The Scales of War

Of bar fights and dungeon crawls
Where it all began

The first session of the 4th edition game took place today, and although not everyone managed to show up (we ended up with only 3 players this session), the party did get a head start into the campaign. I am using a published adventure path and so I implore my players and anyone interested in playing to NOT look it up online. It’s no fun when you know exactly what you’re facing. Sometimes, your eagerness to keep things in line with expectations can stop me from improvising and making up stuff that could potentially save the party from imminent doom (or pose a challenge should the encounter prove to be too trivial).

On another note, I thought it would be nice to have a campaign journal where I can keep track of the events happening in the game, so players who missed a session or readers who are interested in playing can follow the story thus far and jump in without too much finagling and explaining. With that said, I present to you the first chapter of our tale:

Of bar fights and dungeon crawls:

Our story takes place in Elsir Vale, a fictional location first encountered in the 3.5 adventure Red Hand of Doom. The town of Brindol is where the adventure kick starts, and our three heroes all find themselves there in some way or another.

Our first member is the brave Kobold Warlord, Meepo Pun-Pun, a veteran of under-appreciated minions. After a few decades of serving under cruel dungeon masters and evil overlords, he grew tired of watching his kinsmen suffer under their employers’ cruelty or the swords and sorcery of rag-tag adventurers. One day, he decided to break away from the bonds of his fate as cannon fodder, taking up arms and becoming an adventurer himself. Now his goal is to gain fame and fortune, so as to prove the worth of kobolds in the world.

Then, we have the ale-loving Dwarven Fighter, Gustav. A resident of an entirely different sort of Vale (Nentir Vale, to be exact), the warrior who hailed from Hammerfast found himself stuck in a campaign world he was not first created for. Grumpy and callous, Gustav has rather straightforward philosophy to tanking: dead things don’t do harm. Wading into battle with a hefty axe and a tough hide that can absorb multiple blows without flinching, Gustav plays an important role in keeping the party alive.

Last but not least, the final party member (for now) is Model 8XZetcetc., or more commonly known to his companions as Thunderwolf, the Warforged Druid. A former warrior, Thunderwolf was ambushed by some elves and lost most of his body’s functions. He was left for dead and lied dormant in the middle of a forest for 18 months, during which time he gained an earnest appreciation for nature and its bounties. This may or may not be attributed to the moss that had grown on his body, or the various critters that have settled in his joints and various other body parts.

Like about 78% of all DMs out there, I started my adventure in a tavern. The Antler and Thistle tavern, to be exact. It was a slow day, and relatively peaceful compared to other days where hobgoblin raids plagued the town of Brindol. A bit of trouble seemed to be stirring as Meepo ordered a cuppa wine without the monetary resources to pay for it, having spent all his gold on throwing war picks. Needless to say, the bartender was none too pleased at this, and he tried to catch the fleeing kobold, even as Thunderwolf stepped in between them and offered to cover the little guy’s tab. The whole thing would have ended there, and our heroes would have never set out on an adventure, had the hobgoblins not picked that exact moment to storm in the tavern and try to wreak havoc.

Waves of hobgoblins swarmed into the place and started attacking the tavern’s patrons as well as our kobold, Meepo. Fortunately, none of the patrons were hurt and our heroes fought valiantly, effectively holding them off before they could launch their volatile torches and set fire to the place. Meepo was hurt badly, but a timely Chill Wind from Thunderwolf cleared out the minions and saved the little guy. The kobold recovered quickly, thanks to a quick pep talk from himself (Inspiring Word), and together with the drunken dwarf, Gustav, they managed to end the encounter swiftly.

Hardly a moment passed before they learned another threat was coming their way. An ogre pulling a wagon full of explosives was rampaging in the streets, followed by two goblin archers. A bit of quick thinking from Meepo later, and the wagon soon exploded into smithereens from an accurately thrown molotov cocktail. The explosion softened the enemy up for Gustav to charge into the fray, attracting their attention while Thunderwolf summoned nature’s help and restrained the monsters with conjured vines from the earth. Meanwhile, Meepo launched himself from the tavern’s second floor, ignoring the damage from the fall, and rushed into battle throwing war picks aplenty. Despite the ogre’s resilience, it went down quickly from the coordinated assault, and its goblin allies soon followed suit. The heroes celebrated their victory and learned that the remaining hobgoblin forces have retreated.

The next day, the party was summoned by the town’s newest council member, a half-elf named Eoffram Troyas. He requested their help in rescuing several townspeople who had been captured by the hobgoblins a scant few days ago. He promised they would be rewarded fairly should they complete the task, and mentioned a further bonus if they would also return all the relics of the previous Red Hand war that were stolen from the town’s Hall of Great Valor. Our heroes agreed to help, and they interrogated a hobgoblin captive by the name of Morrik in hopes of finding their way to the enemy’s hideout. They learned that the leader of the raiding parties was a hobgoblin named Sinruth, and he had apparently set up base in a place called Castle Rivenroar. Thanks to Meepo’s convincing speech, Morrik agreed to lead the party there, and they got Eoffram’s permission to release the prisoner, even at a risk to his reputation (Morrik was originally supposed to stand trial and most likely be executed for his crimes).

Following their guide, the group made it to Rivenroar within the day and with no further incidents (failure to negotiate the deal would have led them into a Kruthik’s nest, or they might have to figure out the way on their own, which might lead to more random encounters… an adventurer’s bane!). Morrik bade them farewell and promised to rethink his ways, and Meepo offered to scout ahead of the party. The little kobold found an entrance to the derelict castle’s dungeons, and our heroes swiftly dispatched of the small guard forces at the entrance. Dodging the fireball launching braziers in the first room of the dungeon, they ventured deeper into the complex, into an area filled with fungi and toxic mushrooms.

There, they noticed two Rage Drakes that seemed to be guarding a room beyond the wide mushroom covered one they were in. Using the element of surprise, Gustav, Meepo and Thunderwolf mounted a ranged assault at one of the Drakes, and succeeded in luring them to the entrance, where their size advantage became instead a disadvantage. The party took out the two guard dragons with little effort, and with guidance from Thunderwolf, they navigated their way safely through the room without triggering any of the toxic mushrooms (much to the DM’s dismay). The guarded door led to a room where a captive townsperson was held in a magic circle. The old lady Zerriksa, a misunderstood herbalist from Brindol was held here after she threatened to turn some of the hobgoblins to toads using her fake voodoo magic. It took a few tries, but Thunderwolf was able to disable the magic circle, freeing Zerriksa. Not that the old hag was too grateful to the party. She was grumpy from her mistreatment (and probably from hunger too), but she did mention a useful tidbit of information.

Two days ago, in order to scare her into helping them, the hobgoblins showed her the dead body of another captive, whom she identified as Karentix, the captain of the guards. Then, they brought his son in front of her to threaten her, to no avail. The old lady did not care much for the other captives, and she would rather not follow the PCs deeper into the catacombs, for that was the true nature of these dungeons, in order to rescue them. Our heroes decided they would leave her in a safe area in the woods nearby, and send an animal messenger to Brindol, requesting a search party to rescue Zerriksa, and probably the other captives once the PCs get to them. Though the bird created by the ritual looked slightly weak, Thunderwolf believed it could do the job.

Doubling back into the dungeons, our heroes took a right turn from the entrance and found themselves in a room filled with glowing runes that spelled out the name of one of the families that shared these catacombs with the Rivenroar clan: the Von Jallach’s. At the sound of their entrance, swarms of Needlefang Drakes, voracious little beasts that overcome humanoids with their sheer numbers and feast on their flesh. In this case, Gustav suffered the brunt of the first attack, as the swarms descended on him, intending to rip his meaty dwarven flesh open for dinner. Thankfully, he was saved thanks to his own dwarven resilience, and Meepo’s inspiring comments (“Take it like a man! You’re boss!” etc.). While he held off the swarms, Thunderwolf summoned chilling winds that froze some of the critters and blew the rest into the area of the glowing runes, which burned through more of them. Gustav recovered enough to cleave through several more, and Meepo dealt the finishing blow by using his shield to push the remainder further into the burning runes, frying the small menaces like barbecue. Then, a barrage of crossbow bolts whizzed past the kobold’s head, and had it not been for his height, Meepo would have been in dire straits. Thunderwolf was too far away to notice, and Gustav was preoccupied with getting some of the numerous teeth and sometimes full jaws still stuck to his skin and armour off, but the kobold’s keen eyes spotted a skulking Gnome in the back of the room, hiding in the shadows and brandishing a wicked looking crossbow. Yipping with rage, the veteran warlord charged at his enemy and delivered a mighty blow with his War Pick. Thunderwolf immediately joined in and summoned a fiery bird of prey that threatened to bring swift death to the gnomish bugger. The gnome decided to turn tail and flee, ducking under the firebird but taking a blow from the warlord’s weapon. As soon as he was hit, he faded from sight, and slipped under Gustav’s defenses. He thought he was on his way to safety, but he was caught unawares by a well placed Chill Wind attack by Thunderwolf. Shivering with cold and covered in frost, the enemy was clearly visible to our heroes, and a swing by Gustav from the aptly named Execution Axe ended the fight, and the session.

Our heroes managed to get just enough experience to advance to the next level, and when they return, they will be more powerful and up to the challenges that lay ahead. What perils await them in the ruins of Rivenroar Castle? What unlikely allies will they meet on the way? Will they overcome the challenges and save the townsfolk? What magic items would entice them to thoroughly search this place? All these questions, and more, will be answered in our next session, on Sunday January 17th, 2010. Tune in to find out!

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Tomb raiders and ecchi ghosts
"The spectre touches you"

Last time we were here, our three heroes managed to save the stoned old lady, Zerriksa and cleared out the hobgoblin infestation in some parts of the Rivenroar Crypt. Today they are joined by new members and proceeded to rescue TWO more prisoners! That’s the spirit, guys. 3 down, 3 to go!

After resting from their last skirmish, the adventurers found and rescued Adronsius, the dwarven alchemist. Being sturdier and more fun to kick around than the frail humans, Adronsius was treated to a deluxe welcome by the hobgoblins and their nasty friends, the evil gnomes. Thunderwolf patched him up a bit, but he was in no condition to accompany the party on their quest. Gustav offered to take his kin back to Brindol, and to see if help was coming. Meepo decided to go with him partway, to ensure that they do not stumble upon a kruthik’s nest or some other awful beasts.

However, with only Thunderwolf by himself, how can the Crypt be scoured? Thankfully, help was on its way, albeit not quite what they were expecting.

While on its way to deliver the message, Thunderwolf’s animal messenger expired, but its message was still heard by two wandering heroes.

Azael is an Elven ranger who happened upon the bird as the last of its magics left its body. He was able to determine its magical origins, and from the message, he could pinpoint its starting location. Together with his traveling companion, Sir Santiago, a noble knight of Bahamut, they made their way to the ruins of the castle, in search of the bird’s creator.

The two parties met and became acquainted, and they learned that their purposes were similar. Thus, Thunderwolf, Azael and Santiago ventured further into the Crypt, while Gustav and Meepo headed back to Brindol. The new party, despite having just met, fought together like a well oiled machine. Between Azael’s well placed arrows, Santiago’s divine might, and Thunderwolf’s druidic magic, they quickly cleared a hobgoblin guard post near the entrance to the tombs.

Then, the three adventurers cautiously moved on to a room with a strange, shining portal. Thunderwolf identified it as a one-way portal leading from a faraway castle, once housing allies of the Rivenroar family. Before they could assess the portal any further, part of it shimmered and revealed itself to be a large ochre slime. The thing’s insides contained the bones of tattered rags of creatures it had devoured, a warning to all to beware its corrosive nature. Undaunted, the party readied themselves for a fight. What they did not expect was for the next two events to happen:

- From one of the crevices in the ceiling, a small, reptilian shaped descended and landed on the slime’s back. Balancing precariously upon the pieces of bone and armory that jutted out of the creature’s body, Meepo the kobold had joined the fray!

- Distracted by their ally’s entrance, Thunderwolf and Santiago did not notice the chill that seeped over them. Tendrils of darkness coalesce into form as the ghosts of murderers and villains manifested themselves behind the two heroes, their cold, dead hands reaching out, as if to take hold of the adventurer’s souls (or fondle them, depending on the context).

Startled, but fearless, Santiago issued a divine verdict in the name of his god and proceeded to smite one of the spectres with radiant energy. Hurt, but not yet banished, the ghosts turned invisible and bode their time. Meanwhile, Azael was busy at work, firing shot upon accurate shot at the ooze, while Meepo did his own part to help out, shouting encouragement and hacking away with his trusty war pick. Thunderwolf wasn’t sitting this battle out, either. His evocations hindered the ghosts and ooze, creating openings for his allies and holding them in place as the heroes worked on defeating them.

The monsters were not going without a fight, despite the damage they had taken. A hail of arrows split the ochre jelly in twain, but both halves retained the strength and ravenous nature of the original. Hurling themselves at the druid and the warlord, their massive strength combined with the corrosive acid they leave on one’s body was anything but pleasant. One of the spectres made its way next to Azael, determined to not let him get away unscathed. Its counterpart wasn’t doing so well, however. Caught between Thunderwolf’s evocations and Santiago’s smites, it was no wonder when Meepo finally banished it, he could utter the comment : “I guess it never had… a ghost of a chance!”

Once the spectres perished, the oozes were quick to follow. An unexpected boon came in the form of a magical plate armor that lied undamaged within the oozes’ bodies. Saying his thanks to the spirit of the warrior that once possessed the item, Santiago donned the protective gear. In times of dire need, this set of armor is known to provide its owner with strengthened resolve, helping them to recover their vitality and continue to battle.

A short rest later, and our heroes were ready to explore once more. Here, they had two choices: to follow the words of Adronsius and pursued a path that would lead to another prisoner, or enter an unknown portion of the crypt. While they were resting, Azael had scouted ahead and reported several hobgoblins in a room that contained four sarcophagi (curse that word and its pronunciation). He also took this chance to explore the mushroom chamber, accessible via the pits in the corridor that led to the room with the sar… coffins!, and procured some cloudspores for later use.

After making short work of the hobgoblins (and their pet drake), the heroes searched the room, and found two suspicious looking altars to the god Bane. A closer look revealed that the altars had been redecorated after the hobgoblins got here, and was likely dedicated to some other deity before. In a display of strength rather unusual for a kobold, Meepo lifted off the heavy lids of the sa…coffins. The party found a shirt of interwoven chains on the body of a tall, regal looking skeleton. It was definitely magical from the fact that it remained unaffected by age and wear. Another coffin, this one belonging to a more feminine corpse, revealed a well-wrapped parcel containing an orange gem that served to augment the power of spells cast through it. Being the pragmatists that they are, our heroes decided that such perfectly sound equipment should not lie wasted with those who no longer have any use for it. Nay, it made perfect sense to take them, for they were buried with the dead for that very reason. When our party members perish, they surely will bury their magical gear with them, so that future adventuring parties may make use of such equipment in their righteous quests! Thus Meepo and Thunderwolf came into possession of the chain shirt and the gem. The armor seemed to react to bold decisions, becoming more resistant to blows when its wearer takes a heroic course of action. A more fitting armor for our little kobold, there may be none.

While they may look like tomb raiders, our heroes are not without heart. They captured one of the hobgoblins for questioning, and they found out about the hobgoblins alliances with the gnomes. They also learned that a prisoner was being held in an altar room just nearby. Making haste, they hurried into the room, and was shocked to find the sight of Mirtala, the cook, chained to an altar at the far end of the room, while giant rats scurried about. In their moment of hesitation, the hobgoblin slipped away from under their watch and ran to the back of the room, where he disappeared into the shadows…

What is more unsettling than fighting dire rats in a tomb, you say? Fighting dire rats in a tomb while being watched by creepy statues. Four towering statues of displacer beasts watched the adventurers as they chopped, hacked, slung spells and arrows at the giant, filth-ridden, disease carrying rats, their amber eyes glowing eerily in the dark chamber. Fortunately, the rats are only large in size, and their chitter is worse than their bite. One of them managed to sink its fangs into the gaps in Santiago’s armor, and he felt the poisonous disease sapping away his strength. The paladin’s resilience and devotion allowed him to resist the filth fever that was inflicted upon him, however, and he managed to stop the disease from getting worse. At the same time, one of the more unfortunate rats was thrown into the air by Meepo’s pick, and subsequently split in two by Santiago’s Fullblade.

The battle looked almost won, but from the shadows, two crossbow bolts fired upon the party. One missed Meepo courtesy of his height, but the other one struck him solidly. The attack went unnoticed by all except Azael. The elf navigated past the rats and the hobgoblin that had jumped into the fray a few seconds ago and returned fire at the skulking gnomes hiding at the back of the room. With the front line covered, Thunderwolf moved to help the ranger. He conjured not one, but two fiery hawks to swoop at the stealthy gnomes, keeping them from firing their weapons at the party. Soon, the rats and the hobgoblin went down, and the two gnomes also suffered from fates most dire. One of them had a hole punched through his chest from Thunderwolf’s evocation, and the other was pinned to the wall by two well-placed arrows.

With the battle over, our heroes tended to Mirtala. First, they freed her from her binds and treated her injuries. She was under heavy mental trauma, and suffered from several rat bites that left her with a severe case of the filth fever. Neither words nor bandages would help much here, but there’s nothing a healthy dose of Lay on Hands can’t cure. As her complexion improved and the disease slowly fading from her body, the party coaxed Mirtala into revealing the whereabouts of the other prisoners. They learned where the curator for the Hall of Great Valor, Sertanian, was being held, and they decided to first get Mirtala outside the dungeon before pursuing further actions. Thunderwolf carried the exhausted cook outside in his wolf form, and set up a ritual that summoned a convenient campsite for the group to rest while planning their next step.

The party had cleaved a nice path through the minions of Sinruth, and were closer to rescuing the prisoners than ever, but time was running short. When will the hobgoblins sacrifice another prisoner, like they did with Kartenix? What is the identity of the undead guardians of the dungeon, of which only two spectres were seen? How will they find and confront Sinruth, the cause of the recent attacks on Brindol? Tune in on the 24th of January to find out!

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