Fantasy


leaving old owl well

Leaving Old Owl Well towards Conyberry

When last we saw our characters they had pacified the lands east of the Triboar trail, and were ready to begin seeking their main goal, Cragmaw Castle. To do this though they needed to find the castle, which was lost somewhere in the Neverwinter Wood, and before they could do that they needed to rest and restock. So, they headed over the hills north of Old Owl Well for the town of Conyberry, where they had been asked to ask a question of a banshee, and where they thought to take some time to recuperate and perhaps have a hot bath. To their consternation, however, Conyberry was a partial ruin, a town long-ago laid waste by barbarians and now only beginning to recuperate. Aside from a mercenary brigade with grandiose titles, a merchant, an inn and a few trapper’s homes the town was a mess of ruined buildings and crumbling walls, not quite the respite they had hoped for and definitely no place to discharge their ill-gotten gains.

They settled in the inn, which to their surprise was a comfortable and welcoming place, and eventually made contact with a wizard who needed to be escorted to the tin town of Caernarvvn, in the mountains to the east of Conyberry. He offered to pay them a Find Familiar scroll in exchange for their support and they agreed, so the next day they set off east, traveling into the sword mountains for three days accompanied by the constant chatter of Raymond d’Cantrus and Verwell the Vertiginous in deep argument.

dawn caernarvvn

Dawn at Caernarrvn

Caernarvvn proved to be an excellent resting place. After three days of uneventful travel they reached the new gateway to the eastern planes, the tin city of Caernarrvn. A collection of narrow and crowded buildings clambering over the steep sides of one of the valleys of the sword mountains, the city looked out over a deep ravine that fell away to a spectacular view of the eastern planes and the distant High Forest. Caernarvvn was a mixed city of dwarves and humans, much of it built underground or in winding alleys and cramped tenements perched precariously on the side of crevasses splitting the ancient mountains, and it was a joy for the PCs to explore the small towns, craftman’s shops, and mixed dwarven/human establishments of this frontier town. Down the steep-sided ravine and along the rushing river lay the larger town of Triboar, fat and settled in its position on the lowlands and the High Road; but here was the first frontier town on a new road from the plains to Neverwinter, the only civilized pathway through the Sword Mountains, and it reveled in both its uniqueness and its newfound riches. For a week the PCs stayed here, while Raymond d’Cantrus learned the Find Familiar spell they had been gifted and taught the same to Mouse. While they dallied in meaningless scholarship Mostly Smithson prowled the alleys of the town, seeking out weaponsmiths and artists (Tyge stood on the hillsides, staring at the sun); eventually he found a Dwarven tattoo artist, a famous flesh-etcher by the name of Grim Gariful. He attempted to convince Gariful to fashion a tattoo with an ink made from the eye of the Nothic they had killed, and to carve it into Tyge’s skin. The dwarf baulked at fashioning an ink out of the vitreous fluids of a dead monster’s eye, but was willing to consider it for his art; but he refused point blank to sully his needles on the skin of “one of those stinking fascist upstarts”. So it was that Mostly returned to their quarters dejected; they would need to find a better, less bigoted tattoo artist in Neverwinter next time they visited.

They returned to Conyberry, now accompanied by an owl called Nimh and a spider called Fuck Where Is It Now!? But before they left the wizard granted them one more payment for their escort: he told them the location of Cragmaw Castle. At Conyberry they prepared their assault on the castle.

agatha

Before they did though they had one more task to perform. The morning after their return to the ruined town they ventured out northwest into the forest, until they came to a small hovel enfolded in branches, the location of the Banshee Agatha. They pushed aside the thick hides covering the door and into a small, dusty living space, obviously long since abandoned. After a moment a chill filled the air and on the far side of the room, over an old book, the air began to coalesce into the ghostly form of an old, haggard-looking woman.: Agatha the banshee. They had come here to ask her a favour and offer her a gift, and she had come to collect.

The gift they offered was a small silver comb, and in exchange Agatha told them the story of an ancient spellbook, which they had been asked to investigate by Sister Garaele in Phandalin. When Agatha reached out to the comb from Mouse he could feel a terrifying paralysis stretching down his spine and along the base of his skull, but somehow he emerged unscathed and with only a few more grey hairs. After she was done Agatha asked him to drop it in a chest, which contained a viper and a huge haul of silver that he was too scared to even try and steal; hundreds of years of offerings to the banshee lay there unclaimed. Mouse opted not to take any, and the rest of the party chose not to offer any other sacrifices to Agatha in exchange for answers to more questions; instead they withdrew, and as Tyge, last out of the door, withdrew into the sunlight, she saw a strangely wistful look on the ghost’s face as she faded away into her strange undead silence.

cragmaw

From now they were ready to approach Cragmaw castle. They headed south along the Triboar trail, and after a night on the trail headed west into the forest. Tyge and Mostly Smithson helped them find a base of operations, which they built as a treehouse in an old abandoned giant spider nest perhaps an hour’s walk northeast of the castle. As they did this Mouse and Raymond d’Cantrus approached the castle, staying in the cover of the forest and using their familiars to explore the outskirts of the castle. They confirmed it was infested with goblins and other goblinoids but could not establish numbers or power. The group gathered to the southwest of the castle and decided to wait and watch.

As they waited and watched they remembered Yeermik, the goblin chef they had spared at Cragmaw Hideout. He would be inside the castle, toiling away over the stove, and perhaps at some point would emerge from the castle to search for herbs. They settled down to wait.

Sure enough, after several hours as the sun began to set he emerged from the castle, accompanied by two goblin guards, on some kind of food gathering mission. They laid a trap, and after a short battle during which Mostly Smithson was attacked by bees they subdued the guards and reacquainted themselves with Yeermik. He was indeed now the assistant cook at Cragmaw Castle, and had been sent out to collect crickets for dinner by his abusive boss Yegg, even though everyone knows that at this time of year Mantises are best, since they’re fat and mature and you can extract the parasites and eat them fresh and wriggling! Yeermik was obviously very angry at his gang master, and happily offered to help the PCs to lure Yegg and his gangmates out of the castle and kill them. Then Yeermik would be head chef!

Without mentioning to Yeermik the delicate fact that they aimed to kill everyone in the castle, so that he would be the head chef of a gang of 1, they hatched a plan. Mouse would disguise himself as Yeermik and slip into the castle, presenting himself to Yegg and telling him that the two goblin guards who had accompanied him out of the castle had caught a delicious beast and were holding it down, but they needed the rest of the gang to come and help with the kill. Mouse would lead them back along the path to a pit trap, and after they fell into it the PCs would slaughter them with all the honour they deserved. Yeermik instructed Mouse that the most appetizing beast to hold down was a Veermek, and after they had prepared the trap Mouse ran off to the castle. Behind him Yeermik and the rest of the group slipped into the shadows – but nobody thought to tie Yeermik up, and he slipped away once they were hidden.

Mouse entered through a locked gate in the southern wall, using a key given to him by Yeermik. The kitchen was the first door on the left after the gate, and he soon entered into a scene of ruddy warmth, stinking goblin cooking smells, yelling and cowering. Putting on his best impression of Yeermik, Mouse spilled the story about the Veermek. Unfortunately Yegg had questions: was it a striped or spotted Veermek? And were the guards holding it by its wings or its horns or its antennae? Having not thought to ask what a Veermek was, Mouse was forced to guess the answer – and got it wrong! Yegg declared him an impostor, and he and his four guards charged. Mouse fled, but as he left the room running to that southern entrance he realized the entrance was closed, not ajar as he had left it! He managed to get the key in the lock and push himself out the door just in time, and opted to run slowly and tantalizingly close enough to lure Yegg and his guards to the trap.

Glass cannon

This worked beautifully, and Yegg and two of his guards fell into the trap while two more came to a teetering halt just on the edge of the pit. The slaughter that followed was quick and brutal, but the PCs had forgotten that Yeermik was gone, and by the time they had dispatched the last goblin they faced a new challenge: a huge wolf, a drow, an enormous Bugbear and a squad of Hobgoblins came charging down the path to attack them. Hopping along behind the bugbear was Yeermik, yelling “Kill!! Krush krush!! Grol smash!!” He had told King Grol about them, and King Grol had brought all his bodyguards out to kill them!

The battle would have been long and brutal but for the fast action of Tyge. She charged forward, Helmsmasher out, calling wrathful smite down on her sword, and struck King Grol a vicious blow to the heart, channeling the divine wrath of her god as she did so. With a single blow she struck Grol dead in his tracks, before he could even swing his morning star[1]. Moments later Mostly Smithson struck down Grol’s wolf in a fury of lightning and steel, and from hiding Mouse shot the Drow with a crossbow bolt. Shocked and dismayed, she turned and ran, but within moments was pulled down by a sleep spell cast by d’Cantrus – a sleep spell that somehow worked even though Drow are supposed to be immune to sleep! Energized by the extreme power of his magic, d’Cantrus declared himself superior to all that had come before, and stepped forward to cast another spell on the remaining Hobgoblin archers. Before they could flee they were all dead and Yeermik captured. The entire leadership of Cragmaw castle, slain in seconds.

They turned their gaze to Yeermik, who whimpered and cried as they dragged him and the sleeping Drow and tossed them into the pit with the dead goblins. It was time to have a forceful conversation with their treacherous little goblin …


fn1: A critical hit with wrathful smite and divine wrath, with a magic weapon, so 4d6+4 for the sword +2d6 for wrathful smite +4d8 for divine wrath, yielding 46 hp damage. Pretty good for a 3rd level character! And unfortunate for Grol, who had 45 hit points …

ある夜、ある海

ある夜、3隻の船がカシマネ島へ行った。数時間離れたが同じ船団だった。

  • 「怪しい目撃者」:船団の重要船、乗客が乗っている船
  • 「突然の道徳的クライシス」:数時間後ろに追って、宝物や金を持っていた
  • 「倫理的な分離」:船団の尾、小麦を持っていた

波を突く「怪しい目撃者」に乗る乗客の中、4人のPCがいた:

  • 烏龍:銀龍血派のエルフソーサラー。昔々、銀龍がカシマネ島にいたから、龍の骨を探しに行った
  • フノートラップ:ドワーフ光領域のクレリック。ある夜、「光」領域の仲間が輝いていた流れ星を見て、落ちた場所はカシマネ島だと推測したからフノートラップハ流れ星の欠片を探しに行った
  • トバル:ハーフエルフパラディン。トバルのパラディン軍のリーダーは夢を見て、カシマネ島で古代の悪が起きると分かった。トバルはその悪を調べに行った
  • ブッキ:ハーフリング戦領域のクレリック。自分の親戚がカシマネ島に住んでいるから、警鐘をもらいに行った

全員、お互いまだ知らない。全員、レベル3だ。

この世の3つの月が重い雲の裏に隠されて、海が真っ暗だった。嵐の影響で海が不安定だから乗客の全員が甲板で時間を過ごしていた。一週間の旅の最後の夜で、明日到着期待していた。甲板でゆっくりしながら、船員の活動を見ていて、キャラクター全員は船長は心配していたことに気がついた。心配している顔を見せながら、船員に激しい声で指示をしていた。

キャラクターが心配の理由を聞く前に、数人の船員が急に仕事を止めて、静かになってゾンビーみたいに船の側までに歩いていた。人りが側に着いたら直接飛んで、海に潜った。キャルクター達が船の前まで走りに行って、キレイな曲を聞いた。ハーピー!3人が曲の魔法を抵抗したがトバルが曲の影響で船の側を向かった。そして、ハーピーが戦った!

船員がパニックをしたがキャラクター達が怯えずに反撃した。呪文と武器で戦って、ハーピーの一匹をすぐ倒したが、残り一匹が逃げられた。戦闘の後の状態を調べたら、船員の5人くらいが亡くなって、どうかブッキが失敗してクロスボウで船長のお尻に大怪我しちゃった。船員の数が足りないため、船のコントロールが難しくなった上、船長によるとこの区域の灯台は消えちゃったそうから海湾の状態がわからなかった。強風が吹いて、船が容赦なくビーチまで押された。数時間たつと「怪しい目撃者」が座礁し、壊した。キャラクター達が生存したが船が消失しちゃった。

キャラクター達がビーチで休憩したときに船長が現れて、お願いした。灯台の光を再火しないと後追う「突然の道徳的クライシス」もここでもがき進んで、宝物が失われるから、キャラクターが崖を登って灯台をさ再火して欲しいと願った。船長は自分でしたかったがトバルのせいでお尻の大怪我されちゃったから無理そうで、代わりにキャラクター達がしてほしいということを表した。

威圧を使用して、再火の代わりに「突然の道徳的クライシス」が持っている宝物の中から1個の魔法アイテムを貰ったらするという交渉をした。その約束を確保して、崖を登り始めた。

針ネズミの仲間?

崖の上に着いたら灯台が見えた。林を通ったらすぐ着く状態だったから進んだ。灯台の門が鍵しめたからフノートラップがピッキングをしようとしたが無理だった。全員が一緒に筋力を使ってドアを押して開けたが大きい音が聞かれて、林から変なものが現れた。「ニードルブライト」という植物系のクリーチャー五匹が戦った。戦闘がすぐ終わったが、また怪我されて全員が少し疲れた。

再火!

灯台の1階に入って、小さい部屋を調べた。誰もいなかったから階段を登って光所まで進んだ。光所も鍵しめて、ここもフノートラップがピッキングしないといけなかった。しに行ったら、あのキレイな曲をまた聞こえて、ハーピーの魔法に掛かられた!光所の後ろまで向けて、ハーピーの豪食になる!

その状態でブッキが「小奇跡」を唱えて、大きい拍手の音が響き、フノートラップにかかった魔法を邪魔してフノートラップが起きた。その瞬間に2匹の起こっているハーピーが光所の上を飛んで戦ったが、フノートラップが神性伝導を呼び出して、光所の真ん中に「曙光」を唱えた。輝く瞬間に量匹のハーピーが大怪我を受け、全員に戦われたら一匹がすぐ死んだ。残りの一匹が逃げちゃったがトバルの上手なジャヴリンで死んで海まで落ちた。

そういうことで灯台が安全になって再火されたが一体、なぜハーピーがここにいたし、なぜ灯台の面倒員がいなかったのか?全員が階段に下がって、調べに行った。。。

Our heroes have captured a goblin, Droop, who was some kind of dogsbody in a room full of Bugbears. Having killed the bugbears and slaughtered a large number of the redbrands at the tavern where they gather, our heroes were fairly sure that there was little left to kill down here in the dark, but just in case they gave this goblin a stern interrogation, and he immediately spilled all the beans. Glasstaff lived in a room north of this room, which should be protected by guards but the four off-duty guards had gone to the tavern to watch the town, and the men they were replacing hadn’t returned yet – probably carousing with the others, Droop surmised, and the PCs did not bother correcting his error. They let him go, and picked their way northward. First they passed through an empty guard room, where the guards they had slain at the inn would have returned had they been able. From there they crept across a narrow corridor into a wizard’s workroom, a typical assortment of rough-hewn furniture, badly pickled animal parts and pungent herbs. They set about carefully searching the room but stopped after Mouse heard a noise in the next room. They burst through a door into an empty bedroom, just in time to see a secret door swinging closed in one corner. With reckless disregard for his own safety Mouse leapt through the door, and was hit by a fusillade of magic darts from the far end of the corridor. The wizard was trying to flee! They chased him and cut him down in a small store room, his life’s blood ebbing away amongst a pile of cooking implements. They searched his body and found his glass staff and some notes to the Black Spider, which confirmed their suspicion that the redbrands had been working for whichever foul creature lived in the mysterious Cragmaw Castle. For now they left his body and moved on.

Droop had told them about the last few rooms in the complex, where a group of skeletons lay waiting for passing adventurers, but would let through anyone who wore red cloaks. They walked through this room to a door on its east side, where they knew the remaining guards stood watch over some kidnapped villagers. Their plan was simple. Mouse placed an illusion on himself to look like Glasstaff, through open the door and demanded that the three of them follow him to deal with intruders. The guards fell for his deception and walked out with him. When they entered the room Mostly Smithson slammed the door shut and d’Cantrus used his prestidigitation spell to make the guards’ cloaks fall off. They stood back and watched as the skeletons attacked the unready redbrands, beating down the last one after he managed to slay the last skeleton for them. It was harsh, but they had triumphed at both adventuring and irony.

They freed the prisoners and dragged Glasstaff’s body into town. Here Sildar Hallwinter told them, in shocked disgust, that Glasstaff was actually Iarno Albrek, the wizard he had been sent to Phandalin to find. The townmaster signed over the rights to the old ruined manor, and they repaired to the tavern for a much-needed bath. Over the next few days they caroused with the locals, toasted their newfound freedom, muttered ominous warnings about taxation, and picked up tidbits of information about possible adventures they could undertake once they became bored of the adulation.

Although d’Cantrus could have run for months on the vague plaudits of a couple of drunk old men the rest of the party grew bored after a few days, and they headed North. They had picked up two adventures and one treasure mission:

  • The townmaster had heard tell of Orcs in Wyvern Tor, and wanted the PCs to hunt them down and kill them
  • The local elven priestess, Sister Gaerele, wanted the PCs to find a banshee called Agatha and ask her a question about a spellbook
  • Mirna Dendrar, one of the captives they freed, told them of an ancient heirloom in a ruined town called Thundertree, which they were welcome to keep as their own if they were willing to risk the journey there to take it.

They decided first to kill the Orcs in Wyvern Tor, and then consider the banshee. They left the next day.

On the road to the Triboar trail they were attacked by an Owlbear, which they made short work of. Mostly Smithson and Tyge Trip spent some hours plucking out its feathers, which can be used to produce +1 arrows, and Mouser prepared a couple as they worked. The rest of the feathers they stored for future use when they met a fletcher.

He speaks three languages!

Wyvern Tor

They traveled north on the Triboar trail for two days, until they reached a point where a large valley opened to their east. This valley would lead them to Wyvern Tor. Here the weather was grim and grey, with chill sheets of fine rain drifting off the mountains and rolling over them towards a broad, shadowed line of forest to the west. That forest did not look inviting, and at night strange sounds came out of it. They did not want to spend another night in the open, with that menacing forest on their western flank, but fortunately ahead they saw the ruins of an old inn. As they approached they were confronted by mercenaries, but after assuring them they were no threat they were welcomed into a small compound where a wagon train had taken refuge. Here they found a fletcher who made them a few more arrows, and the mercenaries told them of rumours of evil happenings at Old Owl Well, an old well and ruined town on the northern side of the valley from Wyvern Tor. They were also given some information about Coneytown, a town a day’s travel to the north where they could maybe base themselves while they searched for Agatha.

The next morning they set out for Wyvern Tor. They entered the valley to the east of the ruined tavern and traveled east for the whole day, stopping for an uneventful but cold and unpleasant night in the lee of a moss-covered outcrop of boulders. The next day they began to search the Tor, a large and sprawling hill that rose above the surrounding hillocks to a commanding height, atop which the fragmented ruins of an ancient tower could just be seen. By midday they had found what they were looking for: over a ridge and in a shallow incline was a large cave mouth, guarded by a single bored-looking Orc.

Bored-looking Orcs are Mouse’s stock-in-trade. While the rest of the party moved away to take up ambush positions in a tree-clogged ravine Mouse threw on a quick goblin disguise and ran out to the cave. The Orc approached him with the typical bullying menace that the green-skinned thugs hold over their weaker cousins, and in a short but brutal conversation Mouse managed to convince it that he and a few of his mates had captured a human treasure, but that his mates had driven him away and now he wanted to join the Orc tribe if they would help him get back his treasure (and share it, of course). This plan appealed to the Orc’s humanitarian instincts – who doesn’t want to help out a weaker cousin in their hour of need – and, grabbing Mouse by his goblin collar, the Orc dragged him into the cave to meet his warboss. Mouse’s heart sank as he was dragged into a large cave, where five filthy Orcs lounged around their savage and nasty-looking warboss, Brughor Axe-biter. Six orcs and a warboss did not disturb Mouse overmuch – but the huge ogre lurking in the shadows behind the warboss’s loathsome sleeping furs did. Ogres are trouble. But it was too late to go back on the plan now, so Mouse put a little more squeak in his voice, and after a convincing display of cowardly bloodlust the entire gang decided to roll out and smash his goblin mates.

Their surprise when they were ambushed by Mouse’s friends was almost comical in its completeness. Sadly the comedy was washed away in a sea of orc blood, and even the Ogre did not last more than a couple of swings of his oversized club before he was brought smashing down, struck so hard in the end by Tyge’s greatsword that his enraged charge was stopped dead, and he was thrown back with the force of the blow. Beside him Brughor, with his last breath, shamed himself and his clan by speaking to Mouse in goblin rather than Orc: “C’est un piège!”

Indeed.

They returned to the Orc cave and searched it thoroughly, uncovering a little treasure and some disgusting Orc food and trash. They found no evidence that the Orcs were connected to Cragmaw castle or the Black Spider. Finally as night settled in they cleaned out the cave as best they could and slept by the Orcs’ dying fire.

The stones find their voice

Secrets of the stones

Before they slept Mouse took them up to the top of Wyvern Tor, to the ruined fragment of tower at the top. He had a feeling that there were secrets buried here, and he had heard the stories of its destruction. Many years ago the Tor had been the home of some dark wizard, who had surrounded himself with wyverns and ruled the area around him with an iron fist. But some obscure texts suggested it was dragons, not wyverns, that roosted here, and the wizard was their slave. Eventually a force of elves and humans had attacked the tower and put down its power at great cost, destroying all but a few shards of the innermost tower and killing the wyverns that defended it. Battles leave treasure, and heroes when they fall sometimes lose their magic items in the blood and mud and shit of the mundane world. Perhaps the stones had a story to tell.

Mouse had recently discovered that stones could talk to him. Perhaps it was too long in d’Cantrus’s lab, stirring strange reagents and sampling new potions; perhaps it was his parents’ legacy – after all he had never known them, so perhaps they were more special than the whispers in the alleys of his childhood had suggested; perhaps it was some wilder power, handed to him by fate or some capricious god. In any case Mouse believed in it, and so at sunset he trudged with his friends up the long, tussocked path to the flat top of the Tor, picking his way through ancient lightning-shattered stones to the broken and crumbling fragments of wall standing in the centre of the open hilltop. To the southwest the sharp, awe-inspiring Icespire peak stood out of the jumbled grey teeth of the sword mountains, glowing pink in the setting sun. Somewhere on its slopes a flash of blue lightning rippled, perhaps a frost giant’s anger or maybe just some strange natural phenomenon of its constantly storm-tossed stone ligaments. To the west and the north, as they watched Mouse approach the shell of the tower, the PCs could see the last red light of sunset fading across a wide vista of forests, plains and river. Tyge even fancied her half-elven sight could pick out the distant line of the sea, luminous in the magic hour, calling to her even from this distance with that strange mystical voice that it reserves only for the fickle souls of elves and their kin. They drank it all in and then turned to watch Mouse as he leaned his face against the chill stones.

Mouse laid his young brow against the stone, and for a moment all he felt was the tug of lichen on skin, and all he could smell was the musty talc of the stone. But then his vision faded, into a maelstrom of war and violence, dark shapes rushing and huge shadows, fire and sudden tugging violence. Vast forces flowed past him, huge shapes surged over the stones, and magic lashed and rippled in the air. He smelled blood, lots of blood, and the acrid smell of damp air in the wake of lightning and storms. Somewhere voices cried in unison and he felt the earth plunge. With the stones he fell down a huge distance into darkness and emptiness, the light closing above him. A flash of purest scarlet, a sudden pure, clear view of the sun rising over high mountains, and the vision was gone. Mouse came to, sweating against the cold stone, the last comforting rays of the setting sun gone and the night’s wind chill upon him. In the aftermath of the vision he knew – knew, with the certainty that only magic can make you feel – that there was a treasure down there. Beneath the Tor there had been a complex of tunnels, and it had been sealed in. Perhaps the denizens of the tunnels were still sealed in there. And somewhere on the east side of the Tor there was a way in.

He retreated from the stones, shaken by the power of his vision, and returned to his friends. Showing uncharacteristic grace and kindness, d’Cantrus wrapped a filthy Orc fur around his shoulders, and Mostly Smithson offered him a sip of the hot rice brew that he carried with him. They picked their way down the hillside, their footsteps lit by deCantrus’s chill magic light, the night slowly closing in around them, and returned to the Orc cave to rest. Somewhere beneath them treasures undisturbed by time lay silently waiting for them.

But what guarded those treasures? For now, they put that task aside, and turned their gaze north…

A flash of red …

Old Owl Well

Old Owl Well was across the valley from the Tor, and took them half a day to travel to. This day was warmer than the last few and bright, so they found themselves easily able to make out the well as they approached. The story of this well was that it was once a small but thriving settlement that provided fresh water and rest to the trappers of the region, but at some point the trapping business declined and the well fell into disrepair, or was destroyed by raiding orcs. Now it was abandoned, but until recently trappers had continued to use it as a place to stop and rest and gather fresh water. Recently, however, something had been making them stay clear of the place. Trappers being a taciturn lot, no one was quite sure what. But now the characters had a chance to find out, so their first action was to turn away from the ruined walls of the well and head up to a hillside to watch the compound.

The well was little more than a square of crumbling walls around a central tower, a squat little thing with its upper levels crumbling. To the north of the tower was the well itself, surrounded now with low bushes and tangled with ivy. Beyond the walls on all sides but the south were rough, scrub-covered hills with steep sides, from which it was easy for spies like our heroes to watch the well. From their vantage point they could see, on the eastern side of the tower, a large red tent, its canopy daubed with black symbols of some kind. Bemused, they sat on the hill for a few hours watching, but nobody emerged and nothing moved. Sensing daylight fading, they decided to return to the well and investigate.

They waited outside the main gates and sent Mouse in. He passed through the gate, moving as stealthily as he could, and first avoiding the tent moved to the broken tower. As he approached he smelled something foul and unusual, a smell he had never experienced before. Disgusted and uncertain, he crept up to the gaping entry of the tower and peered in, only to recoil in shock. A pile of bodies lay in the centre of the old tower, rotting and silent. No wonder he had never experienced the smell before – he had never experienced a charnel house before. Nor, now, would he ever forget. Disgusted, he turned and crept back towards his friends, to warn them that there was murder done here.

Halfway across the open ground to the gateway though something in his senses tingled. He looked around uncomfortably, and there behind him he saw all those dead bodies walking silently towards him, their mouths open in unmistakable blood lust. Shocked, he stumbled, and they were on him. He slipped between the legs of a particularly large and unruly one, and fled to his friends, yelling in terror.

Battle was joined. The PCs formed a line just back from the gate outside the well and prepared to fight 12 – 12! – of the most pitiful zombies the world has ever seen. Mostly Smithson’s divine grace drove 5 of them away but they still had to fight 7. As they fought a red-robed figure appeared at the doorway and threw a spell at one of them, freezing Mostly Smithson in place, but disappeared from view when Mouse fired a crossbow bolt at him and disrupted the spell. Tyge’s greatsword, Helmsmasher, hummed and sang its holy joy, and she hacked great glowing swathes through the undead, sending rotten flesh flying across the hillside. Finally they defeated the zombies, though not after taking some injuries, and pursued the red-robed wizard. He succumbed easily to their combined might, and soon they were able to interrogate him.

Mostly Smithson, with his unique skill and experience in tattoos, was soon able to recognize the man as a Red Wizard of Thay, a necromancer to whit, and with that knowledge all kindness left the crew. They forced him to tell him what he would, and soon discovered he had been raising this army from local villagers and tin miners, to support him while he researched at Owl Well. Satisfied he had nothing useful to tell him, they finally decided to make the world a better place, and Tyge killed him with a single strike of her sword.

They had pacified the lands east of the Triboar trail. Where next? A chill wind drew their attention to the distant Tor, and they thought about their next steps …

I am playing in a GURPS campaign that is a muskets and magic setting, in which our go-to fighter is a rifleman called Bamiyan. I haven’t been recording this campaign here because it has been written elsewhere up until some months ago (though with permission from the GM I may start). GURPS is a complex and fiddly system, with a heavy focus on realism, and one consequence of this is that our rifleman is constantly hampered by the amount of time it takes to reload his stupid muskets. Seriously, the dwarves need to do something about that! So, since we haven’t got a better technology, my wizard Freya Tigrisdottir is going to learn a new school of magic, Battle Magic, which enables her to affect guns and rilfemen. Here is a list of spells for that school.

Aim

Increases the accuracy rating of the weapon on its next shot by up to +5.

Duration: 1 minute (or next shot fired)

Base cost: 1/bonus

Prerequisite: magery 1

 

Perfect mechanism

Increases the affected weapon’s reliability rating to 20. Can be extended to additional weapons at a cost of 1 pt/weapon.

Duration: 1 minute

Base cost: 2, 1 to maintain

Prerequisite: At least 1 point of xp in the affected weapon’s class

 

Magic shot

Renders the next shot by the weapon magical, so that it can penetrate spells like Missile Shield. Also enables the weapon to affect non-corporeal magic targets (such as mages under the affect of Body of Air spells, ghosts, etc). Does not offer any other bonuses. Can be extended to additional weapons at a cost of 1 pt/weapon.

Duration: 1 minute (or next shot fired)

Base cost: 2

Prerequisite: Aim

 

Sniper

Grants a hit and damage bonus on the next shot fired by the subject. Note that the bonus affects the damage as well as the skill of the user. This spell does not render the weapon magical, since it affects the user of the gun, not the gun itself.

Duration: 1 minute (or next shot fired)

Base cost: 2/bonus

Prerequisite: Aim, Magic shot, at least 1 point of xp in the affected weapon’s class

 

Far sight

Enhances the shooter’s eyesight so that the range to the target is effectively less than the actual distance. This reduces the shooter’s penalty and also potentially (if enough points are sunk into the spell) removes the half damage penalty for firing at extreme range, or enables the shooter to fire beyond the usual range of the weapon.

Duration: 1 minute (or next shot fired)

Base cost: 2/range class

Prerequisite: Sniper

 

Fierce powder

Enhances the force at which a gun fires, adding 1d6 of damage to the resulting shot. Cannot be scaled up (it’s only powder, after all). Most effective when cast on pistols.

Duration: 1 minute (or next shot fired)

Base cost: 2

Prerequisite: Magic shot, Perfect mechanism

 

Stability

Renders the shooter’s upper body immune to the vicissitudes of environmental stress such as riding a horse or wagon, standing on a heaving ship, etc. Nullifies any penalties due to this condition and enables the shooter to automatically pass skill checks to maintain focus.

Duration: 1 minute

Base cost: 5

Prerequisite: Magery 2, sniper, far sight

 

Fast reload

Reduces the load time for any weapon to 1 second, provided the subject is holding the necessary components (powder, shot) and the gun. Can be extended to multiple weapons. Note that this still means that reloading will take at least 2 seconds –one second to cast the spell, and one second to load the gun. Note the process by which an officer and his batman can fire rapidly when in conjunction with a wizard: in second one he swaps his unloaded gun for a loaded gun his batman holds; in second two the batman produces the components for the unloaded gun (during which the soldier fires the loaded gun); in second three the wizard casts Fast Reload; in second four the batman loads the gun; then in second five the batman and officer swap the guns again, and so on. Note that this process can apply to two lines of soldiers if the wizard has enough mana to cast the reload spell on all the auxiliary reloaders at once.

Duration: 1 second

Cost: 2/gun

Prerequisites: Perfect mechanism, aim, magery 2, at least 1 xp spent in the gun being affected by the spell

 

Complex form

Enables the caster to combine two or more spells from this school together in a single casting. This is an additional cost on top of the standard cost of each spell, that costs 2 points per spell combined. So for example to cast aim and perfect mechanism in one casting would require 4 points plus the cost of those spells. Note that this form must affect the same subject so it cannot combine spells that affect shooters with spells that affect weapons.

Duration: 1 minute (or next shot fired)

Base cost: 2 per spell combined

Prerequisite: Magery 2, at least 2 other spells from this school.

 

Elemental embrace

Enables the caster to imbue the next shot fired with the damage from an elemental attack spell such as lightning bolt, fire bolt, etc. The caster must successfully cast the elemental attack spell within one minute of this spell, and the shot must also be fired within one minute of this spell, or the effect dissipates. It is wise to cast perfect mechanism when combining with this spell, since fumbles can be quite catastrophic. Note the total time to cast this spell is 1 second plus the number of seconds required to cast the elemental spell. Can be combined with Complex Form.

Duration: 1 minute (or next shot fired)

Base cost: 2 + elemental spell cast

Prerequisite: Magery 2, complex form, aim, fierce powder

 

Artillerist

Enables the caster to direct the rifleman’s shot even if the rifleman cannot see the target. This spell requires that the wizard be able to see the shooter and the target, and that there be some way that the bullet can cleanly travel to the target (i.e. open air all the way). It does not provide the shooter any bonuses, and the shooter cannot aim (since he/she cannot see the target). All it does is allow the shooter to shoot things he/she cannot otherwise see.

Duration: 1 minute

Base cost: 5

Prerequisite: Magery 2, complex form, Aim, sniper

 

Duelist shot

Enables the subject to fire two weapons at once with no penalty.

Duration: 1 minute (until next shot fired)

Base cost: 5

Prerequisite: Aim, sniper, artillerist, stability

Today I read transcripts of Donald Trump’s post-midterms press conference, and I stumbled upon this fascinating quote:

And Barbara Comstock was another I think that she could’ve won that race, but she did not want to have an embrace. For that, I do not blame her. But she lost substantially lost. Peter Roskam did not want the embrace. Erik Paulsen did not want the embrace. And in New Jersey, I think that he could have done well, but did not work out too good. Bob, you can come, I feel badly, that is something that could’ve been one. John Faso. Those are some of the people that decided for their own reason not to embrace, whether it is me or what we stand for, but what we stand for meant a lot to a lot of people.

And I was struck by this language: I’ve seen it before. The embrace is the process by which people are turned into vampires. This is a direct reference to the process of becoming a vampire in the Vampire: The Masquerade role playing game. This is deeply depressing for two reasons: first of all, because it means that there is a vampire in charge of the nuclear codes; and worse still, because it means the pretentious artistes at White Wolf were right all along[1]. Those bastards!

Once you realize that Trump is a vampire from that RPG, it answers a lot of questions. Obviously the orange “fake tan” is actually some kind of special chemical make up that enables him to emerge in sunlight (presumably he learnt the tech from Tony Blair); I guess Trump’s secret solution to the abortion issue is to make everyone undead, so it no longer matters; and now we know why so many Republicans are paedophiles – it’s a vampire thing, paedophilia. It’s disturbing to know that a large proportion of the US congress are vampires, but judging by Trump’s speech a lot of members also refused to accept eternal life and give away their actual souls in exchange for power; but it’s also very disappointing to know that even though they didn’t actually get eternal life, they still gave up their metaphorical souls for temporal power, which makes one wonder why they didn’t just go the whole hog and accept the embrace? These people are going to hell for what they did, why not trade their full soul for eternal life? This kind of half-arsed equivocation is just pathetic, Representative Comstock!

Anyway, we all know these people are arseholes with bad policy ideas, and that they’re also pathetic cowards, so it’s kind of believable that they would baulk at the full embrace but still enact the policies. The real question is: what kind of Vampire is Trump? What clan is he? There are many clans to choose from, but I have narrowed it down to four possibilities.

  • Malkavian: These guys are insane, described as lunatics and jesters, but also visionaries. Some are fanatics, and some have an instinctive ability to pick apart and reassemble minds. Listening to James Comey’s description of his meetings with Trump, you can imagine Trump is doing that. A Malkavian? Possibly…
  • Nosferatu: These guys are deformed, warped by the Embrace, which would explain a lot. They’re hideous, evil beasts driven by their passions, twisted by the Embrace. Unfortunately the definitive text also says they’re more human than other vampires, and Trump shows no human traits, so … maybe not.
  • Ventrue: I think this is most likely, the clan devoted to power and persuasion. The latest text describes two of their archetypes as “cold-blooded corporate director” and “conservative politician”. The Ventrue use their powers to control both the supernatural and mortal world. They blend in with the leading political, media and corporate figures of their age, which would enable a monster like Trump to fit in and find a way to excel …
  • Caitiff: Another possibility, my personal favourite, is that Trump is a caitiff, someone who was embraced and abandoned and doesn’t know their own lineage. Having discovered himself alone and powerful and prey to the clans, he has decided to go loud, and defend himself by being so public and so powerful that no one can touch him. Everything he does is a desperate thrashing out at the supernatural forces closing in on him. For bonus salivatory fun, he was turned by a Ventrue, who has been staked for making such a disastrous mistake – and who was a democrat. In fact all the major dems are vampires, and Trump is their by-blow. If you doubt me, look at page 103 of the new book – if that’s not Hilary Clinton I’m a goblin.

I don’t know how the White Wolf crew figured this out – perhaps they’re vampires too and this is some cosmic joke – but instead of writing a pretentious and unworkable RPG they should have spent their creative years warning us about the dark powers in our midst. This is particularly ironic given I joined a Vampire game a while back and created a character who lived in the ruins of one of Trump’s failed casino projects.

How can the world have gone so wrong!?

 


fn1: I guess there is also the possibility that Trump is an avid Vampire role-player, and he was just deploying a metaphor. This would be simultaneously great and incredibly creepy. It would be great because it would so wonderfully troll the lefties at White Wolf to know that Cheeto Jesus is a Vampire player; but it would also be deeply disturbing. I have been roleplaying for 30 years and I play some pretty disturbing games but I could not imagine anything as grotesque as Trump, John Kelly, Stephen Miller and Sarah Huckabee-Sanders in the basement of the White House rolling d10 dice pools in some deeply pretentious storytelling game. No! I would rather that Trump were a vampire, and armageddon were incoming!

Our heroes have killed the changing of the guard, and now they descend into the Redbrand lair. From the ruined manor a flight of stairs leads down to a heavy wooden door, which they pushed aside to reveal a dim cellar. They descended the stairs into a large stone chamber dominated by a huge cistern, filled with cold pure water. The room was large, their lantern light barely reaching to the walls, which were lined with barrels. As Mouser dug around in the barrels looking for signs of traps or treasure a door in the northwest wall opened and a trio of redbrand thugs came charging out to attack them. They dealt with them in short order, beating them down into the flagstones in the doorway of their room. They searched the rooms further, finding a few trinkets and what looked like a package of emergency supplies hidden in the waters of the cistern. Whoever had secreted this escape package in the cistern was going to get an unpleasant surprise if they tried to flee and found their secret stash already looted; but the PCs doubted that anyone was going to escape from here.

They searched some more, and found a secret door in the southern wall of the room. From here they walked carefully through to a large, natural cave cold and smelling vaguely of rot. They immediately guessed that this must be where the strange eye-beast lived. A tunnel from the south they guessed connected the large cave to the secret entrance the halfling child had reported finding on the edge of the village – a useful escape, if that were their plan. A narrow chasm split the tunnel in two, and a bridge linked the two sides of the cave. Mouser crept into the room and headed north on the near side of the chasm, seeing nothing interesting. As he returned to the group he was struck by a strange series of visions, of falling into the chasm and rotting suddenly away, and an intense sense of hunger. Disgusted and confused, he crept back to the group. They moved to the edge of the cave and Mouser and Imoto chan headed back into the cave, Imoto chan tying a rope to the bridge and dropping it into the chasm as Mouser crept north to explore some more.

As Imoto chan finished tying the rope to the bridge she was suddenly struck by some strange magic that caused her body to rot and well up in stench and disgusting, noisome ruin. Somewhere over the chasm, the eye-beast was attacking them. Tyge rushed across the bridge, which collapsed under weight and dumped her into the chasm. Imoto chan leapt across the chasm to find the eye-beast, while Mouser took cover behind a pillar, firing arrows, and Mostly Smithson charged north to cross a bridge on the northern end of the cave, and Raymond deCantrus let loose spells across the chasm. The eye-beast was well hidden but they were able to drive it out of cover and cut it down without suffering too much damage.

In the chasm they found the body of Thel Dendrar, the woodcarver who had gone missing after he confronted the redbrands, and a chest containing some small trinkets and some potions. The chasm was haunted by a strange, weak magic that froze both space and time, rendering it chilly and making all movement in the chasm difficult and slow. As a result Thel’s corpse was still fresh, and strangely lifelike even though it had been ripped open by the Nothic and half eaten. Disgusted, Tyge climbed out and they resumed their quest.

From the cave a tunnel headed west and back into the more regular hallways of the cellar. A set of steps led down to a hallway, with a door at the base of the steps. Mouser opened the doorway, and was attacked by three bugbears who had been waiting quietly for them in the room. Pushed back mostly by disgust at the stench of their foul dog-like bodies, Mouser was shocked to see one hurl a spear straight into Mostly Smithson so hard that it went clean through his chest, knocking him down. The battle that followed was fast and brutal, and for pressed moments they thought they were all going to die before Tyge was able to cut a bloody, vicious path through the bugbear leader and start scattering bugbear hair and flesh like confetti in some horrid underdark wedding. Mouser took the chance to revive Mostly Smithson, and ultimately they prevailed through steel, lightning and hard, nasty work.

Standing in the stench of bloody dog-hair, shivering in rage and reaction, they looked around the dimly lit hallway, back at the room of half-eaten stored corpses and scattered vitreous nothic goo, and decided it might be best if they took a rest. Shuddering at the stench and iniquity, they pushed the door of the bugbear lair closed, and settled down to sleep.

Which was when they saw the goblin. With a sigh, and a shared sideways look of tired resignation, deCantrus asked it, “What is your name, little wretch?”

“Droop,” he replied, and so his fate was sealed …

Under the mountains and into the wild

[Our Degenesis campaign has had two sessions but I skipped a write up of one, so here I give a brief overview of the events of the last two sessions. We are heading into the campaign In Thy Blood…]

In session 3 the PCs had raided an underground bunker and recovered a transceiver of some value and helped a lost man called Stanko. After leaving the bunker they stumbled onto a large squad of apocalyptics, who were camped in the wilderness and who Stanko told them were the group that he had been scouting for when his team was killed by monsters in the bunker. Approaching the apocalyptic camp they saw that it was surrounded by cockroaches (a kind of degenerate human clan), and likely to be ambushed that night. Stanko, eager to be paid for his work, went into the camp and tried to negotiate for his money. This didn’t work out for him, so the PCs decided to wait until nightfall when the cockroaches attacked the camp, and rescue Stanko and steal the apocalyptics’ stuff during the confusion. The ambush came and all hell broke loose, and during the battle they were able to steal an apocalyptic motorbike, free Stanko, and get away from the camp without being pursued.

They took the bike and the transceiver to the town of Gesseln, where they sold them for a lot of draughts. While they were relaxing in the town they discovered they were being followed by a Chronicler, who they ambushed in a tavern. After a brief and very nasty battle they managed to capture him and beat him until he talked, and discovered that he had been spying on them for the same shadowy people who had sent the apocalyptics to the bunker. This bothered them, because they had been sent to the bunker by Chroniclers, and if a Chronicler had also sent the apocalyptics then it appeared there were factions in the Chroniclers who were trying to cause them trouble, or at least were happy for them to get into a lot of trouble as part of some internecine Chronicler squabble. Everyone knows that the less one gets entangled in Chronicler business the better, so the PCs decided to leave Gesseln and get out of the area. They returned to Tumbler, where their adventures had started, with the intention of perhaps heading somewhere further west and south to get far away from whatever trouble the Chroniclers intended for them.

Here too though they had been misused by the local Chroniclers, and they were none too happy staying here long. Karl Franz, their dour Spitalian, left on Spitalian business, and was replaced by a more junior Spitalian called Montaigne, a familancer rather than an epigeneticist. While the characters were wasting time in Tumbler they discovered that there was an African apocalyptic in the town, apparently lost and looking for a way home. Sylvan, the party’s apocalyptic, went to visit her in her tavern and was given a speech about how she saw him in her dreams. Sylvan is very confident that he is in every woman’s dreams, but this woman seemed strangely unaffected by his usual kant, and suggested they visit an old apocalyptic seer in town who would throw the cards for them. Foolishly Sylvan did this, and they visited the old woman. She told him that for some weeks now she was always drawing the same cards no matter what, and saw him and the African apocalyptic in her dreams. She drew the cards for them, and it was the same pattern: The abomination over the Creator, Hellfire, the Fields of Elysium, and the Bearer of the Broken Cross. She warned them that trouble was coming, and she saw them both standing on the shores of Africa, fighting off hellfire. They must head to the fields of elysium to meet their fate.

Apocalyptics cannot resist the pull of the tarot. Esmeralda the African apocalyptic joined their party and, for lack of anything better to do, they decided to head to Lucatore, a town on the far side of the Alps where Elysium oils are made by the anabaptists. They would find their fate there, and then help Esmeralda to return to Africa through the peninsula. This mission suited Ronan the Hellvetican, since it would take them under the mountains where he grew up; and it suited Tesla since it was her goal to travel to the Island of Bedain, wherein lay some scrapper heaven of oil and broken things. So it was that they set off.

The journey was long but easy, since they traveled on large roads and Sylvan brought a catamite that he procured in a refugee camp, to carry some of their load and ease his sore muscles at night. This boy, Teal, trudged along with them in the dust, patiently carrying their extra gear and doling out attention where it was needed. Such is the way of apocalyptics. They passed through Justitian and Cathedral City, then south to the Alps, where they crossed through the Hellvetican tunnels under Ronan’s warrant, escorting a trade caravan through to lower the cost of passage. On the far side they accompanied the caravan as far as Tirano. They rested here, on the border of Purgare and Borca, and gathered news about the road ahead. Unsure of what they were looking for, knowing only that Sylvan and Esmeralda’s fate had been sealed somewhere here, they feasted on rumour and got drunk on tall tales. One tale told of strange things happening in the swamp to the south of the Lucatore road, so they decided to investigate. They headed south into the swamp, coming to a small camp of peat-digging clansmen after a day’s travel. They hired three to accompany them as guides, and went further south to a thing called the “Old Image Wall,” a huge piece of wall that was said to have once held moving images. The peat-diggers told them a Chronicler had come here with a generator, turned on the wall, and recorded the images that appeared, then left, but they could do nothing to make it work. They headed south for another day and found a smaller peat-digging camp, where they heard that strange things were happening further south, where the land became thick with insects and strange smells. The peat diggers refused to venture there, but they went ahead to investigate. They found signs of a psychonaut of some kind, decided it was too much danger to interfere with and too far from civilization to matter, and returned to the peat-diggers. Unfortunately a gang of Romano clanners had found their peat-diggers, and were in the process of torturing them to find out where the PCs had gone when the PCs returned and stumbled on them in the camp. There was a short, brutal battle in which the Hellvetican wasted 4 bullets and the apocalyptic did nothing, and then the clanners were dead and the peat-diggers rescued. The whole group returned to the Lucatore road, exhausted and disappointed, and they headed further east towards Lucatore.

Elysium is here

Lucatore is a small town in the east of Purgare, famous for its strong walls and the water towers that hold pure water. With this pure water the anabaptists of the town make huge quantities of Elysium oil, which is an incredibly valuable and powerful substance carefully controlled by the anabaptists. It is also the home of one of the Baptists, and a redoubt of their strange and strict faith. When the PCs arrived the town was full and busy, and they initially found accommodation in a small and rundown tavern. Unfortunately some priests arrived, Flayers, who needed accommodation, so the PCs were moved to the Commission House outside of town, a much more comfortable place to stay. They bedded down for their first comfortable night, and slept soundly in a real bed for the first time in weeks.

In the morning they were woken by a horn, and cries and yells from a gathering crowd. When they opened the windows of their Commission House they could see a commotion in the distant town. Sylvan went down to disturb the Commission House maidservant, Dana, and found her in a fuss in the kitchens, wringing her skirts and agitated with worry. When he asked her what was wrong, she answered him with a single simple sentence.

“The baptist is dead!”

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