious due to singed carpet and damaged room contents. Nevertheless they do find notes that include a summary of Jaryl Hastel's life and mannerisms, including things that he should know and a check list of things that should be said to the Thanes that include many inflammatory statements. There are also ritual materials, and a lock of what appears to be Hastel's hair.
  • The PC's head for the council chamber and confront Hastel on the spot in front of the thanes of being an imposter. There is hot debate, followed by an attempt to escape by Hagel, who is eventually revealed to be a shape changer of some sort. The fake hastel is captured by the dwarves but manages to suicide while he's in custody.
  • Questioning Hagel, they determine that the switch likely took place at an inn just outside of shinar. The PC's head back towards Shinar, stopping at Dre's and Oran's tower to pick up their package. They investigate at the inn, find a muddy bootprint outside of Hastel's room that hasn't washed away in weather yet, a description of a inn resident that matches the description of the imposter (who dissapeared while Hastel was at the inn) and evidence of some dark ritual magic that was performed a few hundred yards outside of the inn, and a small wooded clearing. In addition, they found the impression of the front cover of a book on the waxy surface of a woden desk in the imposters room. Further investigation in shanar led to the discovery that the book in question was a book of dark magic rituals - written in Abyssal (the language of demons).
  • The package from Dre and Oran, is a small, seciure chest with arcane runes of protection and a solid lock, which is to be delivered to one Chancellor Warwick who is staying at the Stag and Castle Inn off of the Garden square in Nolton. After a brief sea voyage, the PC's arrive in Nolton, visit the inn and make contact with the Chancellor, who pays them a rather significant sum of money (900gp) for delivering the chest to him. Aeldirck feels a groqwing sense of unease when dealing with the man however. Who appears to be pretending to be a noble, but shows some mannerisms of speech and ettiquette that seem very much out of place. and sends Rendrill to follow the man after the deal is done.
  • Rendrill follows the Chancellor to a fishing shack near the docks where the chest is passed off once again. The receiver is a grizzled man, who assures the "Chancellor" that the package will be leaving for the Empire.
  • Rendrill reports his findings to Aeldrick and Minos and together they decide that this bears looking in to. They try to get some information about Dre and Oran, but are told that the best place to get information about dragons is from a dragon. There just so happens to be a Dragon who sometimes resides in Nolton. Gasparion - who's a longtime friend of the Royal family.
  • The party goes off to find Gasparian, in the north side of town in a massive tower, 80 feet to a side and over 180 feet high. At the main entrance to the tower the are met by a mechanical construct/golem who attempts to dismiss them, but eventually takes a message in to Gaspar, who allows the PC's entrance.
  • The PC's are overcome by fear as they see that the massive tower is a single giant room with ledges and aprches, and see Gaspar decend in his natural form as a huge red dragon. The ask about Dre and Oran the dragons that have recently arrived in Prolia, and are answered with a single phrase. "There are no Dragons in Prolia."
  • Stunned, the PC's realise that they may be being duped by the "Dragons" and race back to the docks where they break into the fishing shack, subdue the grizzed man, and recover the box.
  • They open the chest, suffering the magic protections and discover that inside the chest is a leather bound book, written in infernal (the language of devils). Heading off to their local arcane sage, they get the translation of the book, which is a detailed reconstruction of their adventures in Yuri's doom, including diagrams of the ritual circle where the druids are trapped in time and research about the origins of Yuri's ritual and possible means of disrupting the magic. The book is addressed to somebody called "My Prince".
  • The PC's decided to head back to Derros and confront the "Dragons" about their treachery.
That was the end of the session. The characters advanced to level 6. The next game to pick up this story line will be in January.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Back to the Alia Plot!

Our heroes are back on the free-form plot path and this week's game could go in any direction. Here are my thoughts as for how things may progress, and some background that ready to be uncovered. (but may take a few sessions to actually get discovered). So far, the heroes have heard of Solanthus. They've also heard about the adventurers that followed the giants into the mountains but not about the Kryvans or any specifics about what's happening in the West.

Over the next few adventures, some of these plot elements are going to be revealed. Which ones will depend on which paths the adventurers take. Although some events may happen in the world regardless of which direction the adventurers choose.

I shall be putting to together some stock ready to go combat encounters and working on NPC profiles and dialog plans for some of the major figures.

Background (Plot Spoilers)

3 years ago, three comets were seen in the skies, one over the northern tundra, one over the great south forest Shadowwood and one far to the west, far beyond the mountains of Estvald. Each of these comets was a being from another dimension. Three beings of power who battled across the cosmos were caught in a great backlash of power and were hurled through the sky into the ground. Each landed in a crater, greatly weakened in power and looked about them, only to discover that they were in Alia, a place only most difficultly accessed from their home realms.

Solanthus a Captain of Celestia, is an Angel of War. He desires only to defeat his opponents in glorius one on one combat. (Or die trying). Since his arrival he has become the leader of the Hobgoblins of the forest North of Prolia. He has a plan to distract the Kryvan armies with the Hobgoblins so he may face Illranikus alone. He is *not* the hero of the story, and is only concerned about his personal honour. If he dies in combat and the forces of darkness conquer the world... well that won't be his problem.

Illranikus is a Duke of Infernus. He wishes to open a gate so he can conquer the world in the name of Infernus. He wishes to use a ritual, powered by a dedication of deaths killed in a great battle to power the ritual. He is attempting to use the armies of Solanthus and Ferazghul to do so, but has also insinuated himself into the Emporer of Rhode's good graces and may use a Prolian/Empire conflict, if the northern conflict is not successful. He is also known as "Prince Ran, of the Grey Isle." in Rhode. Illranikus wishes to offer the world as a prize to his Infernal Prince.

Ferazghul is a Demon of Tartarus, no title, but very powerful. He wishes to conquer the world or destroy it (depending on his mood). He has taken control of the Kryvan nation through it's priesthood, and is sending it's armies on the march. He is aware that his greatest threat to domination are his two otherworldly rivals, and wishes to begin the destruction with them and their armies. He has taken a liking to the Kryvan's interpretation of the Elmental pantheon and has taken the part of the four elemental avatars in previous battles against the giants.

Recent Events(Winter of OY 603/604)

1. Discovery of the "western threat" that is human empire beyond the mountains, called Kryve.
2. Kryvan follow the elemental pantheon, but have a darker view of the four gods of creation, and combine worship of Wikri, Umos, Enosa and Freda with worship of demons and dark magic.
3. Last year Kryvan agents corrupted one of the Storm Giant royal family, to support the Kryvan in a rebellion in Westvald, and lead an army of Kryvan into the mountains. Last winter the stone giants led an opposing army out of Estvald to support the rightful monarch, quelled the rebellion and shaped western edge of the mountains into a unscalable cliff three hundred feet high.
4. This spring, the giant army has returned to the east, but don't wish to engage the Dwarves for control of the Estvald foothills.
5. Solanthus, who has great power over dreams, was responsible for the portentous dreams that many Arcane and Divine heroes had last year, warning of a shadow in the West. The dreams were aimed mostly at the giants, to encourage them to mobilize in their own defense and to drive the main army north into Solanthus's territory.

A group of adventurers sent to discover what has happened in the west have returned to Prolia.
  • They followed the giant army into the west. They saw the first clashes between the Kryvan and the Giant armies, and eventually became embroiled in the conflict after meeting with a Stone Giant Psionic called Rankrull.
  • The Kryvan are on the warpath. Apparently, there was an abrupt change in focus from an inward looking corrupt society, to a war seeking rampaging army over the course of less than a month. A huge army is marching over the northern tundra towards the hobgoblin lands to the north of Prolia.
  • The group saw ancient Kryvan ruins suggesting that they have been living in that area for a very long time. Possibly longer than written records of Krondhiem.
  • Kryvan heroes favor Paladins and Warlocks, and are a racially diverse culture including a fairly large number of elves and half-elves.
  • The Kryvan versions of the gods include:
    • Enosa, a squid, associated with decay, poison and greed.
    • Freda, a raven, associated with rulership, tyranny and betrayal.
    • Umos, a worm, associated with secrets, insanity and fanaticism
    • Wikri, a burning tree, associated with punishment, slavery and massacre

Adventure Opportunities

Dwarves are looking for:
  • An escort for a diplomatic mission to Estvald. The escort will be likely attacked by Kryvan agents and or demons

  • Wish a package carried to Nolton (the package contains details about Yuri's doom ritual and instructions on how to break the ritual - for an Empire agent in Nolton. Ultimate destination is Prince Ran, of the Grey Isle in the Empire of Rhodes)

  • Hastel, Jarl of Beryl, has been replaced by a Kryvan employed shapechanger. Hastel, wishes to employ the PC's to kill Jenkins (the Republic diplomat/assassin).
  • Jenkins and Hagel(Hastel's brother) are suspecting that something's wrong with Hastel - but they don't know what.
  • King Yutsen of Shinar, is concerned about recent activity in the North. (He hasn't yet heard of the Kryvan in the North - but he will soon.) He's worried that they may join forces with the Hobgoblins in preface to an invasion.

  • The hobgoblins leader, Solanthus wishes help to confront Illranikus, who is treacherous and will not hesitate to use his underlings to interfere in an honorable combat challenge.
  • It might be a good idea to venture into older Krondhiem ruins in search of knowledge pertaining to Kryve.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Thunderspire Labyrinth is Bland

... is no longer being played by my group.

I'm quite disappointed with it overall. It started out okay. The Seven Pillared Hall was an interesting town/quest hub, the overall story was ok... but the encounters quickly became quite boring.

The encounters in the Chamber of Eyes, were fine. There were four or five of them depending on how you count. The last part has the potential to combine two or three encounters into on extended encounter, which is in itself a little bit interesting, at least in terms of difficulty.

The sameness began to appear in the Horned Hold, which has a total of eight encounters, of which at least five of them are *really* generic, and quite similar. When the encounters start becoming predictable, that's when you know something's really wrong. When the third group composed of "two soldiers/two artillery or skirmishers/one named or controller leader joined combat in a room" happened everybody was feeling the blandness. Sure, there was a fight across a bridge. There was fireplace or two to shove the enemies into (but wait Druegar have resist fire 10 so make that fireplaces to shove players into). But they were small details amongst the larger repetitive battles. Honestly, I expect more from a stand alone, published package like Thunderspire Labyrinth.

What really drove the point home for me was that I started up a second D&D 4 group last week and ran the beginning of the Scales of War adventure path from Dungeon #156 "Rescue at Rivenroar". That adventure started out with two really different combat encounters as the town of Brindol comes under the attack of some goblins and a cart-pulling Ogre. A couple of memorable battles came out of that, interspersed with some fun role-playing in the aftermath of the attack (skill challenges as written are still boring to me, so I don't use them at least not as written). Then the party set off overland to find Rivenroar and had some (also fun) wilderness encounters. It could have been a series of "you meet a balanced group of 5 goblins" and if that was the case it would have been boring... just like the Horned Hold was.

So two things resulted from this...

First, I'm staying away from "adventure modules" for a while. There's something about them that makes me feel constrained to their framework rather than inspired by their content. We finished up with the Horned Hold last weekend, and the breadcrumb trail that should have led off to the next chapter in the labyrinth mysteriously dried up. The heroes will leave Thunderspire Labyrinth next week and I'll start working the creative juices towards something original and fun in Alia.

Second, I'm enjoying my digital subscription to D&D Insider. Go, Scales of War! The Character Builder is looking pretty nice too. Levels beyond 3, and the rules filter, sometime soon please?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Rorni's Creek Play (Part 1)

So we finished up characters and started the adventure.

From memory, the party consistes of the following:
  • Dragonborn Paladin, cha/wis/con, sword and board
  • Dragonborn Fighter, str/dex/wis focus, sword and board, with a focus on OA and knockbacks
  • Elf Ranger, bow using, dex/wis, rogue multiclass feat
  • Elf Cleric, wis/dex, ranger multiclass feat
  • Half Elf Warlock, fey pact
I don't remember their names.

We borrowed from Spirit of the Centrury/Fate's character creation process and Pathfinder Society's raison d'etre (transplanted into Alia) to fill in the back-story of these freshly created level 10 characters. 'Twas fun. I'm not sure how much real depth that it's added, but if they want they have a framework that should work as a decent skeleton to develop their characters and their back-stories.

We started play off with a bit of narration, explaining how their contacts all referred them to the Thanes of Drunduin and jumped right into the action.

Encounter 1: Orc/Ogre/Dire Boar combat

I allowed for a skill challenge of Perception or Nature(DC 25) for the PC's to be aware of the Orc band following them. The party succeeded and decided to set up an ambush. They successfully surprised the Orc's as they traveled up the path toward the entrance of Rorni's Creek and the gate.

The combat was fairly straight-forward with the usual delays as the players tried out their new powers and got used to the way things worked. The Orc Chieftain proved to be very tough, if not very dangerous after all his companions were killed. It took nearly ten rounds for the players to defeat the initial encounter.

The double defender/double striker/single leader party is actually fairly well balanced. The fighter and paladin can fairly effectively control critical targets in combat and are proving to be very tough, and they each have a per-encounter use of their breath weapon, which should be a great help in killing and dealing with minions. The ranger/ cleric ranger and warlock are all quite comfortable in a second rank behind the defenders and the fey warlock is really enjoying his mobility. The fey pact is turning out to have a quite different play style from the infernal pact play style of Voden, even though the fundamentals are very similar.

Anyway the characters move on to opening the door after the combat was concluded, The ritual of opening succeeded and the vision of the closing was sprung on the players, who reacted with a sense of satisfaction and a hope that the sealed door will lead to many well preserved and long lost treasures and secrets.

Encounter 2: Trapped Room and Kloin

I brought out the ghost of Kloin after the party had set off one trap and were taking their time clearing the dust away, trying to see if there were more.

The Ranger and the Cleric/Ranger who both have excellent perception checks, noticed the faint amorphous blob of the ghost. Further perception checks also allowed them to hear a faint whispering in a foreign tongue (old dwarvish). The warlock actually knows dwarvish, so a bit of laborious sounding out of words, allowed them to translate one important word that Kloin is saying, "posses". When the warlock tries to converse in dwarvish with the spirit, he felt a "chilling" presence". The +2 versus willpower wasn't nearly enough to actually possess the warlock. A successful religion check by the Paladin revealed to the group that old spirits like this often cling to the earth because of a need to accomplish a task in the world of the living, but this particular spirit is too weak to much effect on the material world. The party decides that the spirit is in fact trying to posses one of them. After a few clumsy attempts at communication, the warlock agrees to allow himself to be possessed.

The possessed Warlock/Kloin briefly recounted his companions' ambush during their rest and the desperation that overcame the outpost after months of being sealed in. He reiterated his wish to discover what became of the outpost and to discover why this betrayal happened. And with that Klon faded to the back of the warlocks mind.

The party continued deeper into the outpost exploring the living and crafting quarters of the old outpost. Everything through those areas was covered with a thick layer of undisturbed dust. Several of the Thanes of Drunduin's valued objects were found, a few traps were avoided, leading the party eventually to the doors into the fungus farm.

The session ended with the adventurers opening the doors, seeing the foulspawn and the grell and the unfortunate the elven slave being "dealt with". The PC's are about to attack the aberrations. The encounter 3 combat will continue next session (in two weeks) .

Level 10 characters have a good deal more complexity than level 1 characters do. After one combat encounter, I feel that the players have a good grasp of their at-will powers and just a basic appreciation for their encounter powers. Hopefully the upcoming battle will allow the players to explore their characters a bit more fully.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Halls of Rorni's Creek

This is an adventure for 5 level 10 characters that will be run as a one-shot adventure as a adjunct/break from Thunderspire Labyrinth. My players have just finished the Chamber of Eyes in Thunderspire Labyrinth and have discovered the connection between the Grimmerzhul Dwarves and the Bloodreavers. Since they've expressed an interest at trying out different classes and also trying out play at a higher level, this adventure should both allow my players to play something different, while also fleshing out the ongoing story.

I've taken the 5-room dungeon template and put together the following short adventure. Characters are being created this week and we should be playing it this weekend. Since at least a little bit of time will need to be taken at the beginning to solidify the PC's it will probably take two 3-to-4-hour sessions to complete.


Rorni's Creek was a Dwarven outpost in the northern Krondhiem kingdom that was lost during Krondhiem's battle with the invading Giants. The dwarven thanes of Drunduin have hired a band of explorers to locate the outpost and re-open the gates to the fortress, exploring all within. Part of the party's contract lists some important dwarven relics believed to be in the ruins. Any treasures found that are not on the list may be claimed by the explorers.

Basic Layout of the Outpost

The outpost is built into a south facing granite cliff along a fault line in northern Estvald. There is a large magically sealed entrace door blocking the outpost off from the world. Beyond the entrance, is a large hall 20x100 feet filled with traps and the ghost of one of the dwarven high priests. Beyond the entrance hall with the traps, the main hall continues straight into the mountain. Off the main hall are side passages into the living and working quarters of the dwarves that called the outpost their home. There are 40 dwarven apartments each containing 1-5 sleeping quarters as well as a large common dining hall and kitchen, a well room and a large cavern filled with various workshops and stores of many materials from a large selection of stone blocks to piles of bones and what must have been hides and wood that has long since rotten away. There are also several empty bins. Small scrap of various ores may be found in the bins, but otherwise they are empty. Beyond the living and work areas, the main hall opens into an underground river and an large cavern filled with many varieties of large mushrooms. The straight path of the hall is a bridge over the river and a clear path through the giant fungus. Beyond the agricultural area, the main hall continues past several side passages following veins of metal and mining equipment. At the end of the main hall, behind two more large double doors is a large forge powered by a flow of lava. Beyond the forge is a hidden tunnel leading into a huge, bottomless chasm, with a stairway along the side leading down into the underdark.

  • entrance: orcs/ogre
  • hall: traps/spirit
  • farm: abberations
  • forge: (in operation) undead dwarves
  • cavern: Druegar and devils

Story elements:
  • Entrance: vision
  • Hall: spirit
  • Rooms: journal of master digger Uthuok
  • Forge: speech my the master smith Brill
  • Cavern: Druegar link & Underdark map

Room One: Entrance And Guardian

To the north, is a solid wall of granite with a large obviously dwarven stone pair of doors. The doors glow with silvery magical runes that are still keeping the outpost warded from the outside. A Religion check (dc 20) reveals an underlying theme of the works of Umos, the elemental pantheon's god of earth, death, agriculture and building.

  • The entrance requires "Ritual of Opening" scroll provided by the thanes.
  • Complication: A group of Orcs have been tracking the the party through the mountain trails in Estvald, they catch up to the party soon after they stop to examine the sealed door.

Level 9 Encounter
  • 1 Orc chieftain (level 8 elite brute)
  • 5 Orc warriors (level 9 minion)
  • 1 Dire boar (level 6 brute)
  • 2 Ogre skirmishers (level 8 skirmisher)

Room Two: Puzzle and Roleplaying Challenge

When the PC's enter the mountain fortress, they get a brief vision of a battle with the gates open as they now are.

In the entrance hall, dozens of ogres, orcs and hill giants fight a small number of heavily armored dwarven warriors that are attempting to push the invaders back through the gates, while a brown robed dwarf priest completes a ritual. The gates slam shut trapping many of the invaders inside the gates.

Room description:
The entrance hall is 20 feet wide and 100 feet deep, with two large doors at the end of the hall. The hall is decorated with etched carvings, mosaics, and pillars and high vaulted ceilings. All around the entrance are the skeletons of about 20 dwarves that seem to have fallen in battle. There are no giant, or ogre bones in the area. A thick layer of dust covers the floor. A large rectangular block of stone lies 15 feet in front of the doors.

If the PC's study the room for a while or if they set off a trap, then a spirit manifests out of the body of one of the skeletons. It can barely speak (perception 30 test to hear) or be seen (perception 30 test to see), but it understands common. The spirit is that of High Priest Kloin Hammerhand, the dwarf who performed the ritual of closing. He wishes to possess one of the party members, but is very weak. Probably too weak to forcibly posses any party member. (Possess: +2 vs Will posession until save) He is not malign, but wishes to know the fate of Rorni's Creek and to get revenge on those that betrayed him. If someone allows him to posses them he can communicate easily with the party through the person, but otherwise is content to ride the PC. A PC bearing Kloin's spirit gains:
  • Healing Word 1/day (+2d6) minor action
  • Knowledge of the trap pattern in the entrance hall.
  • Knowledge of the layout of the fortress as it was when it was overrun.
  • Knowledge that 4 months after sealing the entrance, there was a group of dwarves that suddenly attacked him and other dwarves while they were asleep and killed 20 of them here. He does not know why.
  • +2 on History checks.
  • Kloin may attempt to affect the PC's actions with a +2 vs Willpower attack until a save is made.
If the dust is brushed away from the floor, a complicated geometric pattern can be seen to cover it. The pattern is in fact a key to the many traps that defend the entrance hall. When traps are sprung a dungeoneering or intelligence check may be made to deduce the pattern. The DC decreases for every trap sprung, according to the following chart. (at least two traps must be sprung or detected to discover the pattern)

Traps Sprung or Detected/Dungeoneering or Intelligence DC to figure out pattern.
  • 2 traps revealed/ DC 35
  • 3 traps revealed/DC 30
  • 4 traps revealed/ DC 25
  • 5+ traps revealed/DC 20
In order to make any of these checks, the PC's must be brushing the dust away from the floor to reveal the geometric pattern. Sweeping away the dust from a trapped square will probably not trigger traps provided care is used and the squares are not stepped on.

The difficulty of detecting a trap is Perception DC 30 and disabling is a DC 30 Thievery check. On each 5 foot square, there's a 50% chance that a trap is present.

The room is filled with traps. There are four types of traps:
  • swinging blade traps +15 vc AC, 2d10
  • falling block traps +13 vs Reflex, 3d8
  • spring loaded ground spike traps, 4 attacks, +13 vs Reflex, d8 each
  • covered pit traps, +13 vs Reflex, 20' pit, fall 2d10, climb DC 20

The swinging blade, covered pit and spike traps reset in 1 minute, although the dust disturbed by the covered pit trap clearly marks it once triggered. The falling block traps don't reset.


Devoid of encounters, the main living quarters of the ruins take about 2 hours to cursorily explore. The main hall continues in a straight line into the mountain with side passages leading to the dwarven living and working quarters. The dust has not been disturbed here for many years.

Room Three: Fungus Farm

Room description:
Dozens of slaves (mostly humans) labour to harvest giant mushrooms in this large cavern. Weird mutant-like creatures oversee the work. A heavy stream of water runs from the west side of the cavern over a metal water wheel into an underground river that exits into a sinkhole in the east wall. While the PC's are taking the scene in, an emaciated elf collapses while hauling a load of fibrous mushroom stalks. A floating tentacled creature (a Grell) quickly descends on it from the ceiling. The hapless elf's screams are abruptly cut off with a bite from a venom dripping beak.

Level 11 Encounter (XP 3,050)
  • 1 Foulspawn seer (level 11 artillery)
  • 2 Foulspawn berserkers (level 9 soldier)
  • 3 Foulspawn grues (level 8 controller)
  • 1 Grell (level 7 elite soldier)

Dungeoneering DC 15:
  • Grells are solitary, malicious hunters that detest sunlight and prefer to lurk underground. They float silently though the air and like to descend from above, snaring their prey in venomous tentacles.

Dungeoneering DC 15:
  • Foulspawn form loose clans that shelter in existing structures or underground regions, modifying their homes into maddening warrens full of strange features. They also cooperate with other aberrant creatures.

Room Four: The Forge

Long before the doors are reached, the sound of hammers on metal resound through the main hall. The large solid doors are cracked open and a red glow comes from beyond.

There are four lava-powered forges are in the room and an open flow on the north west side. Ten ashen faced dwarves work the forges beating metal into weapons and armor.

If a character falls into lava... they die, no save. (See rule 1!). The forges are half closed; being pushed into the forge causes 2d10 fire damage on entering and at the beginning of each round. There are four levers in the room that control the flow of lava. They each may be spotted with a DC 25 perception check. Pulling the levers completely down causes a burst 1 splash around the forge, 2d10 damage.

Confrontation between Kloin and Master Smith Brill.
  • 1 Vampire lord (level 11 elite skirmisher) (Master Smith Brill)
  • 9 Vampire spawn bloodhunters (level 10 minion)

Brill will attempt to prolong the confrontation with Kloin and attampts to delay as long as possible because he knows that Uthuok is just outside the forge dealing with the Druegar.

In one minute or after 2 rounds of combat, Uthuok and his Zombies arrive through the concealed door in the north wall.
  • 1 Skull lord (level 10 artillery) (Master Digger Uthuok)
  • 2 Zombie hulks (level 8 brute)

Religion check:
  • DC 15: Contrary to popular folklore, vampires are not hampered by running water or repelled by garlic, and they don’t need invitations to enter homes. Wooden stakes hurt them, but no more so than any other sharp weapon. A vampire does not cast a shadow or produce a reflection in a mirror.
  • DC 20: A vampire lord can make others of its kind by performing a dark ritual (see the Dark Gift of the Undying sidebar). Performing the ritual leaves the caster weakened, so a vampire lord does not perform the ritual often.

Religion check (skull lord)
  • DC 15: A skull lord is a formidable undead being with three skulls. Each skull has a different power, and a skull lord on the verge of destruction will sacrifice one of its skulls to keep the rest of its form intact. Once two of its skulls are destroyed, the creature loses the power to heal itself in this fashion.

Religion check (zombie)
  • DC 15: Most zombies are created using a foul ritual. Once roused, a zombie obeys its creator and wants nothing more than to kill and consume the living.
  • DC 20: Corpses left in places corrupted by supernatural energy from the Shadowfell sometimes rise as zombies on their own. These zombies have no master and generally attack all living creatures they encounter.

Room Five: The Caravan

Level 11 Encounter
  • Berbelang (MM)
  • 2 Druegar (see Thunderspire Labyrinth)

Religion check (Berbelang)
  • DC 20: Berbalangs consume the flesh of dead humanoids. They do not differentiate between those recently dead and those dead for centuries.
  • DC 25: Berbalangs absorb the memories of the corpses they eat and relive significant portions of those memories while asleep. This absorption of dead memories gives berbalangs the nutrition they require.

The Druegar are readying a small train of large lizards pulling carts (non combat beasts of burden). The carts have several bundles of dried fungus provisions. Two dead human (slaves). The first cart in the train has a "Resounding Hammer +3" and an "Iron Ring of the Dwarf Lords". In the possession of one of the Druegar is a map to the Underdark in the local area and a note from Blackhand Grimmerzhul offering 15 slaves in payment for a magical Hammer and Ring. The map is written with notes in dwarvish and consists of a network of coloured, solid, dashed or dotted lines and circles. Before it may be used to navigate through the Underdark it must be deciphered with a DC 25 Dungeoneering check. Once it has been deciphered, it allows for navigation through the Underdark of all the northern Estvald, and a variable bonus (0 to +5) on Dungeoneering checks related to navigation of the Underdark of Northern Estvald.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

All Hail the King (Chapter 5)

This session's play was, as expected, transitional.

The chapter starts with our heroes, Capricia, Minos, Aeldric, Voden and Ragnar entering the town of Prauld. Capricia happens to have a "bag of holding" and the brave adventurer's deicde not to bring the body of Arnesson into town obviously. They wrap the body in their bedrolls and blankets and put it along with the crown into the bag of holding, which is now just about full.

On the way into town, headed for the "nice" inn off of the market square, Ragnar succeeds his perception check and notices a merchant, who's in the middle of a conversation with a furniture vendor, has "noticed" them. Ragnar brushes it of as his Dwarvish good looks, and the heroes continue into town, where they arrange for some rooms. During the day they meet with a jeweler and exchange their massive diamonds that they found on the Devils in Krolak-Nol for some coinage.

For supper they meet with Jarl Jorgen, who's a fairly down to earth and traditional Jarl. Over the course of several rounds of decent local ale, the party learns a few things from Jorgen.
  1. Jorgen asks about the quest for the crown, but is brushed off by the party.
  2. Jorgen reveals that at least one of the Jarls are uneasy about Yutsen's ability to lead Prolia in a time of war. The king of Prolia has always been a warrior, and Yutsen is a merchant and a diplomat at heart. He's undoubtedly the best peace time leader of the country, but is probably the least versed in war of all the Jarls.
  3. Jorgen mentions that Jenkins, the aide of the Republic ambassador is in town. Jorgen offers the party 5000gp to assasinate him. He explains that while he is certain of Jenkins guilt in the death of his son Giordi, last summer, and that he has the right to mete out justice on his own lands, he is restrained from executing him in his official capacity, to avoid an international incident. If the PC's kill Jenkins, justice will have been done, and an incident will have been avoided.
  4. Jorgen also mentions that Jenkins has been hanging out around Beryl and seems to have some influence with Jarl Hastel.
After their celebratory dinner, they ask around about Jenkins. It turns out he's staying at the inn where they are. They tip the innkeeper and ask him to point Jenkins out when he arrives. They have a few more drinks. and discuss what they'll do with jenkins. There's talk of beating him up and tieing him to the mast of an outbound ship. There's also talk of killing him for the reward, and to see justice done, although not everyone thinks that Jorgen is seeing straigh abou t Giordi's murderer. Later in the evening, the merchant that noticed the heroes on their way into town walks into the inn. The innkeeper indicates it's Jenkins.

They invite Jenkins over for a drink at their table. By this time I'm having Ragnar make constitution checks cause's he's been drinking heavily. Jenkins orders white wine. They have a vaguely disturbing but fairly civil discussion with Jenkins. I'm not sure if the players were aware of it, but there was a very menacing undertone to the conversation, that *I* certainly picked up on, and Jenkins did too (no Insight roll required on that!).

After some time Jenkins excused himself and went off to bed. A few minutes later the heroes followed him up to his room, I don't think they really had a plan, but grabbing him out of his room seemed to be part of it. A rather drunk Ragnar, bashed the door in while the party was trying to discuss what the next step would be, revealing an empty room with an open window. Jenkins was long gone.

The next morning, caring for hangovers the heroes departed south (after buying new bedrolls).

Just north of Beryl they were ambushed by a group of
  • 8 Prolian Archers (souped up Human Rabble, Minions, with bows and axes instead of clubs)
  • 2 Human Berserkers
  • 1 Human Mage
  • 1 Human Bandit
A tough encounter made worse by the ambush... but this was the only encounter of the day, so daily powers could be used without much reservation. The archer minions were set up spaced out along a slope that was difficult movement to go up.

The first round saw Aeldrick, the leader get taken down by 2 arrows, a whack by one berserker and a hit from the multitarget lightning spell of the mage and from falling off his horse. Not a good beginning. Minos took even more damage, geting a crit from the other berserker's encounter power (for 25!) The bandit moved in from behind the party towards the softer targets.

Ragnar ended up saving Aeldric with a healing potion on the second round. That potions plus a second-wind, action point, and self inspiring word got Aeldric back into the action on round two.

After the initial schock of the ambush the heroes recovered, using action points and daily powers to deal out a brutal reprisal, taking down the two berserkers, mage and bandit, and having the prolian archers turn tail and run.

The heroes bypassed Beryl completely, skirting southwest around town to the road leading inland to Derros and through the Dragons domain. Dreasinoleanus and Oranthidirian (Dre and Oran for short) notice the travelers along the road. Dre is a male adult silver dragon, and his mate Oran is a female black dragon. They are both adult, and of "huge" size in their dragon forms but can shape-shift into human form. (I don't know or care if 4e dragons are supposed to do that, in Alia they do.) Oran carefully lands off to the side of the road of the heroes, shape-shifts into a beautiful, black-haired woman and comes up to greet them. The heroes are pretty nervous. She welcomes them to her lands and invites them meet with her and her husband in a tower off to the side of the road. They take a small path up to a newly constructed town with a handy empty stables and a clean looking well.

Inside are Oran and Dre preparing for their visitors. Warming up the main room of the tower and stoking up a nice wood fire, and preparing tea. Dre is actually the minstrel Iellos that they met on their way north through Derros. The heroes are a little nervous about being near such dangerous creatures, but the dragons seem to take a rather keen interest in the heroes activities and the activities of humans in Prolia. Soon the party is at their ease and the party tells the dragons everything they know including their journey's through Yuri's doom and into Krolak-Nol, admitting to finding the crown. The dragons thank them for their story and invite them back if the next time they pass through the area.

The journey south of the Dragon's tower, through Derros to Shinar is otherwise uneventful. The party sends ahead to Shinar the day before they arrive in town and are met the next day by an honour guard that brings the body into ton in a majestorial procession.

The heroes then settle down to a week of being feasts, rewards and partying, from the soon-to-be crowned Jarl Yutsen.

The heroes confronted Hagel, Jarl Hastel's brother. About the ambush. Nobody died. Hagel seemed genuinely sorry about his involvement in Jenkins plot. Claimed that he was manipulated by Jenkins while in his cups to sending out his men, and claims to have reformed. The party was doubtful, but accepted his explanation and apology. The heroes are doubly on the lookout for Jenkins, but he did not show up.

The session concluded with the pomp and ceremony of the crowning of the new king of Prolia, who's now severely in debt to the heroes for their service they've performed for Prolia and the heroes are thinking about what to do next. Thunderspire Labyrinth is probably it.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


Seems one of my posts has incited some additional activity from The Geek Emporium.

..."Now, I may be calling maestrod out, which isn’t my intention, but it was a catalyst that forced me to realize that not everyone knows how I, and my group, play D&D."

"Maestrod" is me, I really should be consistent about my blogger tag. My original comment was on this and was in direct a response at “…the roles are something I can’t stand about 4e…”

Now where do I start?

I like 4e. But that isn't because I don't like 3.X. I like for 4e for what it brings to the table that's new and different. And because it's a new, it has renewed my interested in classic fantasy role playing. The fact is, I still have a shelf full of 3rd edition rules, and dozens of other games. (plug for Dark Heresy here!)

When I play a game, it is for what it *has* is not what it doesn't. Everyone (unless you're running something within a larger organization such as the RPGA) is free to write house rules and ignore any rule that they're not comfortable with. For example, I've long ignored any alignment rules that D&D has used. They just do not interest me.

One thing that's very apparent in all of the 4e rule books is that there's an obvious effort to spell out everything that more experienced gamers may take for granted. Just like the oft-repeated "What is role-playing" section in the intro chapter, much of this effort is not aimed at experienced gamers. I appreciate this content even though it's really not for me. The class commentary that explains what ability scores a particular class build should focus on is wasted in the eyes of an experienced gamer, it's *not* wasted on someone like say... my wife. For her, an explicit instruction saying "A warlock's main strength is dealing damage at range" and "choose constitution, charisma and intelligence as you ability scores" for an infernal-pact warlock is what she needs.

I don't think that these hints and instructions and labels make 4e any less flexible for the experienced gamer than 3.X or 2nd ed, or Advanced or Basic/Expert/Companion/Master, especially if you're okay with throwing the rules you don't like out the window and writing your own house rules.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

D&D Insider Ennui

I've read a number of blog postings about D&D Insider over the summer. Most recently, a preview from Pen and Paper Portal, PAX 08: Hands-On D&D Insider. Earlier in August there were some articles commenting on the pricing and the timing (RPGCentric with D&DI: The Price is Right and Critical-Hits with D&DI Updates: Charging Before Ready) but for the most part there seems to be a lot of waiting-and-see since the initial criticism over the missed launch dates and the hysterics over pricing.

I understand the wait-and-see feeling. While I hope that D&DI will be the greatest thing since home made bread (sliced bread is really not that great). I haven't been able to get excited about D&DI at all.

When it comes down to it, it's going to be a digital magazine subscription combined with some online tools. The Dragon and Dungeon magazine articles have been out all summer, so there's no doubt what they'll be. The Compendium and Character Creator and Game Table/Dungeon Creator look pretty neat, but I'm not sure how much I'd actually use them.

When faced with the monthly cost for access to these, I'm hesitant. The fact is that half of D&DI is available right now, for free, and other than some casual reading and poking around I don't use it. For the other half, there are currently non-WotC equivalents for pretty much all of the content that D&DI is promising, that I also don't use. Some examples:

Character Visualizer : Hero Machine
Character Builder : Ema's Char-Manager
Game Table : RPTools & IRC

Plus there are dozens of completely free blogs, forums, and dedicated websites with more content than anyone has the time to digest. Now, I'm not claiming that any of these tools are as slick or as polished as the D&DI tools that have been promised. Nor are most of the online forum, blogs and websites nearly comparable to what you'd expect from a professional publication. But it's there and it's free and some of it is really, really good.

Since, to date:
  1. I haven't read more than half a dozen of the (still free) D&DI Dragon or Dungeon articles.
  2. I have no problem making characters using printed character sheets and a pencil.
  3. I haven't used the Compendium for anything other than seeing how it works.
  4. I don't run games online using IRC or any other online tools.
I don't think that my behaviour is going to change overnight. I know that some people feel differently about D&DI. Some people think that the magazine content alone is enough to justify the cost. Some people are really into running on-line RPG games and may think that the Game Table alone justifies the price. I'm just not sure how many people fall into those categories.

I'm a pretty fanatical pen and paper RPG player, and D&D has always been a game that I enjoyed, but even for me I'm not convinced about the subscription price. And if it's not worth it for me, I don't see that there are many casual players that are going to look at the yearly D&DI cost and decide to subscribe.

I expect that WotC will not see the returns on this development that they're hoping for.

I hope that I'm completely wrong, that D&DI will be worth it to enough people to keep it a viable business for WotC. I hope that it's so awesome that I'll be convinced of its usefulness, and by this time next year I'll be a cyber-dm with my laptop glued to my hip, using D&DI for everything even at my regular game table.

But the cynic in me is suspecting that D&DI will go the way of Gleemax.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Tower of Krolak Nol (Chapter 5)

The last session left the party at the base of the tower of Krolak-Nol, having beaten the skeleton and magma-men encounters.

This session, added a little bit of a twist. We have a new player and a new PC.

How does one introduce a PC midway through an adventure? In D&D it's pretty easy, magic being what it is, nothing really needs to make sense.

What I ended up doing is after having a conversation with the new player, we had the idea of introducing them as an anachronism; an original knight from Jarl Arnesson's party that came to the tower, and who had been petrified. Add in a ritual scroll in the library, and fini! The party now has a full time, female, human, wizard named Capricia .

After the meeting of their new member and some discussion of the mission of the Jarl they proceeded up the tower's floors. Primarily the encounters were resolved by combat.

I played the Red Dragon as a psychopathically delusional treasure hoarder, sitting on a pile of rusty armor.

The floor was dark, and filled with rack and rack of hanging, rusty armor, obscuring the PC's vision, but it was obvious to them that *something* big was there, muttering to itself in an unknown language (draconic).

After lighting up the room and blundering through the armor, they came face to face with the dragon who screamed about intruders come to steal his precious, precious, rusty armor bits.

The fight started out with the dragon winning initiative and spending an action point, and using both its dragon breath and its terrifying presence to open the fight. From there it degenerated into a tooth and nail fight. Other than bloodied breath, the dragon breath never recharged, but the party was quite tired after the fight, using a couple of daily powers and a handful of healing surges.

The pair of Spinagons in the summoning circle was a brief bit of dialog before continuing up the tower. They were not released form their circle, despite coaxing and pleading on the Devil's part.

The top floor of the tower with the bodies of Fendraeus and the Jarl, led to a rather hasty Ragnar immediately grabbing the book, releasing Caramnon and leading up to the climactic fight, if not the last of the adventure.

Caramnon was indeed tentacle-y and poisonous, and his ability to grab and slide people around in combat combined with the party bringing out their own shifty powers led to a battle of constant repositioning. It was quite tactically interesting. Caramnon's breath ability recharged several times during the fight, and his threatening-reach/grab abilities combined well with his close burst poison gas cloud attack. In the end the party defeated him, using the rest of their dailies, some of their magic item daily abilities and some action points. Ragnar was left with 0 healing surges after healing to the point of being unbloodied.

Afterwards, they collected the body of the fallen Jarl Arnesson and the iron crown he was wearing, and returned to deal with the Spinagons.

The party decided that they didn't want to deal with the Devils except to kill them if possible. They tried to trick the Spinagons into a binding agreement that would allow the PC's to attack the Spinagons without reprisal, but they didn't fall for the ploy. After a fair bit of back and forth, the party decided jut to kill the Spinagons and be done with them, breaking the circle and attacking them.

The Spinagons attempted to escape, but were marked, slowed, knocked prone, shifted around and otherwise prevented from leaving before they could be cut down.

And that was the end of Krolak-Nol and this section of the adventure. The PC's set off back south through the Hobgoblin lands towards Prolia and ended the session upon returning to Prauld.

I dropped a few hints of slaver activity in the mountains near Greenhill, and will possibly run the D&D 4e module, H2 Thunderspire Labyrinth in that area, with some rather heavy modifications to make it fit the game world.

Complications around the crown will still come up, but I believe the next session will be a transition from the first story arc to a second story arc which will focus on the gnomes and giants south of the area the Dwarves now claim.

Five Room Dungeons

I've gravitated towards this type of adventure design over the years. I never knew it was quite so popular.

I should read more stuff on the intertubes.

It's perfect for homemade adventures. Not so much for published adventure modules.

Chatty DM's Project Kobold Love: The Adventure Plan is a 5 room adventure, that I'd run as a one-shot if I had the time, but as I wrote in the comments, I have one problem with it.

I like everything except for “Scene 1, Dungeons and Diplomacy”. I’ve seen a fair bit of scaled skill challenges with successes reducing number of combatants, and I honestly I don’t like em.

I prefer a different approach. Design a balanced combat and map partial successes to a delay before the underlings get their act together.

A good success could be a bloodless victory, in this case the leader is mollified, wishes the party luck and goes away. Yay!

A total failure would be immediate combat; the leader and all his underlings are pissed off and enter the fray with blood in their eyes.

A middling success could a lesser number of combatants in the first round. The leader and a variable number of his underlings are upset and immediately attacking, but some of the underlings thought the diplomacy sounded reasonable, and aren’t ready. When their leader ups and attacks the kobolds though, it’s just a matter of time (one round probably) before they snap out of their confusion, grab their weapons and join in.

(i.e. The leader cries “Attack boyz!” and charges into combat, but the first round all that the rest of the group does is look confused and draw their weapons… the discussion was going so well!)

That way we can have a well planned tactical challenge that doesn’t become dangerous with a total failure, nor trivially easy with a near total success. What happens if 7/8 (or 9/10 or whatever) of the threats wander off, do you really want to play out that combat against the sole foe? How about a complete failure and zero threats wandering off. TPK?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Published Adventure Modules

I have a love/hate relationship with published D&D modules.

As a player, I tend to hate published modules. Maybe it's just the game masters that I play with, but when somebody goes into a wooden reading of the "boxed text" for an encounter... Let's just say I don't like it. Published modules are a crutch. Everything is prepackaged and preplanned, and all it takes is for a GM to spoon feed their players the contents, following the printed plan. They can turn a genius of creativity and improvisation into a soulless automaton.

As a game master. I like published adventure modules. They often have interesting backgrounds and settings. Memorable NPC characters. They are sometimes very well polished with interesting tactical combat challenges, infuriating puzzles and traps and great opportunities for role-playing and development. I enjoy reading the modules and thinking about how how my players might react to the setup.

I just bought H2: Thunderspire Labyrinth. And I think with a little work I can work it into my campaign. In fact it's a pretty good fit.

So I've been thinking about how I can use the supplement without falling into the "reading the boxed text" trap that I hate so much. I've come up with a few options.
  1. I could just read and enjoy the published adventure at home and continue to run my homegrown adventures, for which I still have lots of ideas.
  2. I could (figuratively) rip the module into little bits and plant the pieces into my campiagn where I think they'll fit.
  3. I could do as much preparation as I'd normally do with my own adventures making the published adventure into my own adventure.
  4. I could completely rewrite the adventure using it as inspiration rather than as a reference.
Honestly, Option 1, is what I usually do. For the most part, I'll buy an adventure, enjoy reading it, and never spring it on my players. At least half the published adventures I own have never been played.

Option 2 is unsatisfying for me. A story is more than the some of its parts. A group of encounters is really not that difficult to put together. The value of an adventure, published, homegrown or improvised, is not so much in the details, but rather in the how it fits into the overall adventure. The sum is more that it's parts, so to speak.

I think Option 3 is what most people *should* be doing with published adventures. I think that good DMs usually put a fair amount of time into planning for their home-grown sessions. When I'm planning one of my own adventures, I think about the plot direction, get a vague notion of what NPC's will be doing and otherwise make sure that I have enough of a framework that I can easily fill in the fleshy bits with improvisation. I do this with a broad strokes in planning out the developing plot as an ongoing effort, and in a more detailed fashion planning for each upcoming session. So if I was running a published adventure module I could easily spend a the same amount of time reading through the module getting an idea of the overall adventure, and then look in detail at the sections and encounters that the party will likely be running across in each session.

But it's Option 4, that has a special resonance with me. Let me tell a brief story.

When I was a young lad, before I owned any D&D products. I played my first published adventure. That adventure was Castle Amber it was DMed by an inexperienced DM that mostly just read the boxed text, and ran it straight, with no improvisation that I recall. I liked it then. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't like it run that way now. I was young and easy to please in those days, but still I believe that Castle Amber was one of the better published adventures of its day.

Years later when I wasn't quite so young, I was DMing for a group of players and decided to recreate Castle Amber from memory for them. We were playing a completely different system at the time. Castle Amber was for the "Expert" boxed set for the non-advanced D&D and the group I was DMing for was playing the original "Oriental Adventures" rules in a far east campaign.

Castle Amber adapted from memory to Oriental Adventures was one of the funnest adventures I ever ran, both for me and for the players. I never saw the stats for any of the encounters of the original, I did fight the battles and hear the room descriptions though. That one time that I played through it, the group I was with certainly didn't manage to explore the whole castle, but I remembered the fun that I had and I possibly forgot about the frustrations. I tried to create something that incorporated the best of everything and modified it to fit the oriental flavour of the game we were playing and succeeded better that I or anyone had expected. It was a high point of my early D&D experience.

So Option 4 is to read through the adventure, and the leave it at home and try to recreate it from memory. I don't know if that's quite the same as playing through it once then trying to recreate it from memory years later, but maybe I'll give it a try.

The real objective is to take some ownership of the adventure. In order to do that you need to put some work into it. Whether that work is reading the adventure before hand, and doing the prep work you'd normally do, or to force one's hand by leaving the actual materials behind, there's a certain amount of you and your campaign that just has to be there to give it life and to bring fun into what could be a soulless and frustrating experience.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Jarlsburg to Krolak-Nol (Chapter 4)

The first half of this session was all role-play.

First, the party cleaned up in Jarlsberg and set out heading north from Jarlsberg, through the rest of the swamp. I sprung a few swamp encounters on them but in each case the party detected the threat before they were themselves detected and decided to avoid the encounters.

The party's first stop out of the swamp was an edge-of-civilization farmhouse where they got cleaned up, replenished their supplies had a hot meal and went on their way. They camped out in the countryside the first night and found an inn on the second night. On the third night they arrived in Belrane.

In Belrane the met with Jarl Wellus, who's a non-nonsense leader of a port town which is the bread basket of Prolia. Wellus is a traditional Jarl, with a stone keep, patterned after a Prolian longhouse, which they had a small feast telling about their trip through the swamp. The party did not mention the book of lost kings that they found but did describe the sunken, undead infested city of Jarlsberg and the dangerous creatures of the swamp. They stayed the night, and had their first chance to get a good read of the book.

Then the party traveled to Shinar, staying at inns along the way. The road between Belrane and Shinar is well-traveled and fairly safe this time of year. No encounters.

By the time they reached Shinar the party had gotten all the relevant information from the book, made their history checks, which fell slightly short. They sought the knowledge of a Skald in Shinar, Drinl Scot, who was able to augment their history knowledge to pull the last few scraps of information about Fendreaus and Krolak-Nol.

Also, in searching around for information of a Skald, they ran across the information about the Dragons between Beryl and Derros, and the current situation with the Dwarves. They finally decided to back Jarl Jorgen in their quest and think they have an edge in being the first to find the crown.

Jorgen also invited the adventurers to a feast and put them up for the night. He's much more mercantile and less traditional than Wellus, by contrast. his demense is a Palace.

One particular conversation they had with Jorgen in trying to sound him out convinced the PC's to back him was his talk about uniting the Towns and how he'd mediate disputes and make the country prosperous. I'm not sure if anyone noticed that he specifically never boasted about his ability to lead the country in times of war. Jorgen is a great merchant-king, a good diplomat and has good relations with all the Jarls... but he does not have any experience in battle.

The next day the party started north again. This time in search of Krolak-Nol.

In Derros,they met the Minstrel who regaled them with tales and information about the two Dragons.

They traveled the rest of the way to Prauld without incident, where they decided to ask the watch if they'd heard of Krolak-Nol. The tower guards had not, since they only ever scout half a day's travel into the forest.

The PC's then entered the forest to see if they could find the tower themselves. One day's travel into the forest they met the Hobgoblins and managed to avoid hostilities, although it was a near thing. After some discussion and a hefty tax paid to the squad captain, who knew the location of Krolak-Nol, they arranged an escort through hobgoblin lands and got some directions to take them the rest of the way.

After finding the tower, the party decided to descend into the crevasse and fought the skeleton encounter and the magma-men/imp encounter, having some difficulty with the fumes in the area, but pulling through.

And that was the end of session 4.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Development of Caramnon

The PC's will be around level 3 if they encounter Caramnon at Krolak-Nol. I'd like to design this Infernal as a fairly difficult solo encounter, possibly level 4 or 5.

If we look at the monster manual however, it's plainly obvious that there are not many low level solo monsters to choose from, however we should be able to adjust an existing monster for our purposes.

A Young Green Dragon is a level 4 skirmisher. And it seems about right for a poison-based demon. The good news is that it already falls within my intended level range for this encounter. the bad news is it still needs a lot of work to make it feel like something other than a dragon encounter.

Or does it? I might in fact be able to get away with purely cosmetic changes. For example, the poison breath weapon attack and frightful presence could probably stay as is. Infernals are scary, and maybe breathe poison. The bite attack could stay. The claw attack could be kept mechanically the same with the description changed to a "tentacle attack". It would work.

But since I have the time, I think I'd like to change the mechanics of the powers a bit more.

To start, what shall I keep?
  • The defenses are fine
  • Hit points and ability scores are fine
  • Saving throws
  • Skills
  • Perception
What base stats shall I modify?
  • I think I'll change the resist poison to immune poison, resist fire 10, vulnerable cold 5. This tower is a fiery place, and I think most fire resistant creatures should be vulnerable to cold. (Besides the Minotaur has a frosty greataxe now, need to make it useful.)
  • The flight can go and its speed can be reduced to 6.
  • The attack powers need a one-by one overhaul
Dragons have Bite and Claw as basic attacks. These need to be replaced by tentacle-y powers.
  • Bite can be replaced by a Slam attack from a tentacle. The bite from a green dragon has a poison effect, so this fit's quite nicely.
  • To replace bite, I'd like to add a Grab as a basic attack. I'm not sure how far I'm pushing the rules here, but specific overrides general so this puppy can grab people with a basic attack.
Next up are Tail-sweep and Luring Glare, which don't seem like tentacle demon should have, but are actually pretty convertible.
  • Tail sweep allows an attack on an enemy that hasn't moved during the last round it does some damage and knocks em prone. Sounds good, we'll replace the knock down with another grab affect.
  • Luring Glare allows the Dragon to slide people around in combat as a minor action. Let's call it Grasping Tentacles and make it a single target in close burst 4.
Flyby Attack, is sort of central to the Green's dragons role as a Skirmisher so we'll need to replace it with a similar movement/shift ability.
  • Caramnon doesn't fly, but he has tentacles! How about tentacle powered shifty movement? Say, "Tentacular Perambulation" which allows Caramnon to shift 6 and make an attack at any point along the way.
And lastly the breath weapon powers. I'm going to keep these with some small changes.
  • Slightly modify the breath weapon to be burst 2 instead of a blast 5. Same area, centered on Caramnon.
  • Keep bloodied breath as is.
And lastly Frightful Presence and Double attack, scratch em off. Caramnon isn't magically frightening, he's just disgusting and poisonous. And the "make two claw attacks isn't that interesting". However, I'd like to spruce up the grab ability. What I really want is for Caramnon to be able to grab multiple targets with his tentacles, so I shall do the following:
  • Caramnon's sustain action for the Grab is free action.
  • When Caramnon moves, his tentacles can maintain the grab as long as Caramnon is within 2 squares.
  • Such elongated tentacles may be attacked, at the usual defense values. If 12 points of damage is done to a tentacle it releases the target. Half the damage also applies to Caramnon's HP total.
  • Caramnon has reach with his basic tentacle attacks and threatening reach with his Tentacle Grab attack.
So a stat block for Caramnon:

Caramnon the Many Tentacled, Level 5 Solo Skirmisher
Medium immortal humanoid (infernal) XP 1,000
Initiative +7, Senses: Perception +10, darkvision
HP 260, Bloodied 130, see bloodied breath
AC 21, Fort 17, Ref 19, Will 17
Immune to Poison, Resist 10 fire, Vulnerable 5 cold
Saves +5
Spd 6, see Tentacular Perambulation
Action Points 2
[Basic Melee] Tentacle Slam (standard, at-will) * Poison
Reach 2, +10 vs. AC, 1d8+5 damage, ongoing 5 poison damage (save ends).
[Basic Melee] Tentacle Grab (standard, at-will)
Reach 2, +8 vs. Reflex, Target becomes Grabbed
[Melee Recharge] Tentacular Perambulation (standard recharge 5-6 )
Caramnon shifts up to 6 squares and makes a basic attack at any point during the shift.
[Melee] Tentacle Sweep (immediate reaction, if an adjacent enemy does not move on its turn, at-will)
+8 vs. Reflex, 1d8+5 damage, and the target is Grabbed.
[Close Burst] Grasping Tentacles (minor 1/round, at-will) * Melee
Close Burst 4, one target in burst +8 vs. Fortitude, the target slides 2 squares.
[Close Burst Recharge] Breath Weapon (standard, recharge 5-6 ) * Poison
Close burst 2, +8 vs. Fortitude, 1d10+3 poison damage, and the target takes ongoing 5 poison damage and is slowed (save ends both). Aftereffect: The target is slowed (save ends).
[Close Burst] Bloodied Breath (free, when first bloodied, encounter) * Poison
Caramnon's breath weapon recharges, and he uses it immediately.
[Power] Infernal Grab
Caramnon's Tentacular Grab ability has reach 2 and threatening reach. Maintaining the Grab is a free action and the Grab may be maintained as long as Caramnon stays within 2 squares of the grabbed target. Tentacles holding grabbed foes that are not adjacent, may be attacked. Doing 12 damage to the tentacle frees the grabbed target, but does only half damage to Caramnon.
Languages: Supernal
Skills: Bluff +15, Diplomacy +10, Insight +15, Intimidate +10
Str 15 (+4) Dex 20 (+7) Wis 16 (+5) Con 17 (+5) Int 15 (+4) Cha 17 (+5)

I've also thrown in some campaign related modifications such as removal of Alignment and no Common in the Infernal's languages.


Initially, Caramnon attempts to move in close and use its breath weapon on as many enemies as it can. If it's enemies are scattered, it uses its Grasping Tentacles and Tentacle Grab to get them in range.

After breathing it then uses it's Grasping Tentacles, Tentacle Grab to keep it's enemies at bay, while focusing it's Tentacle Slams on those it can't control, shifting away with Tentacular Perambulation when the opportunity presents itself.

I'm afraid this guy may be a tad annoying to deal with. Maybe I should play-test him?

Complications: The Republic and the Iron Crown

What evil republic plot could this be? The fact is, that the Republic is interested in helping Prolia for their own reasons. The ever expanding Empire of Rhodes is the root of the Republic's problems, and while the Republic wishes to turn Prolia into a thorn in the side of the Empire, their ultimate goal is not altruistic.

In particular, the Republic is not entirely unified in it's actions in Prolia.

Lord Ambassador Carl Marshane the Duke of Whitehouse is the official representative of the Republican Crown in Prolia. His mandate is to provide diplomatic, military and strategic assistance to Prolia and to aid in the reconstruction of the nation as an ally of the Republic against Rhodes. It's a tall order, but Whitehouse is following the letter of his instructions and he believes in them. He's a "good guy" even if he is a little bit naive.

Unfortunately for Prolia, not all Republicans wish to see Prolia as a strong nation. These "other interests" fear the possibility of the alliance breaking down and wish to leave Prolia in a relatively disorganized state without strong leadership. In that state, Prolia can more easily be manipulated by the Republic.

Secretary Gerard Jenkins, who is an aide of Whitehouse, a commoner and a secretly is a member of the Republic's "Special Diplomatic Corps". He is in fact a highly skilled assassin and the Republic's representative for some of these "other interests". Jarl Jorgen believes that Jenkins was responsible for the death of the Jarl's son, Giordi. The Whitehouse has no idea of his aide's other activities.

Jenkins may arrange for several attacks on the party if they return to Prolia with the crown. Jenkins does have access to rituals of divination and is certainly interested in any news of the crown's appearance. He will eventually realize that the crown has been discovered and where it may be found. If he does arrange an attack, he will attempt to obscure his involvement in the attacks. Jarl Hastel's brother Hagel, may be easily influenced into attacking the PC's for the crown. Either on his brother's behalf or even to displace his brother and move to take the crown for himself.

Jenkins certainly doesn't want the crown to be found and should the attack by Hagel succeed, Jenkins will likely kill his patsy and make sure the crown does not resurface. Probably he would ensure that it is kept in a safe place until a suitably controllable King of Prolia could be found.

There are several ways these encounters can play out:
  1. The PC's could be defeated in battle
  2. The PC's may succeed in fending off the attacks
  3. The PC's may partially succeed in fending off the attacks but lose the crown
I'd be loathe to put the PC's up against a force that will guarantee their defeat and risk a party wipe. It's hard to lose without dying. So, I shall carefully craft the encounters and hopefully option 2 or 3 will happen. I'm rooting for 3, but we will see how it plays out.

Any of these possibilities may lead to the PC's doing the following
  • losing the crown and questing retrieve it
  • even if they find the crown they may deliver the crown to Yutsen's hands, be convinced to deliver it to a different Jarl, sell it, or even keep it for themselves.
  • investigate the attack of Hagel.
Or maybe they'll do something completely different. Hopefully, in the next few sessions, I'll get some advance warning of how they plan to deal with events as they arrive.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Planning for Book 2

The quest to retrieve the Iron Crown of the Prolian Kings is an introductory campaign for the characters, and it's nearing completion.

Events in Prolia and the actions of the party shall determine their future adventures.

Here are some notes about current and upcoming plot hooks:
  • The arrival of the two dragons in Prolia may lead to an adventure. The dragons are interested in Prolian politics and the rise of what may be a strong nation.
  • Nobody knows what's up with the Giants of Estvald.
  • The lost party of adventurers who went into the mountains to investigate the Giants last fall and have not returned, are possibly worth investigation.
  • Solanthus the leader of the Hobgoblins may lead to future adventures.
  • Lastly, the Republic envoy may have an interest in keeping the crown undiscovered!
I have plans for many of these hooks. It's nice to bring them up early so when and if the party ever do track down these hooks to their logical completion, they'll see the long arc of planning that must have gone into the story. This is entirely illusion. I have some vague notions about where some of these plot hooks may lead, but at this point I believe it's unlikely for the PC's to follow up on any of them; they're busy being Prolian heroes of legend, returning lost artifacts and rebuilding their nation. So, for the most part these are not detailed, just vague ideas for what might be cool adventures. I plan to keep throwing adventure hooks at the party, some of which may lead to the same place as the others, and other that may open the possibility of moving to new challenges and possibly changes of scenery.

Now that last hook, the Republic envoy's interest in the Crown will result in some amount of complication on the current story arc but the others are really fairly disconnected, at least at this point. I shall elaborate on the Republic's involvement (meddling) in the quest for the Iron Crown in a future post.

Why I must push myself to say "Yes!"

Saying "yes" to your players can be hard. What I mean by "saying yes" is to allow players to do what they want.

My players currently have a party with a Minotaur in it. A Minotaur! A creature of legend!

My gut reaction to having a Minotaur walking around in my adventure is that it doesn't really belong. I do plan some city-based adventures, and my idea of Prolia is modeled after a weird hybrid of Norse and Celtic coastal society. Traditional, longhouses, Jarls, fishing, and rural. Actually seeing a Minotaur walking through town would certainly be disruptive!

When the player of the Minotaur and I were originally talking bout the races in 4th edition, he was slightly distressed that the half-orc was gone. He's a player that enjoys playing the big, strong and as monstrous as you can get, within the rules. If he plays Shadowrun, he'll be a Troll. In Feng-Shui, probably a "Monster". In Champions, a mutant brick of some sort. It's just him. It's what he likes.

The question is, whether having a Minotaur around really has to be disruptive. Prolia is certainly not a real world. It's whatever I decide it is. My original vision of Prolia didn't have Minotaurs as an accepted part of town life. Minotaurs are monsters! But is my original vision really all that different, if I change things a bit and say that, Minotaurs don't really distress people that much? What if there were some encouraging stories of a Minotaur hero from ages ago. Maybe Prolians would be afraid, uneasy, and initially distrustful of a Minotaur walking around, but maybe most Prolians do have the ability to accept him once he proves himself as an ally.

The careful planner in me makes me want to say "no" to suggestions that I don't expect. To say "no" to things that are not what I envisioned. To say no, when I'm not sure about something. i don't want players to run amok in my beloved campaign. I want things to proceed as planned. To methodically and orderly proceed through my story and do never surprise me with a curve ball that shakes up my world.

I said, "yes". And with that one word, his eyes lit up like a kid with candy. It's simple; fun is good. The truth is, that this particular player is in love with the idea of playing a Minotaur. I know he's having a blast doing his brutish monster thing, and the end result is that Minotaur hasn't upset my plans.

Now if my player was just pushing for a Str/Con combo fighter and like the ability that minotaurs with large weapons, it may have worked out differently. I'd be willing to give somebody the mechanics of a Minotaur without actually being one if that's what they really wanted. So, you're a big human of dubious parentage, possibly a monster in your genetic background, and you have all the stats and abilities of a Minotaur. It's their character and as long as they are not raining on anyone's parade, and they aren't messing with my plans, they can do *whatever* makes them happy.

So even with a Minotaur PC, everything is just fine in Prolia. My plot is intact. A few new role-playing opportunities have arisen in dealing with the townsfolk, but it's nothing that the party and the towns can't handle.

My instincts to say "no" are dead wrong. I don't really want the things I think I do. I'm game mastering for my players because it's the players that give life to my campaign. The unexpected suggestions, the requests that I'm worried about, the danger to my plans are what brings a campaign to life. It's what makes the game interesting to me. If I wanted things to go *exactly* as I planned, I'd be playing alone. I could control *everything*... and there would be no point. No fun. Nothing interesting for me.

I must constantly push myself to allow players to play what they want. When I'm not sure, or when I'm caught by surprise by a suggestion, I shall say "Yes" unless there's a good reason not to. I shall roll with the punches. I shall use the players' ideas to make the game more enjoyable for everyone.

Including me.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Five of my house rules that 4e implemented

I have embraced the 4th edition Dungeons of Dragons rules. In case nobody has noticed, Pathfinder is still around for those that would like to continue in the 3.X/D20 direction, but for me, the 4th Edition is closer to what I've always wanted.

In particular I've been looking at the house rules that I've been using for Alia. And many of them are mirrored with this latest edition of the world's most popular fantasy role playing game.


One thing that has always annoyed me is the implementation of alignment and it's impact on the game.

Alignment has always been an oversimplification of morality and ethics. It's a simple on-paper justification for killing things and taking their stuff.

I've often tried to remove the alignment system from my D&D games but it is, in fact, quite ingrained into the D&D system. There are a rather large selection of spells, abilities and other rules that:
  • Detect alignment (Detect Evil)
  • Protect against alignments (Protection from Evil)
  • Have effects only on an alignment (Dispel Evil, Smite Evil)
  • Magic items with alignment effects: (holy, unholy, axiomatic and anarchic weapons)
  • Monsters that have damage resistance dependent on alignment ( /good /evil /lawful /chaotic)
With some work, the long, long tendrils of the alignment rules can be removed from D&D 3.X. You can see some of my efforts here.

4th edition has really downplayed the alignment rules. They are still present, (in a form that many find distasteful) but those tendrils are not nearly as present as those that were there before.

And that makes me happy. My only house rule so far in relation to alignment is: "Alignment doesn't exist." Don't choose one, and ignore Alignment where it comes up. So far I haven't come across any rules that are particularly tied to alignment.

Death and Damage

The death at -10 hit points rule has always worked well for very low levels. When a PC's total hit points are less than 20 and monsters are hitting for 1d8 damage, those 10 hit points between unconscious and dead are meaningful. At higher level, where PC's have more than a 100 hit points and monsters are hitting with multiple attacks of 2d12+17 those 10 hit points make little difference.

One of my first house rules was to define the point of death based on the total hp. Of course then I went on to construct complex wound recovery rules, that are thankfully not present in 4e.

Magic Item Creation

I've read a few rants about how overpowered the item creation feats were in 3.X, many elaborating on just how powerful a class like the Artificer could be given the time to juice up.

That style of power-gaming isn't really mine. It may be fun to think about and discuss on a forum, but in actual play
it ends up being boring and/or disruptive in my experience.

On the other side, the rules for making such items demand time, money, feat expenditure and experience. Given many cinematic style campaigns don't give players the time and/or access to a magical laboratory when the big bad is about to destroy the world, players are often reluctant to take the requisite feats in fear that they will never see a use.

I have always waived the XP cost item creation. And 4e has too.


I have always allowed for the re-visioning of characters through play. The addition of a new splat book, or a player becoming dissatified with the mechanics of a characters play, but not being dissatisfied with the character itself.

Many times I've had a character express dissatisfaction with their vision of a character, and ask me if they can role up a new one. My usual answer is to say, no need your character can have an *atomic accident* like in Champions, or even be ret-conned in.

For example Thor the human barbarian, has always seen himself as a nature warriorlike woodsman, and a few sessions into the game says he thinks he'd rather be a ranger. If Thor has all along been doing ranger-y things then it really has no impact on the story to re-make the character sheet, maybe switching out a breastplate for hide armor, and redistributing few skill ranks.

Now, the rules in D&D 4 aren't talking about swapping whole classes and rebuilding characters from the ground up as a different one, but they're laying the ground for a flexibility in the rules that allows for modifications of choices that maybe once made don't feel right.

Swap a feat or power when you level. That's a start. It's not like I'm expecting rules for redoing characters. There's a section on character creation. Do it again!

Ritual Magic

It's not like 4e was the first to introduce ritual magic rules, but I've always liked to separate the god-like power at hand magic wielded by Wizards and Clerics, from the idea of the long, complicated potentially multi-participant magic that ritual magic can be.

Skill based, cross-class trainable, slow casting, non-combat ritual magic doesn't have to be the sole domain of spell casting classes. Having "Commoners" perform some ritual magic certainly fits many game settings. And I like it.

4e's ritual magic feats and the ability for anyone to pick up the relevent class skills is certainly not game unbalancing and gives many characters access to useful abilities.

It's also an area that can easily accomodate campiagn specific flavour, and can serve as plot points or even campaign objectives in a campiagn.

Hmm. Maybe I should add some of that. Skulking peasants... ritual magic... maybe some infernal influence? We'll see.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


Part 2 of The Heroes of Prolia, OY 603, May


The heroes return to Shinar with the book The Last King of Prolia written by Eodwyn the Skald. The book is a journal of the Skald recording his researches into King Arnesson. The following facts may be gained from reading the book:
  • Arnesson had the iron crown and ruled from 452 OY to 469 OY
  • During his time, the major threat to the country was invasions of goblins and hobgoblins from the north
  • The tower lookouts along the norther forest border fell during this time period.
  • The last records of his life detail preparations for leading a force of Prolian Knights against a goblin fortress, called Krolak-Nol which seemed to be the locus of where the hobgoblins were attacking from.

History checks can further enhance the reader's knowledge of the time-frame of the events.
  • DC 10 - The Prolian conflict with the goblins was ended around 470 OY
  • DC 15 - The "goblin fortress" Krolak-Nol was a fortress inhabited by a powerful being named Fendreus who had organized the goblin raids.
  • DC 20 - Fendreus was a the name of a Knight of Rhodewho was banished from the Empire in 402 OY.

Gather Information checks can enhance the PC's knowledge of current happenings in the northern forest.
  • DC 5 - The past year has seen the re-organization of the goblin and hobgoblin tribes.
  • DC 10 - In last summer's raid on Prauld, the hobgoblins of the northern forest have been more disciplined and united than usual.
  • DC 15 - Goblin raids on the northern part of Prolia have been severely reduced.
  • DC 20 - Hobgoblins seen at the raid in Prauld all had a red tabard with a white wing.

And also unrelated Gather Information
  • DC 5 - Last fall a large black dragon and a silver dragon have been seen several times between Beryl and Derros, they have apparently settled there.
  • DC 10 - The expected battles against giants have not happened to the dwarves. The second wave of Dwarven settlers is arriving in Beryl and traveling to Caer Dunwen.
  • DC 15 - Council of Thanes will decide this spring whether to attempt to settle another fortress in the hills or to consolidate their forces around Caer Dunwen or to attempt to find and bring battle to the giants.
  • DC 20 - The party of adventurers that went off into the mountains scouting the giants last fall have not yet returned.

Chapter 1: Travel Through Prolia and the Forest.

There are several possible encounters while traveling. Dole out as interest dictates.

On roads: Human Bandits and Human Rabble

In the wilderness: Kruthik Lair.

In a tavern/inn or possibly on the road. The Minstrel "Jorna Iellos", who has apparently been hired by the Dragons Dreasinoleanus and Oranthidirian to announce their presence and territory. In particular they are not levying taxes on travelers, are not taxing or evicting the few resident farmers in the area, but insist that no new buildings shall be erected, no forest may be cleared other than by residents for hearth fires, nor shall the game be hunted by any but residents for food.

A group of halfling Golanists are making a pilgrimage from Belrane to the Dragon's new fiefdom.

In the forest: A hobgoblin patrol - the patrol is not immediately hostile, will give a chance for the PC's to retreat, but will insist that they do. If the PC's do retreat they will follow them as far as the forest border. If they refuse the hobgoblins will attack, unless decent diplomacy and/or role-play by the PC's dissuade them. Exceptional successes could result on the hobgoblins escorting the PC's to Krolak-Nol.

If asked about their leader, or their tabard, they reverently refer to the great Solanthus their new leader. If asked to describe him they say his glory is to bright to gaze upon. They also say that Solanthus will lead the goblins to victory and greatness, and that he is honorable unlike Fendreus.

Chapter 2: Krolak-Nol.

The fortress of krolak-nol is a very bad place. The hobgoblins of the region have a basic understanding of what happened in the fortress during its time: Hobgoblins consider that time to be a low point of their greatness. Fendreus's twisted the leadership of the hobgoblins to his will and led the entire region to invade Prolia, with great losses. Hobgoblins desire to conquer the south is present, and with a proper leader they would have won but Fendreus's insanity caused him to drive the hobgoblins to fight without proper strategy or tactics, wasting their strength.

A historian among the hobgoblins may further elaborate on some of the details, and the powers of Fendraeus. None are present in the first encounter.

Krolak-Nol is a tower rising out of a deep fault in the earth. The fault is deep and active, with noxious gas rising out of the ground. The fortress is a black iron tower, it's base surround by ash and volcanic rocks and is quite uncomfortable for living creatures. There is a large gothic styled door with a raised pathway at the base of the tower, which leads into a cavern in the side of the fault, there was also a bridge leading from the tower to the edge of the fault at ground level, but that has been destroyed. The tower is 100 feet tall, 40 feet wide, square. The fault is 40 feet deep, and 80 feet wide. There is about 20 feet between the door to the collapsed bridge and the top of the fault.

It is easy to climb down the side of the fault, or it would be were it not for the noxious gas. Anyone entering the fault must make a save each round or be Dazed. If a Dazed character fails the save, the character is stunned. Stunned characters who are climbing, fall.

Except for the pathway from the cavern mouth to the tower, the terrain is rough, and causes d6 fire damage per round.

Encounter 1: The Cavern.

The cavern was once an easier entrance to the tower, but 40 feet in, it has collapsed. The cavern is hand hewn in rough stone, 20 feet high. The ground is littered with skeletons. In addition to the skeletons, covered by a partial rockfall are the remains of a knight clad in black iron scale armor +1. In a belt pouch are 3 poitions of minor healing (10hp for 1 surge).

If a character enters the cave the skeletons aniimate. 3 skeletons and 4 decrepit skeletons.

Encounter 2: First Floor/Chasm Floor

The door to the tower is securely fastened, but is quite rusted, it may be battered, chopped down or blown away with magic. Four rounds of concerted effort will allow a character to pass through the door as rough terrain.

Immediately after the characters destroy the door to the tower, two magma claws, one magma hurler and one imp rise appear and attack. The magma creatures must use a move action in the first round of combat to rise out of the ground, and do not cause surprise.

Fighting these creatures in the chasm is very dangerous due to the Daze/Stun effect of the gasses and the fire damage. The "bridge" across the lava stone is 2 squares wide and 8 squares long.

Two guardian constructs once guarded this room, bits of unmoving golem parts are strewn about the room, littering the floor.

Encounter 3: The second floor (20ft) The Armory.

Armory, several dozen suits or armor are displayed on racks as well as a fine collection of weaponry. The leather and hide armor has long since rotted away, but there are functional, non magical suits of plate, scale and plate armor with only a small amount of corrosion. In the northwest corner, readying an ambush is a rather frightened and angry red dragon juvenile (level adjusted to 3). He considered the tower to be a safe place to live away from Dragon society. He is from a fief miles to the southwest in the mountains of Estvald. He is aware of the Spinagons above, the alchemy lab and the temple.

The dragon speaks Draconic and common and may be calmed down, if not bloodied. Once bloodied the dragon's rage overtakes him and he fights to the death.

Encounter 4: The third floor (40ft) Summoning Circle.

Two Spined Devils (Spinagons) (purple, spined, winged creatures) stand in an active summoning circle (religion and arcana checks allowed). They've been trapped since Fendreus was interrupted while attempting to recruit him for his defense. Two armored bodies lie outside the circle, charred and ruined. The devils will try to trick the party into to letting them out of the circle. They will switch to begging if the party begins to leave. They will agree (and honor) most deals to let them out, including up to one year's service (however it's doubtful how much the PC's will benefit from such service. If released before a bargain is struck, they will attack.

Encounter 5: The fourth floor (60ft) The Study and Alchemy Lab.

The eastern part of this room has a table and a wide book case filled with arcane tomes, most who have been horribly burned to uselessness. The west side has a destroyed alchemy lab. Broken glass-works and potion bottles are everywhere. Scorch marks cover the walls.

Encounter 6: The fifth floor (80ft) Unholy Temple

A large polished obsidian carving of a horned Devil dominates the north side of this room. Two armoured bodies lie in the room as well. One body has been pierced through the chest by a longspear (magic frost +2) and is clutching a large book a purple and black silk cloak still rests about it's shoulders but it is long dead. In the corner of the room, slumped against the wall is an armored skeleton with an iron crown about its neck.

If the book is touched Caramnon servant of Illranikus immediately appears and attacks the party. (Who's Illranikus? Dunno. Maybe he'll be a recurring villain! I like to give named Devils a place in the Infernal heirarchy.)

Caramnon is a unique Infernal, four legs, eyes circling it's many horned head, covered in green and black scaled tentacles tipped with fangs dripping of poison. Caramnon attacks without reason, mercy or fear until dead. I'm planning on creating him by starting out with a solo monster (maybe a green dragon) and replacing each of it's powers for something of similar power level that is poison-y or tentacle-y and then level it adjusting it for the party, I'm thinking maybe threatening reach, and/or a "burst of tentacles" attack, with some ongoing poison damage thrown in. A fully fledged stat block will be forthoming.

And with that I've caught up with my backlog. Future updates won't be quite so frequent. I'm hoping to write at least two per week.