Sunday, June 28, 2020

Campaign Journals - The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl

7 years ago I started a campaign for my son and 5 of his friends. I run a “gonzo” game, mixing sci-fi and fantasy elements, my game world is set on Earth in the Vancian age, a few thousand years before  the death of the sun, which hangs blood red in the sky.

We did a mix of modules and home-brewed adventures, and by mid-level they ran through Expedition to the Barrier Peaks and then went on to Forbidden City then my homebrew city. They were there for a while, then were sent off on the quest to defeat the “Star Knight”, an alien who had come to Earth and was trying to repair his tech. This lead us, a few summers ago, to going through G2 - The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl.

I thought I would post the campaign journal for that session, as it was a great example of genre mixing, how you can incorporate sci-fi into your fantasy in a way that works really well. I think this is one of the things that 1e does particularly well, and is worth looking at more closely. It is also a great example of how high level play doesn't have to be all about the hack and slash. Hundreds if not thousands of people have played through this module, and slaughtered giants by the hundreds in doing so. My group, as is often the case, went a different route. Considering that many people complain that high level D&D is hard to run, this is a great example of how the game can handle high level play.

It's also a great example of large party old-school play, we almost always run two PCs to a player, so we don't have to lose time when PCs die, and so the players themselves can have a greater chance of having something to do in the adventure rather than me having to find a way to "make them shine" by bending the events to their abilities. Finally, it shows how you can incorporate a module into your adventure setting, the original quest for the module was fine but didn't really fit into my setting, this was my attempt to make it fit.

Here are the PCs who played for this session, note that the lizard man PC was human and then cursed, transforming him into a lizard man. The magic user was human originally, then was slain in the Barrier Peaks run and reincarnated as a wemic.

And yes, those ability score numbers on the ranger are legit. Didn't mean he did any better while adventuring oddly enough, but they were pretty spectacular.

The Party

Morgul Ironarm – 10th level Paladin
Human-Paladin-10th Level-LG (Athena: Holy Symbol: longsword)
S-17 (+1/+1), I-9, W-13, D-8, C-12, Ch-17 (+30% L/R)
HP: 70, MV: 12”, AC: 0 (-2 against evil enemies) - (Splint, Helm and Shield)

Saving Throws: PPDM:6, PP:7, RSW:8, BW:7, SP:9 [+3 physical saves]

Weapons (3/2 attacks per round) THACO: 11
Longsword [+4/+4] 1-8/1-12, WS: 4 [-1M/+1S/+2N]
(4) Javelins [+2/+2] 1-6/1-6, WS: 2, FR: 1, Range: S:2, M:4, L:6 [-3M/+1N]
Mace [+2/+2] 2-7/1-6, WS: 3 [+1 M/+1 S/-1 N]

Spells – [2/day]
Bless (M: [holy water], CT: 1 round), Ceremony (M: [HS], CT: 1 hour), Command (CT: 1), Create water (M: , CT: 1 round), Cure light wounds (reversible) (CT: 5), Detect Magic (M: [HS], CT: 1 round), Light (CT: 4), Protection from Evil (M: [Holy water], CT: 4), Purify Food and Drink (CT: 1 round), Resist Cold (M: [10], CT: 1 round), Sanctuary (M: [HS + silver mirror], CT: 4)

Spell Recovery - Rest time: 4 hrs, Prayer time: 15 min/spell level – 30 min total

Languages: Common, Gnoll

Special Abilities:
1. Detect evil at 60' when concentrating
2. All saves at +2
3. Immunity to disease
4. Lay on hands (20 hp healing/1per day)
5. Protection from evil 1” radius at all times (no contact from enchanted/summoned creatures, +2 on saves against their attacks, -2 on their attacks)
6. Turn undead as 8th level cleric
7. 10 Attacks per rd. against 1HD creatures or less

Warhorse: Giant Lizard - “Vacanga”, dark green with yellow striations, scar on left flank, HD: 5+5, HP: 33, AC: 5, MV: 18”, NA: 1, DA: 2-12, SA: on “20” it bites and holds victim, 1-8 damage per round thereafter, no “to hit” needed

Magic Items:
1. +1 Sword – Flame Tongue, +2 vs. regenerating creatures, + 3 vs. cold using, inflammable, or avian creatures, +4 vs. undead – “Helvete” - INT 13 – EGO 13 – Empathic – Special Purpose – Kill Chaotic Evil creatures – Powers: locate object 12” – strength (+d8 on strength, +10% per point) once per day – when fighting CE targets +2 on saves and -1 on each die of damage.
2. +1 Shield
3. +2 Splint Mail
4. +1 mace
5. (3) Javelins of Lightning [range 9”, 1-6+20 lightning damage, 3” backstroke for 10/20 damage)
6. Boots of Levitation [20’/round, 400lb limit]
7. Potion of Healing [full: 4-10(2d4+2)HP]

Lenides Reith – 8th level Magic-User
Wemic-Magic-user-8th Level-LN (Quetzalcoatl)
S-8, I-17, W-10, D-16 (+1,-2), C-6, C-10
HP: 42, MV: 12”, AC: 3 (natural)

Saving Throws: PPDM: 12, PP:10, RSW:8, BW:12, SP:9 [+2 dodge saves]

Weapons (1 attack/rd) THACO: 13
Quarterstaff* [+1/+1] 1-6/1-6, WS: 1 [-4 M /+1 L/+1 S/+1 N]
* 2x damage when set against charge, 1 point AC bonus against opponents with shorter weapons, sweep with required “to hit” exceeded by 5, victim falls prone.

Unarmed Combat (3 attacks/rd)
Claw 1-4, Claw 1-4, Weapon

Spells [4,3,3,2]:
1st Level – Comprehend Languages (M: [10], CT: 10), Detect Magic (CT: 1), Enlarge (M: [10], CT: 1), Firewater (M: [10], CT: 1), Magic Missile (CT: 1), Protection from Evil (M: [10], CT: 1), Read Magic (M: [prism], CT: 10), Shocking Grasp (CT: 1), Sleep (M: [10], CT: 1), Spider Climb (M: [3], CT: 1)

2nd Level – Continual light (CT: 2), ESP (M: [10], CT: 2), Jinntar’s Arcing Globe (M: [10], CT: 2), Knock (CT: 1), Mirror Image (CT: 2), Pyrotechnics (CT: 2), Scare (M: [5], CT: 2)

3rd Level – Fireball (M: [10], CT: 3), Fly (M: [10], CT: 3), Hold Person (CT: 3), Tongues (M: [2], CT: 3), Water Breathing (M: [reed], CT: 3)

4th Level – Ice Storm (M: , CT: 4), Minor Globe of Invulnerability [M: [5], CT: 4), Monster Summoning 2 (M: [5], CT: 4), Polymorph Self (CT: 3), Rary’s Mnemonic Enhancer (M: [3], CT: 1 turn), Wizard Eye (M: [5], CT: 1 turn)

Spell Recovery - Rest time: 6 hrs, memorization time: 15 min/spell level – total 3 hrs

Languages: Common, Bugbear, Frost Giant, Hill Giant, Storm Giant, Wemic

Special Abilities
1. Infravision, 60’
2. 1 in 6 passing secret doors, 2 in 6 searching
3. Surprise 1 in 4
4. 90% resistance to sleep and charm
5. Jump: 10’ up, 30’ forward
6. Sage
Major Field: Humanoids and Giantkind
Special Categories: Languages, Laws and Customs
Minor Fields: Humankind
Question Is----------General----------Specific----------Exacting
Out of Fields --------31-50%----------11-20%---------- /
In Minor Field-------46-65%----------31-40%----------11-20%
In Major Field-------61-80%----------57-60%----------26-35%
In Spec. Cat. --------81-100%---------76-96%----------61-80%

Magic Items:
1. +1 Ring of Protection
2. Rod of Absorption [5 levels left to absorb, 7 levels stored, use to cast any memorized spell in 1 segment]
3. Scroll: Knock, Shatter, Dispel Magic
4. Scroll: Detect Evil, Tongues, Confusion, Fear
5. Scroll: Hold Monster [5%F/5%RH], Geas [20%F/15%RH]
5. Potion of healing [full: 4-10 (2d4 + 2) HP]
6. Potion of clairvoyance

Zintar Huss – 8th level Magic-User
Lizard Man – Magic User - 8th Level - NG (Frey)
S-14, I-18, W-17, D-8, C-8, C-16 (+25%LR)
HP: 36, MV: 12”, AC: 3 (breastplate, vambrace, greaves)

Saving Throws: PPDM:9, PP:10, RSW:8, BW:11, SP:9 [+3 on mental saves]

Weapons (1 attack/rd) THACO: 13
Great Club [+1/+1] 2-8/1-12, WS: 5 [-1 M/ +1L/+1S/+2N]
Short Sword [+1,+1] 1-6/1-8, WS: 2 [-2 M/+2 N]

Unarmed Combat
Natural Weapons (3 attacks per round)
Claw,Claw,Bite 1-2,1-2,1-8, WS: 1 [-2 M/+1S/+3N]

Spells [4,3,3,2]
1st – Affect Normal Fires (CT: 1), Burning Hands (CT: 1), Charm Person (CT: 1), Comprehend Languages (M: [10], CT: 10), Erase (CT: 1), Magic Missile (CT: 1), Protection from Evil (M: [10], CT: 1), Push (M: [10], CT: 1), Read Magic (M: [crystal prism], CT: 1), Unseen Servant (M: [5], CT: 1), Ventriloquism (M: [3], CT: 1)

2nd – Audible Glamer (M: [10], CT: 2), Detect Invisibility (M: [5], CT: 2), ESP (M: [10], CT: 2), Forget (CT: 2), Leomund’s Trap (M: [iron pyrite], CT: 3 rounds), Locate Object (M: [lodestone], CT: 2), Magic Mouth (M: [5], CT: 2), Scare (M: [3], CT: 2), Stinking Cloud (M: [10], CT: 2), Web (M: [5], CT: 2)

3rd – Clairvoyance (M: [5], CT: 3), Dispel Magic (CT: 3), Feign Death (CT: 1), Fireball (M: [10], CT: 3), Fly (M: [10], CT: 3), Haste (M: [5], CT: 3), Hold Person (M: [iron bar], CT: 3), Invisibility 10’ radius (M: [5], CT: 3), Monster Summoning 1 (M: [5], CT: 3), Protection from Normal Missiles (M: [turtle shell], CT: 3), Slow (M: [5], CT: 3)

4th – Confusion (M: [3], CT: 4), Dimension Door (CT: 1), Remove Curse (CT: 4)

Spell Recovery - Rest time: 6 hrs, memorization time: 15 min/spell level – total 3 hrs

Languages: Common, lizard man, gnoll, black dragon

Special Abilities:
1. Semi-aquatic
2. Sage
Major Field: Fauna
Special Categories: Amphibians and Reptiles
Minor Fields: Flora
Question Is----------General----------Specific----------Exacting
Out of Fields --------31-50%----------11-20%---------- /
In Minor Field-------46-65%----------31-40%----------11-20%
In Major Field-------61-80%----------57-60%----------26-35%
In Spec. Cat. --------81-100%---------76-96%----------61-80%

3. Psionics
Attack & Defence: 125
Psionic vrs. Psionic: 250
Attack Modes: A. Psionic Blast (20), B. Mind Thrust (4), E. Psychic Crush (10)
Defence Modes: F. Mind Blank (1), H. Mental Barrier (3), I. Intellect Fortress (8) -10’rad., J. Tower of Iron Will (10) - 3’rad.

Minor Disciplines:
1. Body Equilibrium (cost: 1point/round, walk on water/quicksand/etc., feather fall)
2. Expansion (6 turns max, 5 points/rd, 50 points/turn, +6’ to height, +6 to damage, 18/00 str)
3. Mind over Body (suppress or the need for water, food, rest and/or sleep up to 12 days – then rest equal number of days to use again – cost 5 points/day).

Magic Items:
1. +1 Grasshopper Sword (jump up to 20’ up, 10’ back, 30’ forward, forfeit attack and jump away from attacker, jump on walls move on them and wield the sword effectively for up to a turn)
2. +2 ring of protection
3. Scroll: Protection from Normal Missiles, Protection from Evil 10’ radius
4. Scroll: Fire shield, Wall of Fire
5. Potion of Speed [double move and #attacks per round, 5-20 rounds]
6. Potion of Healing [full: 4-10 (2d4 + 2) HP]
7. Potion of Extra Healing [full: 6-27 (3d8+3) HP]

Ahrn Lockyer – 9th level Magic-User (Conjuror)
Human - Magic-User [Conjuror] 9th level – LN (Horus)
S-13, I-18, W-13, D-18 (+3/-4), C-16, Ch-16 (+25%LR)
HP: 40[30/20/10], MV: 12”, AC:4 (with armor spell, 18 HP before dispelled)
Saving Throws: PPDM: 13, PP: 11, RSW: 9, BW: 13, SP: 10 [+3 on mental saves]

Weapons (1 attack/rd) THACO: 19
(3) Daggers [+2/+2] 1-4/1-3, WS:1 [-2 M/+1 S/+3 N]
Thrown: [+5/+2] 1-4/1-3, WS: 1, S1,M2,L3 [-3M/-1L/+1N]

Spells [4,3,3,2,1]
1st - Armor+ (M: [blessed leather], CT: 10), Charm Person (CT: 1), Comprehend Languages (M: [10], CT: 10), Erase (CT: 1), Find Familiar, Khostin’s Vermin Throng+ (M: [silver whistle], CT: 1), Mount+ (M: [5], CT: 10), Protection from Evil (M: [10], CT: 1), Read Magic (M: [crystal prism], CT: 10), Unseen Servant+(M: [3], CT: 1)

2nd – The Banquet of Munnar the Mad+ (M: [3], CT: 2), Dust Devil+ (CT: 3 rounds), ESP (M: [10], CT: 2), Forget (CT: 2), Jauncil Tinnobassar's Avian Guardians+ (M: [5], CT: 2), Leomund’s Trap (M: [iron pyrite], CT: 3 rounds), Scare (M: [3], CT: 2)

3rd – Ammon Marr’s Wall of Talons (M: [silver arrowhead], CT: 3), Clairvoyance (M: [3], CT: 3), Flame Arrow+ (M: [flint], CT: 3), Kassnar's Magnificent Yellow Jacket+ (CT: 3), Material+ (CT: 10), Monster Summoning 1+ (M: [5], CT: 3), Protection from Evil, 10' radius+ (M: [10], CT: 3)

4th – Amsargoth’s Conjure the Carrion+ (M: [3], CT: 4) Charm Monster (CT: 4), Evard's Black Tentacles (M: [3], CT: , Fire Trap (M: [10], CT: 3 rounds), Monster Summoning II+*(M: [5], CT: 4), Polymorph Self (CT: 3), Rary’s Mnemonic Enhancer (M: [3], CT: 1 turn)

5th – Conjure Elemental+ (M: [4], CT: 1 turn), Leomund’s Secret Chest (M: [miniature chest], CT: 1 turn), Monster Summoning III+ (M: [5], CT: 5), Wall of Force (M: [3], CT: 5]
“+” = cast as 2 level’s higher (11th)
* = Can substitute expensive and rare components to control selection or options available

Spell Recovery - Rest time: 6 hrs, memorization time: 15 min/spell level – total 3 hrs 15min

Languages: Common, red dragon, kobold, goblin, demon, devil

Special Abilities
1. Sage
Major Field: Supernatural and Unusual
Special Categories: Heraldry, Signs and Sigils, Dweomercraft
Minor Fields: Humankind
Question Is----------General----------Specific----------Exacting
Out of Fields --------31-50%----------11-20%---------- /
In Minor Field-------46-65%----------31-40%----------11-20%
In Major Field-------61-80%----------57-60%----------26-35%
In Spec. Cat. --------81-100%---------76-96%----------61-80%

Familiar: Fire beetle (2-1/2’ long, AC: 4, MV: 12, HP:6, DA: 2-8, Shed light 10’ radius),

Magic Items
1. Pipes of the Sewers: Attracts from 10-60 (d6 X 10) giant rats (80%) or 30-180 (3d6 X 10) normal rats (20%). For each 5" distance the rats have to travel there will be a 1 round delay. The piper must continue playing until the rats appear, and when they do so, they are 95% likely to obey the piper so long as he or she continues to play. If for any reason the piper ceases playing, the rats summoned will leave immediately. If they are again called it is 70% probable that they will come and obey, 30% likely that they will turn upon the piper.

2. Wand of Negation: This device operates to negate the spell or spell-like function(s) of rods, staves, wands and other magical items. This will totally negate any wand function, and make any other spell or spell-like function from a device 75% likely to be negated, whether it is a low-level spell, or even if it is an ultra-powerful spell. Operation of the wand requires but 1 segment of a round, 6” range. It can function but once per round, and each negation drains 1 charge. The wand cannot be recharged. [8 charges]

3. Wand of Enemy Detection: This wand gives off a pulse and points in the direction of any hostile creature(s) intent upon the bearer of the device. The creature(s) can be invisible, ethereal, astral, out of phase, hidden, disguised, or in plain sight. Detection AOE is a 6" sphere. The function requires 1 charge to operate for 1 turn. [30 charges]

4. Ring of Spell Storing (Fire Trap, Mordenkainen’s Faithful Hound)

5. Scroll: Sepia Snake Sigil, Monster Summoning IV [F15%/RH5%]

6. Scroll: Magic Mouth, Charm Monster

7. Scroll: Reincarnation [F10%,RH5%], Globe of Invulnerability [F10%,RH5%]

8. Potion of Extra Healing [full: 6-27 (3d8+3) HP]

Jaggenoth Tuphana – 5th/8th level Warrior/Priest
Human – Fighter/Priest - 5th/8th level, LN - Rudra
S-18/59 [+2/+3] I-9 W-18 D-16 (+1/-2) C-10 C:-9
HP: 62, MV: 12", AC: 0 (Banded Mail + Shield)

Saving Throws: PPDM: 6, PP: 9, RSW: 10, BW: 12, SP:11 [+3 on mental spells]

Weapons (1 attack/rd) THACO: 16
Longbow: [+2/+2] 1-6/1-6, WS: 4, S:6,M:12,L:21 [+3L/+3S/+3N]
Bardiche [+5/+6] 2-8/3-12, WS:5 [-1M/ +1 L/ +2 S/+3N]
Short Sword [+2/+3] 1-6/1-8, WS:2 [-2 M/+2 N]
Mace: [+2/+3] 2-7/1-6, WS:4 [+1 M/+1 S/-1 N]

Spells* [5/5/4/3](spheres: death, disease, animals, storms)
1st Level – Bless (M: [holy water], CT: 1 round), Ceremony (M: [HS], CT: 1 hour), Command (CT: 1), Create water (M: , CT: 1 round), Cure light wounds (reversible) (CT: 5), Detect Magic (M: [HS], CT: 1 round), Light (CT: 4), Obscurement (M: [HS], CT: 4), Precipitation (M: [5], CT: 3), Protection from Evil (M: [Holy water], CT: 4), Purify Food and Drink (CT: 1 round), Resist Cold (M: [10], CT: 1 round), Sanctuary (M: [HS + silver mirror], CT: 4), Wall of Fog (M: [HS], CT: 4)

2nd Level – Aid (M: [5], CT: 4), Augury (M: [bones], CT: 2 rounds), Chant (CT: 1 turn), Cloudburst (M: [10], CT: 5) Collective (M: [HS], CT: 4), Cure/Cause Disease (CT: 1 turn), Find Traps (CT: 5), Flame Arrow (M: [HS], CT: 3), Fog Cloud (M: [HS], CT: 4), Gust of Wind (M: [HS], CT: 5), Hold Person (M: [piece of iron], CT: 5), Holy Symbol (CT: 1 turn), Mantle of the Oracle (M: [5], CT: 4), Melf's Acid Arrow (M: [HS], CT: 4), Silence 15’ Radius (CT: 5), Slow Poison (M: [10], CT: 1), Snake Charm (CT: 5), Speak With Animals (CT: 5), Spiritual Bow (M: [bow], CT: 5), Withdraw (M: [HS], CT: 3), Wyvern Watch (M: [HS], CT: 5)

3rd Level - Animate Dead (M: [5], CT: 1 round) Continual Light (CT: 6), Create Food and Water (CT: 1 turn), Cure Blindness (CT: 1 round), Death’s Door (M: [10], CT: 5) Dispel Magic (CT: 3), Divine Beast (M: [HS + 10], CT: 5) Divine Pairing (M: [HS+3], CT: 5) Feign Death (M: [3], CT: 2) Glyph of Warding (M: [5/1**], CT: 1 seg/sq ft +1), Grace of the Maker (M: [HS+2], CT: 5), Hold Animal (M: [HS], CT: 5), Judgement (M: [HS+3], CT: 4), Locate Object (M: [lodestone], CT: 1 turn), Negative Plane Protection (M: [HS], CT: 1 round), Prayer (M: [prayer beads], CT: 6), Prescience (M: [HS+sundial], CT: 4), Remove Curse (CT: 6), Share Divine Favor (M: [HS+10], CT: 5), Speak With Dead (M: [HS+10], CT: 1 turn), Supplication (M: [HS+10], CT: 4), Wind Wall (M: [HS], CT: 5)

4th Level - Cacophony of Lies (M: [HS+10], CT: 4), Cloak of Fear (M: [3], CT: 6), Cure Serious Wounds (CT: 7), Divination (M: [HS+5], CT: 1 turn), Exorcise (M: [HS+holy water], CT: 1-100 turns), Giant Insect (M: [HS], CT: var), Neutralize Poison (reversible) (CT: 7), Protection From Evil 10' Rad (M: [holy water], CT: 7), Protection from Lightning (M: [HS], CT: 5), Repentance (M: [HS+scarred copper coin], CT: 6), Reversal (M: [HS], CT: 6), Solid Fog (M: [HS], CT: 6), Sticks to Snakes (M: [5], CT: 7) Tongues (CT: 7), Whisper the Dead (M: [HS+5], CT: 6)

*Jaggenoth may freecast from any spells in the list up to his daily limit, e.g. he may cast 5 first level spells, though he still has to pray for them and rest, he does not have to pick them beforehand
**The /1 is for a larger glyph, greater than 50 square feet

Spell Recovery - Rest time: 6 hrs, memorization time: 15 min/spell level – total 4 hrs
Languages: Common, Gnoll

Special Abilities
1. Cast the following once per day each:
- Cloud Burst (MU3)
- Call 6HD Lightning Quasi-Elemental (weather permitting)
- Animal Summoning 1

2. Once per week:
Cast "cause disease" spell on an arrow, sits for 1 round/level

Appearance: Bare head, black hood, black clothing and red cloak
Sacred Animal: Jackal
Holy Symbol: bow

Magic Items
+1 Bardiche
+1 ring of Protection
Gauntlets of Swimming and Climbing
Potion of Invulnerability
Incense of Meditation (4) [burn and meditate for 8 hours and all spell effects are maximized and all saves from them at -1]
Scroll: Commune (F5%/RH5%), Insect Plague (F5%/RH5%), True Seeing (F5%/RH5%)
Scroll: Plane Shift (F5%/RH5%), Heal (F15%/RH5%), Gate (F40%/RH25%)

Gint Longtusk – 8th level Barbarian
Human – Barbarian – 8th level - AL: CN (Uller)
S-18/78 [+2/+4], I-9, W-8, D-16 [+1/-2], C-15, C-11
HP: 80, MV: 15”, AC:1 (leather)
Saving Throws: PPDM: 5, PP: 7, RSW: 9, BW: 9, SP: 11[+2 on physical saves/+1 on dodge saves]

Weapons (3/2 attacks/rd) THACO: 13
Scimitar [+5/+7] 1-8/1-8, WS: 2 [-2 M/+1 S/+3 N]
[2] Hand Axes [+3/+5] 1-6/1-4, WS: 2 [-2 M/+1 N]
Thrown: [+2/+4] 1-6/1-4, WS: 2, S1,M2,L3 [-3M/+1N]
Knife [+2/+4] 1-4/1-3, WS: 1 [-2 M/+1 S/+3 N]
Thrown: [+2/+4] 1-4/1-3, WS: 1, S1,M2,L3 [-3M/-1L/+1N]
Spear [+2/+4] 1-6/1-8, WS: 3 [-1 M]
Thrown: [+2/+4] 1-6/1-8, WS: 3, S1,M2,L3 [-3M]
Shortbow [+5/+2] 1-6/1-6, WS: 4, S5 M10 L15 [-3M/+1L/+2S/+2N]

Languages: Common

Special Abilities
1. Charge three times per turn
2. Strike creatures only hit by +3 weapons
3. Surprise 3 in 6, surprised 1 in 6
4. Leap forward 21’, upward 7’
5. 40% detect illusion
6. 65% detect magic
7. Survival in wild, first aid 2x natural healing rate
8. Plant and animal detection and weather prediction as 3rd level druid
9. Direction determination and tracking as ranger
10. Handle and domesticate wild dogs, horsemanship
11. Long distance running (full rate for 3 days), building and use of small boats
12. Mimicking animal sounds
13. Make snares (2-4 turns – surprise 3 in 6, save versus paralyzation or 2-12 damage), pits (1 hour, surprise 2 in 6, 4-16 damage save versus paralyzation for half]

Giant Boar – AC: 6, HP: 30, NA:1, DA: 3-18, MV: 12”, Size: 5’ at shoulder

Magic Items
1. +2 shield
2. +1 scimitar/+2 versus magic using creatures
3. +2 bow
4. Luckstone (+1/5% on rolls)
5. Potion of human control
6. Potion of fire giant strength
7. Potion of extra healing (3d8+3)

Amankal Tivorin - “Carver” – 7th level Fighter
Human - Fighter – 7th level - AL: CG (Agni)
S-15, I-11, W-9, D-12, C-18, C-10
HP: 55, MV: 12", AC: 2 (banded mail)

Saving Throws: PPDM: 11, PP: 12, RSW: 13, BW: 13, SP: 14 [+1 on physical saves]

Weapons (3/2 attack/rd) THACO: 15
Broadsword [+6/+10] 2-8/2-7, WS: 2 [-2 M/+1 L/+1 S/+2 N]
Battle Axe [+3/+7] 1-8/1-8, WS:4 [-2 M / +1 S / +2 N]
Crossbow [+1] 2-5/2-5, WS: 4, R: S6 M12 L18 [-1M/+2L/+3S/+3N]
Knife [+3/+7] 1-4/1-3, WS: 1 [-2 M/+1 S/+3 N]
Thrown; [+3/+7] 1-4/1-3, WS: 1, R: S1 M2 L3 [-3M/-1L/+1N]

Languages: Common, Garudin

Special Abilities
7 attacks per round against 0 level creatures

Magic Items:
+2 Banded Mail
Girdle of Giant Strength [+3/+7- open doors 1-7d8, throw rocks 20”, 2-16 damage]
+1 broadsword “Krpa”
Potion of Heroism
Potion of Fire Resistance

Shoon Jissel – 7th level Magic-User
Human – Magic-User – 7th level - AL: LN (Indra)
S-8, I-17, W-13, D-16, C-11, C-9
HP: 32, MV:12", AC:4

Saving Throws: PPDM:13, PP:11, RSW:9, BW:13, SP:10 [+2 on dodge saves]

Weapons (1 attack/rd) THACO: 19
[9] Darts [+1hit] 1-3/1-2, WS: 1, ROF:3, R: S1.5 M3 L4.5 [-3M/-1L/+1N]
Dagger [+1/+1] 1-4/1-3, WS:1 [-2 M/+1 S/+3 N]
Thrown: [+1hit] 1-4/1-3, WS: 1, R: S1 M2 L3 [-3M/-1L/+1N]

1. Type B insinuative poison, save for 0 or 25HP damage, 1-3 rounds to onset. [3]
2. Sleep poison: save or sleep for 1 turn [6]
3. Paralysis poison: save or paralyzed 1 turn. [3]

Spells: (4/3/2/1)
1st - Burning Hands (CT: 1), Charm Person (CT:1), Comprehend languages (M: [10], CT: 1 round), Find Familiar, Identify (M:[3], CT: 1 turn), Message (M:[5], CT: 1), Read Magic (M: [crystal prism], CT: 10), Shield (CT:1)

2nd - Audible glamer (M:[5], CT: 2), ESP (M: [10], CT: 2), Forget (CT: 2), Rope Trick (M:[5], CT: 2), Web (M:[5], CT: 2)

3rd - Dispel Magic (CT: 3), Protection from Normal Missiles (M:[turtle shell], CT: 3), Tongues (M:[2], CT: 3)

4th – Hallucinatory Terrain (M:[10], CT:1 turn), Stoneskin (M:[4], CT: 1), Wall of Fire (M:[8], CT: 4)

Spell Recovery - Rest time: 6 hrs, memorization time: 15 min/spell level – total 2-1/2 hours

Languages: Common, Slaad, Silver dragon

Special Abilities
1. Sage
Major Field: Physical Universe
Special Categories: Architecture and Engineering, Mathematics
Minor Fields: Supernatural and Unusual
Question Is----------General----------Specific----------Exacting
Out of Fields --------31-50%----------11-20%---------- /
In Minor Field-------46-65%----------31-40%----------11-20%
In Major Field-------61-80%----------57-60%----------26-35%
In Spec. Cat. --------81-100%---------76-96%----------61-80%

Familiar: Dharzi Hunting Dog, “Gilak”, MV:15", AC:4, HD:5, HP: 25, NA:3,DA: 1-4,1-4,2-12,SA: Tracking, Int: Animal, AL:N, Size: L (5' at shoulder)

Magic Items:
+1 Dagger of Throwing
Bracers AC:6
Bag of Holding
Crystal Bowl - as a crystal ball with claraudience - up to one half hour twice a day, 33% (1-2 on d6) of detection by SK
Scroll: Animate Dead [9th - 15%F/5%RH], Bigby's Interposing Hand [12th - 30%F/15%RH], Wall of Iron [9th - [9th - 15%F/5%RH]
Scroll: Invisible Stalker [12th - 30%F/15%RH], Legend Lore [12th - 30%F/15%RH]
Scroll: Passwall, Wall of Fire, Wall of Ice

Brother Naranjir of the Orange Lotus – 7th level Monk
Human – Monk – 7th level - AL: LN (Ganesh)
S-15, I-12, W-15, D-17 (+3/-4), C-12, C-9
HP:40, MV: 21", AC: 2

Saving Throws: PPDM: 7, PP: 8, RSW: 9, BW: 9, SP: 10 [+1 on mental saves, +4 on dodge saves]

Weapons (1 attack/rd) THACO: 14
Lucerne Hammer [+4/+8] 2-8/1-6, WS: 5 [+2 M/+1 L]
Daggers: [+4 dam] 1-4/1-3, WS: 1 [-2 M/+1 S/+3 N]
Thrown: [+3/+4] 1-4/1-3, WS: 1, R:S1,M2,L3 [-3M/-1L/+1N]
Shortbow: [+4/+5] 1-6/1-6, WS: 4, R:S10/M20/L30 [-3M/+1L/+2S/+2N]

Open Hand Combat
NA: 3/2, DA: 3-9 [+1 L/+4N]

Languages: Common, Centaur, Orc

Special Abilities
A. 1 in 4 chance of being surprised
B. Save vrs petrification [4] to deflect missiles
C. Successful saves = no damage, failed saves = 1/2 damage
D. +4 to damage with any weapon
E. Exceed 'to hit' by 5 and monk choice:
1. stunned for 1-6 rounds - kill percentage as PHB
2. knocked prone for 2 rounds
3. disarmed, knocking object 1” in random direction
4. +1/2hp per level additional damage.
F. Attack and save as fighter
G. Immune to disease, haste and slow
H. Feign death for one hour
I. Enemies have only 25% chance of reading mind
J. Fall 30' if within 4' of wall
K: Speak with animals
L: Heal 3-5HP per day

Magic Items
1. +3 ring of protection
2. +1 bow of distance (Ranges – S10/M20/L30)
3. +3 Hammer of Striking
On any to hit roll that exceeds the needed roll by 5 the victim is impacted as it would be for a monk’s open hand attack, e.g. monk’s choice:
a. stunned for 1-6 rounds - kill percentage as PHB
b. knocked prone for 2 rounds
c. disarmed, knocking object 1” in random direction
d. +1/2hp per level additional damage.
4. Figurines of Wondrous Power: Golden Lions [AC:5/6, 5+2 HD, HP: 30 each, NA:3, DA: 1-4/1-4/1-10, SA: rear claws for 2-7/2-7, SD: surprised on a 1). If slain inoperable for 1 week, usable once per day, command word: “Asada”

Essern Vont – 6th/8th level Thief/Illusionist
Thief/Illusionist – 6th/8th level - AL: CN (Poseidon)
S–9, I–17, W–9, D-17(+2/-3), C–8, C-17
HP: 38, MV: 12”, AC: 0 (with phantom armor, 8 hp until dispelled)

Saving Throws: PPDM: 10, PP: 9, RSW: 7, BW: 11, SP: 8 [+3 on dodge saves/+1 physical saves when phantom armor on]

Weapons (1 attack/rd) THACO: 19
Short Sword (Gladius) [+1/+1], 1-6/1-8, WS: 1 [-2 M/+2 N]
Daggers 1-4,1-3, WS:1 [-2 M/+1 S/+3 N]
Thrown: 1-4/1-3 [+1], WS: 1, R: S1 M2 L3 [-3M/-1L/+1N]
Crossbow [+3/+1] 2-5/2-5, WS: 4, R: S6 M12 L18 [-1M/+2L/+3S/+3N]

Spells (4/3/2/1)
1st - Color Spray (M:[10], CT:1), Darkness (CT:1), Detect Invisibility (M:[10], CT:1), Hypnotism (CT:1), Phantom Armor (M:[5], CT: 10), Wall of Fog (M:[10], CT: 1)

2nd - Alter Self (CT: 2), Blindness (CT: 2), Fascinate (CT:2), Invisibility (M:[10], CT:2), Improved Phantasmal Force (M:[10], CT:2)

3rd - Invisibility 10’ Rad (M:[10], CT:3), Paralyzation (CT:3), Phantom Steed (M:[5], CT: 1 turn), Spectral Force (M:[10], CT:3), Wraithform (M:[10], CT: 1)

4th – Improved Invisibility (CT:4), Confusion (M:[5], CT: 4)

Spell Recovery Time: 6 hours, 15 min per spell level, 2-1/2hr total

Languages: Common, Gnoll, Green dragon, Coatl, Lizard man

Special Abilities
1. Thief Skills: PP:60%, OL:57%, FRT:45%, MS:52%, HIS:42%, HN:20%, CW:92%, RL:30%
2. Thieves Cant
3. +4 to hit and x3 to damage from behind
4. Sage
Major Field: Flora
Special Categories: herbs and flowers
Minor Fields: humankind
Question Is----------General----------Specific----------Exacting
Out of Fields --------31-50%----------11-20%---------- /
In Minor Field-------46-65%----------31-40%----------11-20%
In Major Field-------61-80%----------57-60%----------26-35%
In Spec. Cat. --------81-100%---------76-96%----------61-80%

Magic Items
1. Cloak of Displacement (first attack misses, +2 AC, +2 Saves)
2. +1 Blade of Vines: This sword has a polished, dark green metallic blade with engravings of twisting vines and along the base. It is a +1 magical weapon. Twice per day when the thief is being pursued she may run through brush or a forested area and the undergrowth will suddenly grow, tangling up any pursuers within 4" of the wielder and reducing their speed to 3" (no damage, no save), but allowing the wielder full move at full charging speed + 50% for up to 1 turn. If pursuers stop moving forward and use missile weapons they are free to act, but if they pursue the wielder the reduced move will apply.
3. Scroll: Shadow Monsters [F5%/RH5%], Demi-Shadow Monsters [F15%/RH5%], Shades [F25%/RH15%]
4. Scroll: Phantasmal Force, Dispel Exhaustion [F5%/RH5%], Rainbow Pattern [F5%/RH5%]
5. Potion of fire breath [Consume and hold for an hour, small draught - breathe 1 "wide cone of fire, 2" long, 3-12 damage, 2x and range and damage are doubled, 3x range and damage are trebled, entire potion gives 8" cone, and 5-50 damage, save for half}.

Wend Silmon – 7th level Druid
Human – Druid – 7th level – N (Aranyani)
S- 15, I- 14, W- 18, D- 18, C- 11, C- 15
HP: 34, MV: 12”, AC: 2 (leather armor)

Saving Throws: PPDM: 7, PP: 10, RSW: 11, BW: 13, SP: 12 [+4 dodge saves/+4 mental saves/+2 fire-lightning saves]

Weapons (1 attack/rd) THACO: 18
Sling [+3] 2-5/2-7, WS: 1, Range S:5 M:10 L:20 [-3M/+1L/+1S/+3N]
Hammer {+2/+2] 2-5/1-4, WS: 1 [+1M]

Spells [6,6,4,2]
1st Level – Animal Friendship, Detect Magic, Detect Snares and Pits, Entangle, Faerie Fire, Invisibility to Animals, Locate Animals, Pass Without a Trace, Predict Weather, Purify Water, Shillelagh, Speak with Animals

2nd Level – Barskin, Charm Person or Mammal, Create water, Cure Light Wounds, Feign Death, Fire Trap, Heat Metal, Locate Plants, Obscurement, Produce Flame, Trip, Warp Wood

3rd Level – Call Lightning, Cure Disease, Hold Animal, Neutralize Poison, Plant Growth, Protection from Fire, Pyrotechnics, Snare, Stone Shape, Summon Insects, Tree, Water Breathing

4th Level – Animal Summoning I, Call Woodland Beings, Control Temperature 10’ rad., Cure Serious Wounds, Dispel Magic, Hallucinatory Forest, Hold Plant, Plant Door, Produce Fire, Protection from Lightning, Repel Insects, Speak with Plants

Spell Recovery - Rest time: 6 hrs, prayer time: total 4-1/2 hrs

Languages: Common, Centaur, Lizard Man, Hill giant, treant

Special Abilities
1. Identify plants, animals and pure water
2. Pass without a trace
3. Druid’s Cant
4. Immunity from woodland charm
5. Change shape 3x per day, once for each form, reptile, bird or mammal, each change heals d6x10% of damage done.

Magic Items:
1. +2 Ring of Protection
2. +2 hammer
3. Scroll of Protection from magic
4. Boots of Striding and Springing
5. (6) +1 sling stones
6. Scroll: Weather Summoning [25%F/15%RH]
7. Potion of Extra Healing

Folix Abithin – 7th level Ranger
Human – Ranger – 7th level – CG (Thor)
S- 18/90 (+2/+4), I- 17, W- 17, D- 17 (+2/-3), C- 18, C- 18
HP: 70 [53/35/18], MV: 9”, AC: 0 (chain mail)

Saving Throws: PPDM: 10, PP: 11, RSW: 12, BW: 12, SP: 12 [+3 dodge/+3 mental/+2 physical]

Weapons (1 attack/rd) THACO: 14
Longsword [+5/+7] 1-8/1-12, WS: 4 [-1M/+1S/+2N]
Long Bow [+2/+4] 1-6/1-6, WS: 4, S:6,M:12,L:21 [+3L/+3S/+3N]
[2] Hand Axes [+2/+4] 1-6/1-4, WS: 2 [-2 M/+1 N]
Thrown: [+2/+4] 1-6/1-4, WS: 2, S1,M2,L3 [-3M/+1N]
Spear [+2/+4] 1-6/1-8, WS: 3 [-1 M]
Thrown: [+2/+4] 1-6/1-8, WS: 3, S1,M2,L3 [-3M]

Languages: Common, Hill Giant

Special Abilities
1. +8 damage versus giant class creatures
2. Surprise 3 in 6, surprised 1 in 6
3. Tracking

Magic Items:
+2 sword
+2 chain mail
(2) arrows of frost giant slaying
Potion of Extra healing
Potion of Heroism
Potion of Animal Control

That was the party, 12 strong, all mid-to-high level.

The Calling
Morgul swung his mace in a clean horizontal arc towards the shield of the opposing man, turning his body with the blow, as if he were shooting a discus. It was a blow of violent force. As he turned he saw a blur of orange from the soldier’s tabard as he jerked his shield into place; the image of an ebon alligator tearing apart a soldier leered at him from ahead, promising violence.

Morgul fulfilled the promise as his mace crashed into the shield; the House Ynris soldier had placed his shield perfectly in front of the mace so it took the full brunt of the blow, which sent him backwards as he was partially off his feet getting the shield there in the first place.

Rei Honsee, House Ynris soldier, crashed to the ground.

Morgul smiled, “The blessings of Athena upon you, man.”

He then leaned forward and offered his hand, “I did that to the last one too, you should have known better. Wake up or the next one misses the shield.”

Morgul had earned the right to talk to the men this way. He was now a Lord of House Ynris, but that didn’t earn him respect, at least not in the beginning. He was still an ajanabee, an outsider, he needed time.

So he spent the last three months wandering the swamps and stamping out evil where he found it. He wandered for weeks, passing through small fishing villages, small hunting enclaves. In one place he hunted down and killed a pack of big cats that had been harassing a fishing village. In another place the village had lost a number of young people to a marsh dragon in the area, it had left a short time ago but they were short handed. Morgul waded into the marsh water in boots and breeches for a week, a scythe in each hand, cutting down mulassi reeds while children trailed behind him and collected them.

He helped real people, and he accepted nothing for it, other than the occasional meal. He felt cleansed and holy.

Then he found the village, dedicated to a foul god of disease, where even the children were given a hideous, deforming and painful disease to live with as part of their devotion.

Morgul killed all of the adults, and saved most of the children, taking them back to Bhavisyavani for healing. Jaggenoth had met him, and discovering that this was done by a cult of death and disease (two areas his deity was concerned with) he was enraged. He had the children all taken to the temple to live, they were all healed and the priests of Rudra were teaching them a brighter way. He has also convinced the temple to pursue the eradication of the cult in the marshes where it was growing.

It had felt good, right, to leave and live that way for a time.

But he decided to stay in the city now, and his first morning back he was up at dawn to drill with the troops. News had travelled fast about the children, and Morgul had been treated to a bawdy rendition of “Her Ladies, Yes, Her Ladies”, when he arrived, a Bhavisyavanian soldiers song sang only by women soldiers to the most virtuous warriors in their ranks.

Suitably humbled, Morgul took on their finest and owned the field.

Ahrn walked forward into the practice. He was dressed casually, in black silk pants and an orange silk shirt trimmed in black. The shirt was blazoned with the house standard, and Ahrn looked very much the dark figure today. He rarely walked around without his vest, the anchor for a spell that had saved him many times, but here in the courtyard, surrounded by a hundred or so of House Ynris’ finest, he was strangely comfortable.

Morgul laughed and ran to the conjuror, Ahrn tilted his head then held out his hands in the traditional Bhavisyavanian greeting, Morgul slowed and stopped, clasping his hands around Ahrn’s and the men said in unison, “khule haath, khule dil”.

Ahrn broke the handshake.

“Word of your arrival found me at breakfast.”

“Did you bring me any?”

Ahrn smiled, he brought forth a handful of grapes and leaf filled with lustrous black olives.

“You have convinced me of their value, so they are now part of my breakfast. They really have all kinds of foods here.”

Morgul found olives and grapes reminded him most of home.

“And I mean that, they have unnaturally large varieties of food here, food that Essern tells me is almost never found growing in the same place. There are layers to this city I do not yet fathom, Morgul.”

Morgul ate a grape and looked at the men drilling, a symphony of sinew, wood and steel.

“I like the food here”, Morgul took a drink of water, “but I agree, we are blind, at least for now, the longer we stay the more we will see with their eyes.”

Morgul pointed at the Ward in the distance, looking north to the grand canal.

“What has everyone been up to while I was gone?”

“Research for me, and for Zintar; Lenides has been on the hunts and out celebrating otherwise, as has Folix. Gint joined the House’s troops to fight the forces of the Holasian bandits, they have settled in at the edge of the marsh, he has been developing quite the reputation for rooting them out. The men will follow him willingly. Jaggenoth has been at the temple of Rudra almost the entire time, he is finding his way there. Essern has been busy with his… group.”

Ahrn paused.

“The Guild”, Morgul smiled, “I know what he does.”

“It doesn’t bother you?” Ahrn asked out of genuine curiosity.

Morgul looked contemplative, “A man is more than one action, or two, a man is a lifetime of actions, and a lifetime of beliefs, and those change. I’ve watched him risk his life for his fellows. He risks death disarming traps for us, he has slain many a foul, evil thing that has preyed on the weak and innocent, he has saved us all from death many times, his phantasms have been crucial to that.”

“He’s tactically useful then?” Ahrn smiled, he liked giving the justiciar moral challenges.

Morgul laughed, “Everyone is tactically useful, when you figure them out. He’s earned a place at my side, I can only hope that my example will inspire him. And he plays cards and dice well... I hate bad gamblers.”

“You can gamble?”, Ahrn remarked.

“I’m not a monk, I’m a justiciar, as long as justice is served, I can gamble.”

Ahrn smiled, “Wend has spent the entire three months at the druid’s coven for the city, they are responsible for taking care of the blossom, and Wend tells me the druids here are different, more animalistic, more absorbed in their animal identities. He achieved his shape shifting last month, and spent a few weeks living as various different animals.'

Ahrn took a sip from a small bottle he brought with him.

"He’s been fascinating to talk to for a while now.”

Morgul laughed.

“We are summoned to see Moonsal this morning, I have come to get you, and everyone else should be there.”

Morgul ate several olives, took a drink and retrieved his sword, shield and helmet, and carried them with him much to the consternation of a soldier tasked with doing this for him.

The two men walked ahead, talked for a time, and came to a small building near the tower. They were greeted outside by a man, a warlock from House Ynris, one Shoon Jissel. Jissel was an unassuming sort, dressed in a long coat and wearing a broad brimmed hat to offset the blistering sun. Beside him, however, was a dog the size of a horse with the head of a hawk. The beast stared at Ahrn for a moment then fixed on Morgul, the justiciar focused on the creature for a moment, sensing for evil, but came up with nothing.

Ahrn had never seen anything quite like it, and he smiled broadly when he saw it, Ahrn was always interested in new things. Jissel nodded at him and directed the creature forward to his side.

The remainder of the party was in the small building when they entered. With Jissel in the lead, they passed through a door on the far side of the small building into Moonsal’s tower, even though the two buildings were a distance apart. Ahrn had learned recently that the only access to the tower was through a door that shifted from building to building, only certain warlocks in the House knew how to find the door.

The room was one that Ahrn had seen before, there was a large pool and two stone chairs on a platform in the middle of the room. Ahrn had sat in one of the chairs when they first arrived here, across from Moonsal the Rune, Magus Warlock of House Ynris, and he was compelled to answer questions.

Now, however, one chair was empty and the other held a man, or at least it looked somewhat like a man, but it also had features of a frog. The human features were dominant, but the head was completely frog like, and the feet and hands were as well.

Moonsal looked around the room once the men arrived.

“Does anyone recognize this man?”

Everyone shook their heads except for Jaggenoth, his eyes slowly widened as he looked at the creature’s arm, it had a tattoo, a fairly distinctive one, the symbol of House Ynris, blazoned on it. Jaggenoth looked closer at the man’s head, frog like but still distantly recognizable.

Jaggenoth spoke slowly, “he is a House Ynris soldier, that is a standard tattoo for soldiers here.”

Moonsal nodded, “Indeed, that and a search of his clothing has led us to believe that this man is one Harjol Imil, a soldier in House Ynris. He and 30 men on giant lizards left to our North East about a month ago to investigate a temple that had appeared in the region, about 100 miles from here. The temple was growing in power and influence, so we normally send emissaries to determine if they are potential allies or enemies. Along with Olg Rammes the Nyre, Warlock of House Ynris, this man was part of a mission sent to this temple. We hadn’t heard from them until he returned to the city, wounded and… transformed, several days ago.”

Moonsal turned to the warlocks in the party, “Can any of you think of something important about this man, anything else that might be salient?”

“How was he transformed?” Ahrn spoke up.

Moonsal smiled, “Exactly so”, he pointed towards the creature, “We have used divination magics with both the warlocks and the priests on this thing, and it is clear, to the extent of our ability to know, that this creature was not made with magic, something else transformed him.”

“An infection, a parasite of some kind?” Lenides responded.

“We thought of the possibility of disease of some kind, but our priests assure us it is not that.”

Moonsal stared at the creature intently, “We are not sure what transformed this poor creature, but it was not magic, or any malady or monstrous creature known to us, and our records and tomes are a significant source of knowledge about all things.”

Moonsal walked away from the creature and back to a small table with chairs that had been set on the side of the room beyond the pool. He motioned for everyone to sit.

“I would have been at a loss except for something that happened here a few weeks ago.”

Moonsal took a sip from a cup that was sitting before him.

“House Omander had a visit from a strange man. The “Star Knight”, they called him, a man who claimed to be from a faraway world, and had spectacular technology. He floated into the city on a disc of metal that projected energy around it, his partner, the Queen of a jungle city near Kareloth, was also on one. A black dragon was curled up on the Star Knight’s disc, the Queen was surrounded on hers by 4 jaguars. In addition their party was accompanied by four blue ‘frog men’. They carried weapons, spoke a language, and seemed intelligent.”

Moonsal shifted in his seat, his blank, white eyes staring into the distance.

“The Star Knight had come to Bhavisyavani from his temple in the distant jungle for knowledge and he was referred to Lord Daun Hossal of House Omander. House Omander’s Magus warlock, Mar Kassan, is a renowned expert in unusual minerals and metals, and he is allied with our House and a colleague of mine, so I was invited along to meet the man. What I determined from my limited time with him was that he was interested in rare stones or metals that could power his technology. Once I had met him I decided I wanted to keep an eye on him, he represented power House Ynris could not necessarily counter.”

Moonsal pointed at Shoon, “I brought along an assistant, Shoon Jissel, he was our most experienced archivist, and I offered up his services to the Star Knight. They spent a day or two in the libraries of house Omander and House Ynris, and he became convinced that the drow, the white elves, mentioned in these works, would have access to what he wanted. There were two possible leads, the first was that there were many strange rocks and minerals in the underdark, and the drow knew where they were. The other was a tale of a meteor that crashed through the ground and all the way down to the land of the drow. Jissel and the Star Knight found a number of references in different sources to this story. He seemed quite excited about it, though sceptical at the same time. Still, even if it was a legend, the drow’s knowledge of the underdark would undoubtedly lead to some success, so his plan was to go to their underdark city and find the location of the meteor by asking there.”

Moonsal sipped and continued.

“They had read of an entrance into the underdark in a glacier far to the north of them, guarded by frost giants. The Star Knight spent several days around the city and then headed back to his base in the jungle. It does not take too much to put two and two together here. The Star Knight has access to weapons and devices that are not magical, and we have found a man that was transformed by something that was not magical. The Star Knight was accompanied by frog men, that man was transformed into a frog man. We believe he is creating an army in his jungle temple, and he is heading to the underdark to obtain rare stones that will power his weapons. We believe he plans to move against us, or at least provide us with a rival for power in this area.”

Moonsal sipped his drink and whispered several words to an assistant that was suddenly at his side, he then continued.

“You have had experience with visitors from the stars before, so I thought of all of you even before this man turned up, transformed. I want you and your party to do one of two things. You could go to the Star Knight’s temple in the jungle and destroy whatever weapons or machines he has that are doing this to our men, we believe he is intent upon becoming a force to be reckoned with, destroy his temple and his weapons and he will be stopped before he begins. At the very least we owe him reprisal for assaulting our troops, whom I can assume are all dead or transformed. Perhaps some can be rescued.”

Moonsal sat back and smiled.

“The other option would be to chase after the Star Knight directly, Shoon here has a scrying device, and he is familiar with the Star Knight, so he can scry him to determine where he is. You can attempt to beat him to the frost giants, or at least beat him to the drow and their sources of power. If you can parley with the man and determine how to form an alliance with him, that would also be useful for your House. Despite his transgressions against us perhaps his army can march as an ally, not an enemy.”

Moonsal leaned forward, “Going to his temple while he is gone has its advantages, but you will be storming a well defended facility that will likely be on alert with many of its powerful denizens away. If you can beat him to the rift where the frost giants live, or at least catch up to him, he may distract or weaken the giants before you even arrive. The key is to get to whatever he wants before he does, so you will likely follow him at a distance, using scrying to keep track of his progress, or even deceive him into taking the wrong path. Or you could follow him to his prize and take it from him there. I have no preference for a particular approach, just know that you must act immediately on whatever you choose, as the Star Knight will be leaving soon. I have found out that Mar Kassan, the Warlock of House Omander, has been travelling to the Star Knight’s Temple to join him and teleport him and his men to a location near the mountains. This gives you at most a day to prepare. I know of a warlock who lives close to the glacier, and I will be taking you there a day from now. Unless you choose to approach the temple first, then we will send you to a nearby location as soon as we can.”

Lenides spoke up immediately, “If we go to his temple while he is gone, no doubt with his powerful lieutenants, we will have a much better chance.”

There was some mumbling and nodding, but Morgul shook his head,

“A fortified position can be held for weeks, and we don’t know what to look for when we get there. They could possibly contact him and bring him back before we find what we need, or he might find what he wants and return before we are done, but more powerful as he found his rare stones. We also don’t know how many men he has. If we can beat him to the underdark, we can get to what he wants before he gets there.”

Ahrn joined in, “Yes, but that also means we face the giants first, and not only risk our lives but announce our presence, stealth would rule the day if we reach them first.”

Essern gave a “Hear hear”, to that.

Several minutes of conversation followed, and the group decided it was in their best interests to go directly to the mountains and attempt to head off the Star Knight.

Moonsal was in agreement, “I think this is the best decision as well, the temple, though a tempting target, is also a large gamble, if you are fast and careful you might simply outrun him.”

The pale warlock sat back in his chair and took out a pair of necklaces, both were made of what appeared to be bronze and had large red rubies on pendants. He handed one to Zintar and one to Morgul.

“The glacier is extremely cold, so you all will have to dress appropriately. Morgul’s mount and Zintar however, will need something extra, as they are susceptible to the cold. Wear these and you will not be bothered by the cold at all.”

The men nodded and took their treasures.

“I have taken the liberty of adding some helpful items to your collection”, Moonsal added, and several men walked in carrying an assortment of items.

“For Folix I have several arrows of giant slaying, to be used at your discretion. The rest of you will find that I have secured more powerful weapons for you, the warlocks will find a number of spells on scrolls, as will the priest.”

Moonsal stopped and picked up a sword lying on the table, it was a finely made longsword, spare in its design with clean, sharp lines. On its blade was the word, “Helvete” carved into the surface.

Moonsal held up the sword and spoke the word, “Helvete”, and the blade was immolated in blue and white fire.

The warlock winced slightly, then presented the blade to Morgul.

“It is an intelligent sword, its special purpose is to slay evil creatures, it has powers in addition the flame, it can strengthen you, and it protects you from harm. It has a preference for those with purity of heart and action. It struck me that you would be a perfect choice to wield it.”

Morgul nodded and took the sword, he felt an immediate connection to the blade, and felt very clearly like it was… happy in his hands.

“My thanks to you Moonsal the Rune, I will use this sword with clarity of purpose.”

Moonsal nodded.

“A few last points. Lenides has hired an additional henchman, will he be going along?”

Lenides nodded, pointing back to the man, who had been hanging back as he was a new addition to the group. Amankal Tivorin, known to his allies and enemies as “Carver”, nodded back.

“That is good. In addition, as you know the current Maharaja of Bhavisyavani is the Grandmaster of the Orange Blossom Monastery, he has offered up one of the acolytes to go along with the group as well. Would one of you be willing to take him on?”

Morgul noted silently that Moonsal did not give a reason why the Maharaja wanted a representative sent along.

Gint jumped in immediately, he was surrounded by warlocks, a monk, one who relied on his physical power and his skills, not magic, would be a welcome addition.

“I can take him on”.

Moonsal smiled, “We will inform him, Brother Naranjir will be joining you tomorrow then.”

Finally, Moonsal pointed to Shoon.

“Shoon Jissel will be crucial to your venture, through his scrying crystal he can track the Star Knight, to determine if he is ahead of you or behind you, what he is doing. This is very important.”

Morgul sheathed the sword he had been given and turned to Moonsal.

“He can ride with me, I would have him close by if we are to keep track of our quarry.”

Moonsal nodded, “Make your preparations, we leave in the morning”, he then strode out of the room, leaving an assistant to escort the party out.


The next morning the group assembled in the barracks, in a large empty room, and discussed their venture. Ahrn and Shoon were both experts in supernatural and unusual phenomenon, Ahrn as a major area of research, Shoon as a minor one. Lenides was an expert in humanoid races, and all disclosed what they knew about the white elves.

Ahrn spoke first, “What I know comes from several accounts written by Galus Norl of Kessalin, a warlock who had ventured into the realm of the drow several times. He was part of an advanced group sent to study their habits for potential invasion. He wrote that they were silent and blended into the darkness like live shadows, despite their ivory skin, they were constantly surprising their opponents, that they used poison darts to take down many foes, and that many of them were spell casters.”

Shoon added, “I know very little, as this is not one of my major areas of expertise, but I do remember reading that the drow use special metal to make their armor and weapons, and that they are particularly deadly as a result.”

Carver laughed, “I’ll find a way to gut them, armor or no.”

Lenides then spoke, “They are ruthless with outsiders, extremely power hungry and competitive, there are many stories of drow betraying each other as well as others. All I have read about them suggests they know only cruelty and power. Their women are generally more powerful and important than their men, and they subjugate other peoples a matter of course.”

The conversation then switched to discussion of the cold, and giants.

[DM’s note: I have decided IMC to treat all MUs and illusionists like sages with one major area, one minor area, and one area of specialization. Two of the party members had major fields in the occult and supernatural, the third had one in humanoids. They rolled for general and specific knowledge, and this is what they came up with.]

The group left and went to Moonsal’s tower, they were admitted to the tower and taken to the top, the warm Bhavisyavani wind caressing them as they stood in the early morning sun.

Moonsal checked over the men and their preparations, none had dressed appropriately for the glacier as they were still in the oppressive Bhavisyavani heat, but they all had their gear ready. Morgul found Vacanga waiting for him, a jeweled necklace around him. Shoon brought along his familiar, as did Ahrn (though Ahrn’s was barely visible).

Gint had decided to leave his boar behind.

Moonsal spoke briskly, “We will have appropriate clothing for everyone when we arrive, and appropriate mounts. We are travelling to the tower of the wizard Usleer the Crill, Usleer spent several years here in House Ynris when adventuring, he chose not to stay, but he has remained in contact with me over the years. Please show him respect, he will be crucial to your success in this mission.”

Everyone nodded.

Moonsal smiled.

“Now, all of you join hands, and then grab my hand.”

Everyone did as instructed.

“Nem itt, ott”, the warlock spoke.

Essern felt lightheaded, and dizzy for a moment, then his stomach lurched, and he felt something pressing against his feet, soundly. He looked down and saw a floor, but it wasn’t his floor, it wasn’t the dull grey stone he had been standing on, instead it was a sand of dark black hue, and the air was thick and hot.

He looked around, they were standing on a beach, black sand around his feet, a small lake of dark green water lapped a few feet away. In the distance he saw many different plants, such a cacophony that they looked immediately artificial, not the plants themselves, but their arrangement. The jungle was overgrown and chaotic. He turned in the other direction and saw a massive arced wall of ice, it stretched from the ground several hundred feet away up into the air several hundred feet, meeting rock at the top.

Someone had sealed up a massive cavern maw with an ice wall that kept out the raging glacial winds, the wall was mostly opaque, but the dim sunlight shone through making it glow slightly.

Usleer the Crill’s “tower”, Essern thought.

No sooner had he completed the thought than a man walked along the beach towards them. As he walked the sand on the beach twined and wrapped around his bare feet, and trailed up his legs to stop at the knees, constantly moving like a thing alive. His skin was dark brown and his hair was a tightly bound mass piled on the back of his head.

He wore a short kilt and nothing else.

He was flanked by two large crystalline creatures that walked in the sand beside him, both stood approximately 20 feet tall and had wicked crystalline talons and fangs.

Any stray light coruscated off of them and dazzled the eyes, fortunately the whole area was bathed in a dull glow and very little concentrated light.

The man stopped in front of Moonsal and extended his hands, palms together. Moonsal placed his hands on top and they spoke, “khule haath, khule dil”.

Usleer the Crill broke the handshake with a smile, then embraced the warlock.

Ahrn had never seen this before.

“You need more sun, Moonsal, you are positively pale.”

The two men laughed together.

“And you still need shoes”, he pointed at the jungle and the lake, “how much energy do you spend to maintain this?”

Usleer looked down to the black sand, “The cave is a self-sustaining system, magic enhances a natural cycle to its utmost, I have only cleverly captured that and preserved it.”

He turned to the party.

“But enough of this, Moonsal told me you are in pursuit, time is of the essence. Your gear is in piles over yonder, there are pelt coats with hoods to block the wind, goggles with lenses to protect your eyes from the glare and the wind, gloves, fur lined boots, enough for all. For the lizard beast I have included pelts to cover the animal as it rides. I realize it has magical protection, but that can fail.”

He looked into the distance in the westernmost corner of the cave.

“There is a gathering of ice spiders I have put together for your group. Each one can carry one of you. They are impervious to cold and can climb anywhere, but their poison gives hallucinations, so be wary. They also produce a significant amount of body heat, so you should all be quite comfortable on them.”

He then looked at Lenides, “For you we had to improvise, two of the ice spiders have been yoked to a snow sled, and they will pull you along behind them.

Lenides nodded in assent, he was not that fond of spiders anyway.

Shoon found pelts for his familiar, it was not vulnerable to the cold as Vacanga was, but it would still appreciate the protection.

The party began to assemble their gear.

Usleer led them to the area where the spiders were housed.

It was considerably colder, not as cold as the outside, but still cold. There they assembled their gear, covered the giant lizard and Shoon’s familiar, and quickly bundled up.

Morgul spoke with Usleer as he assembled his gear and covered Vacanga.

“The rift is a day’s journey to the west of here, you will notice a sloping and see a dark seam in the distance, that’s the rift. The giants do not by and large wander far from it, but as you get close you will run into giant patrols, winter wolves, yeti, any number of cold weather beasts. You should be able to find a cave nearby to retreat to if needed, entering a giant’s lair is not an easy task. My only advice is travel quickly and stay focused, when the wind whips up and the snow is flying it blinds you and it is terrifyingly easy to lose your way.”

He motioned to the raging storm outside.

“Men die within feet of their destination, frozen solid by the cold.”

The party was fully equipped and prepared to leave.

They had decided on a marching order, Morgul and Gint at the front, and Folix at the rear. Usleer pointed to a passage that led through the stone to the side.

“That tunnel empties about 100 feet down the cave wall, coming out of solid rock. At the end say the word, “Yuntul” or you will be fried by one of several fire traps. Once outside travel due West at a steady pace, you should be to the rift by the end of the day, to a cave sooner than that.”

Moonsal turned to the group.

“I have business with Usleer, then I will be heading home. I will check back here in a week, if you have not returned I will assume you pursue the Star Knight to the underdark.”

Morgul nodded.

“Usleer has spent some time on his end doing research, he has been living here for years for a reason, he is also very interested in the underdark, and the drow.”

Usleer interrupted, “Actually, it is the fish men that interest me the most, and reading about them I learned something.”

Moonsal tilted his head.

Usleer turned to Morgul, “the Kua-Toa, the fish men, they have told a tale of a cave with a giant space rock within, according to their accounts it exploded into the underdark from the upper world a hundred or more years ago, the cave is remote and quite dangerous, so they do not know where it is, nor are they interested in finding it, but the tale is common to several tribes of the creatures. One thing though, was quite well documented, the cave is at the bottom of a well created by the meteor, it is a mile or so deep and extremely wide and its sides shine obsidian from the heat of the meteor as it crashed through.”

Morgul nodded, “My thanks for the information, but it is time to go, I want to find shelter before the end of the day, this will be a cold trip.”

Morgul and Gint began to ride out, the barbarian settling in on the giant ice spider, and the rest of the party following behind in a snaking line.

When they left the tunnel and emerged into the wind it sliced at their skin, Morgul pulled up a scarf in front of his face right up to the dark goggles he wore, leaving no exposed skin. Everyone else quickly did the same. Some of the party had never encountered a cold of this kind before, and found it strangely invigorating, others experienced a deep terror at the feeling they would never be warm again.

The party plunged into the whirling snow, heading westward under the dun light of the cloud obscured sun.

They travelled this way for several hours, the white of the snow blanking out the world into a swelling field of… sameness, everywhere. It began to play with Zintar’s mind, as if the world had dropped away, leaving a blank canvas behind. He felt dizzy with the wind.

Suddenly, Gint saw something in the snow ahead, just barely visible, there were two dark points in the distance, just out of sync with the droning white of the snow.

“Ho, something ahead, look sharp.”

Morgul looked ahead and saw what the barbarian saw, but the blowing snow was making it impossible to determine what it was. Morgul’s sword came out of his scabbard, as did Gint’s, and both men dismounted.

The party stopped in its tracks, and Wend came to the front, reaching into his component pouch…

Two, then three, then five, then a total of 6 large wolves appeared out of the blank white of the snowstorm. Only the druid, the paladin and the barbarian could actually see the wolves at this point.

The two at the front stood for several seconds while Wend cast a spell, attempting to calm them, or at least convince them that the party was not hostile.

The wolves snarled and charged towards Gint, Wend and Morgul, the rest flanked the party and moved in.

Zintar saw Morgul and Gint draw swords and move forward, disappearing into the white, he could not see what they were after.

Morgul and Gint were moving when the wolves stopped, about 10 feet away, and opened their maws, a roaring blast of ice and cold shot towards them. Gint reacted by diving to the side and the blast only clipped him; Morgul turned to the side exposing his shield to the blast, and it was instantly coated with a thick sheen of ice.

Morgul himself was unharmed.

Morgul had moved close enough to the wolf to swing his sword, he shouted, ”Helvete!” and the blade lit up with blue white fire. He thrust the blade at the beast and it dove to the side, dodging it.

Another one of the wolves fired off a blast of cold at Brother Naranjir, but the monk saw it coming and deftly sprung out of the way, the blast passing harmlessly to the side.

Gint swung his scimitar and struck the wolf that appeared in front of him, taking a chunk out of its snout.

Folix shot two arrows into the same wolf, killing it.

Brother Naranjir swung his lucern hammer and smashed the wolf that had attacked him on the head.

Ahrn took out a small bone shard and spoke the words, “A félelem a társa”, and a thin beam of grey light shot from his outstretched finger to hit one of the wolves.

The creature shook off the ray and continued forward.

Another wolf leapt at Jaggenoth and missed, the fighter/priest swung his bardiche at the beast, carving a huge wound into its side.

Carver struck at the beast next, his broadsword slicing the wolf’s head off.

Lenides struck at the wolf that Ahrn attacked, his claw and his staff hit, wounding it.

Zintar fired off four magic missiles and killed the beast at Lenides’ side.

The remaining wolves howled and turned tail to run, half their number slain in a matter of moments.

The party before moving forward again, wary of the wolves returning. They continued on and after another hour of travel, they began to feel the slight decline in the terrain and they saw the dark scar of the rift across the dazzling white snow.

The party moved forward and found a cave that was about a half hour from the rift but well concealed. Morgul went in first, detecting evil, and cleared the cave before anyone entered. It was large, stretching back about 100 feet and had two side chambers, about 50 feet in diameter each. The giant spiders were left in one of the side caves, Vacanga in the other, and everyone else settled into the main cave, happy to be out of the wind and the snow for a time.

When they had settled in Shoon cast a spell to conceal the cave, now from the outside it looked like a solid wall of ice and snow, deterring creatures from entering.

”We need a plan”, Lenides spoke once everyone was settled in, Folix stood near the doorway watching the snow while everyone talked inside.

”We need to know where the Star Knight is right now, is he already at the rift, through to the underdark, still behind us?” Essern was concerned.

Shoon began to rustle through his things, ”Every time I do this there is a chance that he might notice, and we lose the element of surprise.”

Everyone agreed that it was worth the risk, they had no way of knowing where the Star Knight was, and information was crucial at this time.

Shoon took out a small crystal bowl, and poured water from a wineskin he had been wearing against his body, warm enough to not be frozen, and filled the bowl

Shoon whispered the words, ”Mutasd meg nekem” three times over and dipped his fingers into the water, then took out his fingers and pressed them to his closed eyes.

He opened his eyes and the surface of the water was showing an image, there was a procession making its way through what appeared to be a corridor of ice and rock. There was a man that was clearly the Star Knight, floating on an energy emitting metal disc with a curled up black dragon at his feet. The Jaguar Queen floated beside him on her disc, two jaguars surrounded her, behind her floated two discs with three jaguars each. In front of both of them were five of the Queen’s bodyguards, each on a disc with two or three jaguars around them. Behind them there were 10 of the frog creatures, each on their own disc.

In front of the procession was a pair of frost giants, behind the procession was another pair. There were further giants behind these, and they carried something with them that Shoon’s device did not show.

There was no conversation of note that the bowl picked up.

Shoon and his companions watched for 15 minutes as the procession wound its way through the caves, each party member watched intently to catch enough detail that they might be able to recreate the route.

The Star Knight and his party were led to a large chamber where they were told to wait for the Jarl in a sharp, rough common tongue.

”They are in the rift, going to talk to the Jarl, they beat us here, handily”, Shoon was disappointed.

”We can’t exactly storm the place now, frost giants and the Star Knight, if they work against us...” Lenides trailed off.

”We can wait”, Essern offered, ” see what the Jarl and the Star Knight agree to, or disagree to. For all we know they will fight, perhaps our two problems can take care of each other.”

Everyone was grateful for the respite from the cold, and agreed to wait.

They all turned back to the scrying bowl, fortunately for all of them the giants and the Star Knight were speaking to each other in common tongue, presumably as the Star Knight knew no frost giant and the frost giants did not speak his alien tongue.

The Star Knight and his Jaguar Queen stood before the Jarl and his men, and the Star Knight spoke.

”Jarl of the Frost giants, I, First Arrakan Phaeos Wurjon of the Vissonian Empire, offer you tribute.”

The frost giants that were behind the procession dragged forward the Star Knight’s tribute, the giants had insisted on looking at it before it was brought in.

Three giants walked up and dropped a dead silver dragon at the Jarl’s feet.

The Jarl stood up and walked over to the dragon, he looked over its face and some of its body.

“Hochasal”, he turned to the Star Knight, “this dragon has been trouble for us for months now, it arrived in the rift and immediately began to attack my men. We have met, and bargained, before.”

The Jarl returned to his throne.

“I accept your tribute, what is your request.”

The Star Knight spoke clearly with confidence, “I am bound for the city of the white elves, the drow, seeking knowledge about an artifact that I am seeking. They should know of it, and know how to find it. I am willing to pay for the privilege of passage.”

The Jarl sat for several minutes while the Star Knight returned to his queen’s side.

The Jarl stood and spoke, “Your offer is accepted, the price is your help, a fortress has been built nearby the glacier, set up to send soldiers to the rift and pick us off like flies until we are whittled down to nothing. If you can easily destroy this dragon, it should not be beyond your means.”

The Star Knight nodded.

”I am most happy to fulfill your request, but I cannot do so now, my mission is a race against time, upon my return I am more than willing to destroy anything you ask.”

The Jarl looked over the Star Knight. Despite the fact he was surrounded by frost giants the Jarl sensed that this man and his group could likely do significant damage, even if they eventually succumbed to their forces. Letting him through cost the Jarl nothing, he had already had a significant threat removed by this Star Knight, and if he did survive he had to come back this way, so he was confident that the bargain would be honoured, and if it wasn’t, the Jarl would be no further behind than he already was.

”I will hold you to your word on that when you return, Phaeos Wurjon, if you have lied to me, or you refuse to honor our agreement, there are more than a hundred giants here that serve me, not one dragon, and you must come back this way.”

The Jarl held out his arm bent in a “V” shape, with his hand held up and open. First Arrakan Phaeos Wurjon held out his arm similarly and the two men clasped hands with great strength.

“Accepted”, the Star Knight said, “I will honor our bargain upon my return. Now, we have been travelling all day through that snowstorm, fighting dragons and more than a few yeti, we beg your indulgence to house us for the night before we set out to the underdark tomorrow.”

The Jarl laughed an outsized laugh and waved his hand, “Drinks, food, comfort for my guests”, he looked over at the Star Knight, “and bring the small table!”

Much laughter erupted after that.

With this, Shoon broke off contact.

”What do you think?”, Morgul looked at Ahrn.

The conjuror mused for a moment, ”I think the Star Knight has the right idea, we don’t need to fight these giants, they are as greedy and avaricious as anything we have encountered. Let us too bring the great Jarl tribute, and ask to pass through the gates to the underdark.”

Essern was carving away at a piece of wood he had brought along with his knife. The statue he was carving was looking more and more like a horse...

”If we show up we need a reason to be there, and it has to make sense, otherwise it's a bit of a strange coincidence that two groups show up within a day of each other asking for the same thing.”

”We could just be adventurers headed to the underdark for, well, adventure, that would be acceptable”, Jaggenoth suggested.

Folix shook his head, the ranger had years of experience with hill giants, ogres and frost giants, ”Frost giants are cruel and rule with fear and violence, they will slaughter us where we stand if we are ”adventurers looking for loot”, they believe us either naturally inferior or unnaturally dangerous due to our magic items and spells. Either way we are better off dead from their perspective.”

Ahrn was about to comment when he remembered that Folix was a ranger, so instead he simply nodded.

Zintar spoke, ”Revenge”, he stood up and looked at Morgul, ”We have been following the Star Knight since we discovered that he was turning our people into monsters. We are here to avenge our soldiers, and to punish this man for his perfidy. It explains why we were so close, and it's pretty much true, though there is more to the story. And it sets up the Star Knight as a potential threat to the Jarl and his men, if he converts humans...”

”It doesn’t have to be true”, Wend added.

Essern cut him off, ”It is always better to tell the truth if it can be made to serve you, lying is more likely to be caught by spell, or even by looking at expressions, but the truth will demand assent.”

Morgul chuckled, ”The phantasmist is right, let us be truthful, these foul beasts will understand blood and violence.”

Carver spoke for the first time today, he was new to the group and trying to keep a low profile, but now he wanted to say something.

”So, what do we bring as tribute?”

Brother Naranjir responded, ”Something powerful, something that is a threat to the Jarl.”

Shoon stared wistfully at the snow swirling outside, this storm was on its 20th hour so far and he missed the sweltering heat of the Bhavisyavani summer.

”We could spend an eternity out there looking for the right tribute.”

Everyone nodded at that.

Then Jaggenoth spoke up.

”I have a prayer, a spell, that tells me the forces aligned against me in a particular area, how dangerous it is to attack them, and how much power and wealth they have to take. We could use it to locate the most dangerous thing near the rift, and kill that.”

There was a moment’s silence as the group members thought it over, then Morgul smiled.

”I like that idea, how can we help?”

”I can cast the spell now, I just need a bit of time and space.”

Morgul nodded as the priest of Rudra walked over to the side of the cave, and spoke briefly to Gint.

Then Shoon took out a scroll.

Ahrn looked over, ”What is that?”

Shoon smiled, ”I have been in House Ynris for a few years now, and every time I suggest using divination magic of any kind, anything that doesn’t cause destruction, no one is interested. Learn fireball Shoon, learn lightning bolt Shoon, make yourself useful!”

The warlock sat on the ground of the cave and unfurled the scroll.

”I spent two days in the archives with the Star Knight, reading accounts of the cave with the meteor that he seeks. We found 20 extant accounts of the meteor, five were detailed enough to give me an idea of the size of the cave, its features, where the meteor is, and what guards it. There is some conflicting information, but if I take only the points that every account accepts I know a considerable amount about it, except for its location.”

Ahrn nodded.

Shoon looked at the scroll, ” I obtained this scroll last year, and I have been saving it for a time, as it is more powerful than my normal spells. Given that I know this much, and others know of this place, the spell will allow me to determine more about the location, maybe even find it, but it takes considerable time.”

”We are safe here I think”, Morgul added, ”if you think it will help, go ahead. If we have to leave we can guard the cave with glyphs and such and leave someone behind with you.”

Shoon was fine with the idea of being left behind, he felt miles out of his league here, and he did not relish being crushed by a giant’s boulder. As long as Gilak was here to warn him he had a number of spells to protect or conceal him until intruders left. He spent a half hour preparing, getting his food and water close by, and sitting far enough back in the cave that he would not be immediately obvious if someone came in.

He then read from the scroll, slowly, carefully, pronouncing each word with exactness and precision. The words shifted and wavered, then disappeared.

His eyes rolled up and his head tilted back, and he began to mumble softly.

”Is he alright?”, Morgul asked.

Ahrn nodded, ”Oh yes, he will be in that semi-trance state until the spell is done, he may wake hungry or thirsty but otherwise he will be like this until the spell is complete. You can talk to him, he can hear you, he is just overwhelmed by voices.”

”What voices?”, Morgul wondered aloud.

Ahrn smiled, ”My understanding of the spell is that it is somewhat like a speak with dead, it contacts the dead to ask them about the lore in question for the caster, to draw on their memories, each time he speaks he is verbalizing one of the responses he has received. You will note that sometimes he speaks in a tongue he doesn’t even know.”

”How long will it take?”, Lenides added.

Ahrn sighed, ”It depends, the spell somehow gathers the lore about whatever you are interested in, so however long it takes to go through the each piece of lore, to speak it, then to move on. It could be hours, days or weeks. There are many dead who hold secrets.”

The group left Shoon to cast his spell, the words of the dead slipping off his lips.

Jaggenoth was sitting on the cave floor as well, he arranged incense nearby, as well as his holy symbol, on the ground in front of him. Then he lit the incense.

Gint returned from the back of the cave holding a small bat, it was squirming in his hand but unable to break free. He handed the bat to the cleric, who held it around the neck.

Jaggenoth began to chant, ”Aapakee sabhee aavaajen mujhase baat karatee hain”, over and over again. Once he had the rhythm of this he snapped the bat’s neck and placed the newly dead animal on the ground, continuing to chant.

Morgul had learned not to be shocked by this, sacrificing an animal to the god of death was an appropriate tribute after all.

After several more minutes Jaggenoth’s face went flush and his eyes blazed with just the smallest sliver of the godhead in him. Even a second’s exposure to it gave him the knowledge he needed.

“Well”, Morgul asked, “what did you learn?”

Jaggenoth shook his head slightly.

“The whole rift is bristling with danger, there must be many, many giants in there. However, there are three areas where the danger is much greater, two are deep within the caverns in the rift, and the third is at the bottom of the rift near the end.”

Morgul did not hesitate, “We go after the target at the bottom of the rift, no point in killing giants on our way to the tribute we plan to offer to the Jarl.”

Everyone agreed.

“The Star Knight leaves tomorrow morning, let’s see if we can get our tribute before then”, Lenides added.

The group spent some time preparing the cave for their departure, as Shoon was indisposed while casting. Shoon had already cast hallucinatory terrain on the cave mouth, now Jaggenoth traced a glyph of warding over the door, so anything attempting to cross the barrier without speaking the right word would be blasted by fire.

The party then assembled its gear and dove back into the swirling maelstrom.

End of first day of gaming

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Investigation, Exploration and Faction Play - Going Beyond Combat in D&D

Our last session was a blast, I am running a new campaign world, Xiombal, and a bunch of new classes. Sometimes we have a session that has no combat, Friday’s session was one of those. There was exploration, investigation, stealth, but no fighting. The crew loved it.

The party has hired on as mercenaries to help protect a settlement (Fort Maegar) on a new continent. This continent is overrun with dinosaurs and giant sized animals, there is no indigenous population. It is being settled by humans and aaracockra

The tone of this campaign is different, rather than just being dungeon delvers, the party’s fate and interests are tied to this settlement they are protecting. Rather than them being free agents who wander around, they have something to protect and build from day one.

So far the party has managed to pinch the loot from a chimera’s lair without fighting it, and slain a vodyani (an underwater umber hulk) that was hunting fishermen from the Fort. This has managed to ingratiate them with the fishermen at the settlement. 

This past session they decided to do some information gathering. So far they have found two monsters near the fort (the chimera and the vodyanoi) that are “unnatural”, e.g. created in sorcerer’s laboratories. So they are concerned there is a powerful sorcerer nearby

Last session they were told that some of the locals have been having vivid, terrifying nightmares of tentacled horrors, fish men and vast underground caverns. They spoke with several of those people today and gathered as much information as they could about the nightmares.

They decided that the underground caverns in the nightmares might be nearby, so they hunted around the area for a few hours, but found no entrance to a cave complex, so they left that idea behind for now. They then returned to the keep and gossiped with the soldiers

One of them told the party a rumor, there are packs of dinosaurs that roam this continent, several times over the last few months a large pack of these dinos has assaulted the Fort, they can’t climb the walls, but they charge in waves and have caught and killed settlers

One of the soldiers thought he saw humans in the background flushing out the dinos and sending them to the fort. Their commander doesn’t believe them, but the party decided to investigate. They spoke to the commander and persuaded him to help them out

One of the new classes I have introduced for this campaign setting is the slayer, a combination of assassin and ranger. The commander of the fort’s troops is a dinosaur slayer, so he knows their habits and how to hunt them. He and the party set out on foot to find a dinosaur run

Before they left they asked me if the slayer could convey any important knowledge about the dinosaurs, seeing as he was an expert in slaying them. I pondered this for a moment, and decided I would roll a d4 and that would be the number of helpful things the slayer would convey

The dinosaur was a deinonychus,

I rolled a 4, and I made up four things about them on the spot:

1. When they run in packs their claws tear up the ground, so if you can find ground torn up by claws you can find a deinonychus run, and track it back or forward to the pack

2. They have extremely good hearing, you won’t surprise them unless they are moving and making noise, and even then it is hard

3. They only move around when hunting, so you can always follow them at a distance back to their lair when the hunting ends.

4. They sleep during daylight hours in the open at the edge of forests

They set out to find the dinosaurs and hopefully any people who were involved with them.  They travelled for 3 hours (with appropriate wandering monster checks) and eventually found a pack of deinonychus sleeping by the edge of a large forest.

They decided to sneak around the long way, to avoid being seen or heard by the dinos, which was a 2 hour detour if they wanted to ensure they would be unseen and unheard. They talked about this for a while, as there are random encounter checks that make “taking too much time” a risk

They eventually decided to go for it, and they made their way around in a large circle to double back towards the dinos but through the forest. As they got closer I decided that there was a camp in the woods where the bandits were located. It ends up there were bandits directing the dinos

So I had both sides roll for surprise, the party gained surprise, and I told them there was noise up ahead and that they could see what looked like an encampment ahead through the trees. They could attack with surprise, or leave and report back to the settlement… 

They decided to do some scouting before moving in. The party thief (an aarakocra) flew up above the trees and then down into them again near the encampment. I had him roll a move silently roll and a hide in shadows roll to see if he could make the move without being noticed.

He was successful. He asked what he could see and hear, I told him he could see about 20 soldiers, three large dragon-like mounts (called "gekkals", pictured above, no wings), firepits and several tents. The men were gambling, sharpening swords, talking. The thief asked if he could hear conversations

I told him he would have to move in closer. So he did so, and I had him roll a move silently to do so without being noticed. He failed that roll, but since he was up in the trees and partially obscured from view, I had him roll a hide in shadows to see if he would be spotted.

He made that roll and went undetected. He then listened in to the conversations below. I decided I would make up 4 things he heard, and I would ask them to suggest two topics that they heard people talking about, and I would fill in the details for those two topics

My four things:
1. the men were tired of being here hiding for so long 
2. they were finding the hunting for food dangerous but prolific
3. some of them thought the sorcerer in the camp was using dark magic behind their backs
4. they had been here for 3 months 

Then they asked me about two topics: how do they control the dinosaurs, and who do they work for? I “filled in” these topics with two events. First I had the thief overhear an exchange between the sorcerer (who emerged from a tent) and a soldier (who stopped the sorcerer)

The soldier had a large, fresh scar on his face, and he asked the sorcerer what to do when the dinos were hungry and got aggressive. The sorcerer responded by reminding him that when the dinos got difficult they should use a torch to influence them, not strike them in any way, as they were trained with fire. The sorcerer complained that the men have been resorting to striking the creatures and it wasn’t working. So now the party knew that the sorcerer had used the dino’s fear of fire to train them. The answer to the “who do they work for” question came from a conversation between two soldiers complaining about how long they had been here. 

The second question was answered when two of the men at the mounts commented on the fact that their “employer” was enjoying his wealthy life back in Raet, a city-state on one of the three inhabited continents.

Then the thief asked if there were any symbols or crests on any of the mercenaries. My guys are getting to the point after 7 years of play that they are starting to figure out good questions to ask. I thought about it, and since the lizard men who were funding the bandits wanted to be anonymous it was unlikely, so I opted for a roll. I rolled whether or not there would be any symbols of their employer anywhere. I gave it a 20% chance, and rolled a 15. So I decided that the bandits wore no symbols or crests, but that the saddles on the mounts had crests that were only visible to the riders. Since the aaracokra has remarkable vision, I decided he spotted the crests, a black crow on a red shield.

At that point I told him that if he stayed any longer he would have to roll hide in shadows again, and he decided to leave. He had to make a surprise roll to sneak off quietly, if that didn’t work he would have to roll a move silently roll. I allow thieves to do this to improve their chances, as thief skill values are fairly low in 1e. He was successful and went back to the group in the forest.

Now, as it happens, another one of the party members rolled heraldry as a skill. Everyone had forgotten about it. He asked if he knew that particular crest. Honestly, it was completely up to me at that point, even having heraldry as a skill, whether or not he would know one crest from the thousands on the various noble families of the city states was pretty up in the air. So I decided to make it a saving throw versus spells, a go to save for intelligence based skills IMC. He made the save! So I told him it was the Shakarn family, a prominent lizard man family from Raet.

So now they had a major piece of campaign lore, that there were powerful lizard-men who were trying to sabotage new human settlements on the continent. I had spoken with the group before we started the campaign and asked if they wanted a more “political” game with more intrigue and higher level plots. They said they did, so I deliberately left some seeds in the game. 

So at that point they had to decide what to do. That led to a long conversation, they considered a bunch options, from attacking by surprise to just leaving. Then one of them had a brilliant idea, he suggested that they pour oil and start a fire, the fire would spook the dinos and drive them off, and then in the confusion they could rout the soldiers. 

The dinos were sleeping by the edge of the forest, the camp was about 100 feet in to the trees. They decided to set the fire off the end of the camp and in the forest between the camp and the dinos. It was a bold plan, I would have to decide if the bandits noticed the fire before it became large enough to spook the dinos. And they would have to avoid detection. The party aarakocra thief was chosen to pour the oil and light it. As it happens he’s a crow, dark black in color, and he had a good chance of hiding in the dark forest.

So he made his move, flying above the trees (I rolled to see if any of the hunters from the camp were out and returning when he flew above, but it came up negative). So he flew down to a spot about 100’ from the camp. I made him roll a surprise roll, that failed. Then he had to roll a move silently roll, which he failed, and a hide in shadows, which he failed.

So a bandit spotted him. I decided to roll to see what the bandit would do, attack, shout out and then attack, call for allies, that sort of thing. I used an encounter reaction roll, and obtained a 98%. That made things interesting. Why would a bandit be positive about an intruder? Well, that’s when I got creative. Lizard men don’t like avians, particularly aarakocra, so why would a noble lizard man family have a crow on their crest?

I decided that this particular family used aarakocra fliers as couriers and agents, and that they are working against human settlements on the new continent as they are allied with the aarakocra (who are also settling the continent). So the guard expected aarakocra to fly to the camp. As a matter of fact, this particular guard had a contact back home that sent an aarakocra scout to bring him a package. It ends  up he wants to leave the camp, and his contact was to send gems to the guard so he could bribe the camp sorcerer (gems are components for spells and scroll writing) to let him leave sooner. So he was expecting an aarakocra courier with gems. 

So the guard walks over to the thief quietly, not yelling, not taking out his weapon. 

The thief player was at a loss, why wasn’t this guy shouting, or attacking?

The guard arrives at the thief and speaks,

“We need to make this fast, do you have the package?”

I was just about howl.

Then one of my guys reminded me of why my players are such badasses.

The thief responded, “Tell me what the package is, so I know you are my contact, all you humans look the same to me.”

That was brilliant role playing.

So I decided to roll an encounter reaction roll to see if the bandit would respond or not, and I got a neutral but disposed to positive, which rolled as a positive. So he told the thief he was to be given gems. The thief had three gems on him, as it happened, he had the most wealth of any of the party members. He wasn’t sure how many gems the bandit was expecting, so he gave him all his gems, a 200gp, 400gp and 600gp gem.

I decided that this was sufficient to convince the bandit that this was his package. The bandit took the gems and left quietly back to the camp. 

They couldn’t believe their luck. This is why I use encounter reaction rolls rather than just having everyone attack. It makes for rich role play and adds some depth to the world.

So the thief then waited until he saw the bandit go into a tent, and then set about pouring the oil (three flasks) and setting it afire, then flying away. 

That’s where we broke for the session, after 2 hours of play.

When they get back I will roll to see how it all shakes out, and they will likely fight the bandits during their disarray. 

I’m tracking factions and interactions between the party members and the NPCs at the fort, as the campaign unfolds they may find themselves in opposition to the fort’s leadership, and having allies on the inside can make a difference. 

This was a super exciting session, they had to ask questions, gather information, plan out their moves and use stealth to get in close. They learned a ton about the game world (some of which I made up on the spot!) and spent a lot of time talking tactics. So much of this isn’t covered by explicit rules, the time they spend talking about what to do, gathering information that didn’t have any immediate use but contributed to knowing more about the lore of the game world. And they avoided direct conflict, which given their level and HP is a good idea.

This game is turning into a direction I wasn’t expecting, and they are clearly loving it, as they have asked to play weekly, and when we cancelled the game scheduled on Father’s day they asked to play the next day, and on Friday of that week (we play Fri - Mon - Fri - Mon), four days later. 

They are all in, and it makes the game a joy to run.

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