Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Akwamu's way, pt. 7

Under escort by five or six guardsmen of the Shadow King, Bakari and I were taken eastward from the smouldering ruins of Koidarra to the great stronghold of Chaelhelm. We soon overtook a small group of refugees traveling in carts. One of them was Aaron, the innkeeper befriended by Devlin. He and several others told us what happened: a strange organ cloud appeared in the sky and suddenly buildings began to burst into flames. Some saw shadows that looked like demons. The townsfolk fled in panic. Many seem to have perished in the conflagration. Their tales were heartbreaking. Rowan, a young paladin amongst the refugees, feared the loss of his family.
      We continued our journey through the night. One benefit of having met the refugees was that several of them were able to vouch for Bakari and me and, as a result, the guardsmen removed our manacles after receiving our oaths not to escape. Bakari engaged in some Cuthbertian proselytizing (when he wasn't seeking the hero-worship of pre-pubescent boys) among the civilians. Soon we arrived at Chaelhelm. With Bakari insisting upon getting some sleep, it was left to me to make a report to the Lord Inan, the High Commander of the North. Rowan, representing the refugees, came as well. 
      I found Lord Inan to be a wise and competent leader. His story of the reports he had been receiving from Koidarra matched our tale of the Nerull cultists' infiltration of that town's civil authorities. He was understandably concerned that our party members — Devlin, Synast, and Meliusine — had evaded his guardsmen and remained at large. He feared they were in fact involved in the attack on Koidarra. He was particularly concerned at Devlin's flight and by a detail that I had not thought too closely about: Synast's recognition of the Mysteriarch based on our description of the figure who had appeared at Oeridien's tomb. How, the Commander asked me, could Synast have recognized such a powerful and shadowy figure if he were not already in cahoots with him? I sought to reassure him on all accounts, although I could not provide an explanation for Synast's ability to recognize the Mysteriarch. In the end, Lord Inan agreed to release me provided that I bear a request to Meliusine, Devlin, and Synast that they all meet with the Commander. Rowan accompanied me as an envoy of the Commander. Bakari, on waking, insisted on yet another audience with His Lordship who was concerned by reports from the south of violent disorder being sown by a man of Bakari's description (red dragon armour, etc.). Our good cleric managed to reassure Inan somewhat on that score and arranged for a meeting on neutral ground between our cautious party members and the Commander.
      So it was that we finally all met on the plains outside Chaelhelm. Bakari cast Holy Storm, ensuring that no evil could intrude upon our negotiations. Lord Inan created a circle of silver powder within which a zone of truth would prevent deception by any party. So it was that most, if not all, of our respective cards were laid on the table. There was much palavering, posturing, and protestation. In the end, however, the Commander seemed satisfied that we were not his enemies. He suggested that we seek answers to our questions in Alassiël and so it seems it is there that we must turn our path. The road is long, but happily I have a magical ever-full feed bag for our horses! I am sure that despite his grumbling Bakari will come to value the wisdom of this purchase. And there is more good news: it looks like the young paladin Rowan will accompany us. His will be a welcome presence and an exemplar of virtue for the others.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Great D&D Moments in History: The Death of Harold

"Great D&D Moments in History" reimagines famous historical events as episodes in a tabletop fantasy role-playing game. It doesn't get much nerdier than this.

England, 1066: a PC archer fighting on the Norman side at the Battle of Hastings rolls a natural 20 and then gets lucky on the home-brewed crit table, hitting King Harold straight in the eye. With only a few hit points remaining, Harold manages to pluck the arrow out but is subsequently ridden down by an NPC horseman, leading several players to complain loudly about DM kill stealing.
Death of Harold as depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry.  It is unclear whether Harold is the fellow at left clutching the arrow in his head, the guy being struck down on the right, or both. Source: Wikipedia Commons.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Akwamu's way, pt. 6

Mysteriarch Atael
A distant, harsh sound of stone grinding on stone cut through our debates about how to proceed. Someone was at the entrance to the tomb! Despite my enfeebled state, I ran out of the crypt, leapt the chasm, and ran up the long narrow stairs, only to discover that someone outside had pushed the stone slab closed, sealing us in. Still weak from the wicked strength-draining sorcery of our now-dead foes, I could not budge it. Fortunately, Bakari made it to the scene and managed to shift the slab aside. We emerged into the daylight only to find three new figures in the grove, apparently waiting for us to emerge. The leader was a tall, gaunt, man whose flesh was stretched taut over his bones — almost a corpse he seemed, yet not quite dead. He knew of Alinestra and seemed disappointed to learn that she was not with us. He offered to spare our lives if we gave him Synast instead. When we refused, he ordered the others to kill us all and bring him Synast's dead body. Then he simply vanished.
      His two followers attempted to carry out those orders, and very nearly succeeded. One of them, some kind of demonic spell caster, further enfeebled me to the point that I could no longer bear any weight other than the clothes on my back — not a particularly harsh fate for a monk like myself, but galling nonetheless. He further used foul magics to create a dense cloud of fog and to incapacitate Bakari, Synast, and myself with nausea. Fortunately, by this time I had succeeded in disarming his comrade, a horribly scarred woman wielding two scimitars who wounded Bakari severely before he managed to return the favour, bringing her down. One of Melusine's arrows finished off the demonic magic user. He had with him a strange holy symbol, but otherwise their possessions gave us no clues as to their identity or purpose.
      Our next discovery threw us into despair: while we were fighting, someone (or something) had descended into the tomb and removed Oeridien's bones. All our efforts to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands had been in vain.
      Synast, upon being questioned about the gaunt man's interest in him, revealed that our vanished foe was none other than Mysteriarch Atael of Ifium, one of the seven Southern Holds currently at war with Artuare. We guessed that he had taken Oeridien's bones back to his stronghold, Arcuiara, far to the east.
      Despondent and troubled, we returned to the cave where we had sheltered the previous night and licked our wounds. I could not help but notice that Devlin was beginning to seem quite taken with Melusine, whose proficiency with the bow he did not cease to extol. Bakari assumed the ranger's interest was carnal in nature and did not fail to make a number of sexual innuendoes on the topic. For my part, I think the man sincerely eager to improve his own skill. That evening we weighed our options. I suggested that, given the power of the Mysteriarch, we seek the support of a patron or powerful ally. Given that Artuare is currently at war with Ifium, the Shadow King seemed a natural choice. Devlin, however, seemed quite opposed to the idea — he apparently fears that Artuare's ruler would only seek to acquire the power of Oeridien for  himself. I agree of course great power corrupts, but I also found Devlin's instant distrust of the Shadow King intriguing. He proposed instead seeking help in Alassiël. Unable to come to a decision, we resolved to seek further counsel in Koidarra, where Bakari naturally wished to consult his brothers of St Cuthbert and where the librarian Angrim Filkins could provide perhaps further information.
       As bad as things were, I found myself looking forward to our return to Koidarra, the town we'd so recently freed from the grip of Nerull's cultists. But worse awaited us there, for in our absence the town had been cruelly sacked, its inhabitants left dead in the streets. Blades and magic had
After the sack of Koidarra.
(Credit: streamline69 at
massacred those innocent folk, including the priests of St Cuthbert. We had only just begun our search of the smouldering ruins when a mounted party of Artuarean soldiers appeared. They too were investigating the destruction. Their commander, obviously inexperienced, was suspicious of our story and decided to take us into custody for questioning by his superior. I acquiesced, eager to speak to someone with real authority. Bakari did as well, though with considerably less grace. Devlin, however, wheeled his horse about and escaped, while Melusine and Synast, previously scouting stealthily, elected to remain hidden.
      Now Bakari and I, disarmed, ride with the soldiers to their fort. Will Devlin, Synast, and Melusine attempt to deliver us, or merely trail us and await the outcome of our interview? Or will some other twist of fate intervene?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Great D&D Moments in History: The Field of the Cloth of Gold

"Great D&D Moments in History" reimagines famous historical events as episodes in a tabletop fantasy role-playing game. It doesn't get much nerdier than this.

Near Calais, France, June 1520: Two high-level NPCs, Henry VIII of England and François I of France, meet to reaffirm the Anglo-French treaty of 1514 and take part in a series of elaborate tournaments and entertainments.
Meeting at the Field of the Cloth of Gold by a nineteenth-century artist, after a sixteenth-century original. Source: Wikipedia Commons.

Although it had been agreed beforehand that the two monarchs would not fight each other, Henry unexpectedly challenges François to a wrestling bout which the English king quickly loses. This is the last time European monarchs wrestle each other in public — in part because of the potential blow to national pride but mostly because no one wants to use the grappling rules ever, ever again.
Engraving from a seventeenth-century Dutch treatise on wrestling. Source:

Monday, October 28, 2013

My RPG profile

I'm Peter (Peter C on the now-defunct Google+), a Canadian living on the west coast. I started playing RPGs in 1981 or 1982; the first game I owned was the Moldvay Basic box set. It was a gift. (Thanks, Jon!) The first game I bought was the Expert box. I went through a long hiatus from pen-and-paper elfgames circa 1986–2004 because I thought they were childish but I have since been disabused of that mistaken notion — this happened around the time I became a stepdad. My re-discovery of the joys of old-school gaming came via the forums in 2007 (screen name Mak); I subsequently migrated to Google+ for its vibrant OSR and RPG communities and am now, like many others, somewhat adrift Internet-wise in the wake of that platform's demise.

Currently running: a face-to face 5th-edition D&D campaign set in a loose adaptation of the late N. Robin Crossby's Hârn and a parallel B/X online game set in the same world.

Games I'd like to play: The One Ring, Numenéra, Troika!, Empire of the Petal Throne (1975), Gamma World (1e), Stars Without Number, Classic Traveller, Encounter Critical, any pre-2000 D&D.

Where to find me online to talk about elfgames and other nerdy stuff:

  • This blog
  • Discord: Peter C(#5254)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Great D&D Moments in History: The Wolf of Gubbio

"Great D&D Moments in History" reimagines famous historical events as episodes in a tabletop fantasy role-playing game. It doesn't get much nerdier than this.

Early thirteenth century: Francis of Assisi casts the second-level cleric spell Speak with Animals and negotiates a pact with the dreaded man-munching wolf of Gubbio: the beast will no longer devour the citizens of Gubbio, who in return promise to feed the wolf daily. According to the fourteenth-century text that relates this tale, Francis and the wolf actually shake on the deal.
Detail from The Wolf of Gubbio by Stefano di Giovanni (Sassetta). One of seven panels on the back of a polyptych made for the altar in Sansepolcro, Italy, in the fifteenth century. Note the ample evidence of the wolf's depredations in the right midground. Source: The National Gallery, London, UK.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Akwamu's way, pt. 5

After consulting with Aareloth, the spiritual leader at the temple of St Cuthbert, and Soremos, a paladin devoted to the god's service, we decided to return to the cultists' headquarters to root the last of them out.  They had fled, but in their haste left behind some valuable magical items which we claimed.  (One of them was a set of fist wraps that gave extra potency to my punches.)  Devlin, meanwhile, surprised us all by summoning a wolf out of nowhere.  Actually, it sprang from his brooch, but who expects a wolf to pop out of a piece of jewelry?
Angrim Filkins
Credit: Library of Congress
      While the others took care of various business, Aareloth directed me to the home of Angrim Filkins, an historian who proved to most useful: one of his books on the Elvish civil wars contained a passage about Oeridien, known as the Elf-Killer for the murders he committed after the deaths of his family during those conflicts. Indeed, he had vowed to kill every elf in existence.  Angrim guessed that Oeridien's tomb would be located close to the spot where he was finally killed in the year 463, a battle site in a large grove about three days' travel north of the river that serves as the border between Artuare and Lanthiriël.
      While Bakari went to inform the town guards of the cult's destruction, I took some of our funds to procure horses for the journey north.  The friendly and helpful stablemaster sold me five fine beasts along with all the necessary tack: one for each of us and a pack horse to carry extra gear.  I even had the good fortune to purchase a magical feed bag!  I was most pleased with the outcome, although later Bakari expressed some displeasure at the prices I'd paid.  Who'd have thought a cleric would be such a stickler for haggling?  No matter: in short order we had left Koidarra behind and soon were fording the river.
      Sounds of sharp battle drew us to a clearing where we found two dead Teremnar elves and spotted a Syndar elf, wounded, in a tree.  This turned out to be a pale-skinned elf with blue eyes, one Meliusine, who had killed the other two elves in self-defense.  She knew the location of the tomb, for members of her family had been involved in its construction ages ago.  Our news of the cult's intentions left her shaken, and she agreed to guide us to the spot with all haste.
      Pursuing our course to the tomb, we crossed paths with another patrol of Teremnar, but they quickly fell to us before they report our presence. As night fell, we were forced to take shelter in a nearby cave. Devlin remained outside with his wolf to guard the horses.
      Before dawn we were on our way once more.  Upon reaching the grove and the tomb we saw that the covering slab and its protective wards had been broken.  Devlin had already noted tracks leading through the forest to this place: we deduced that the cultists had preceded us.  Slipping inside stealthily, with Synast checking for traps and snares, we came to a door upon which was inscribed a riddle in ancient Syndaran, a language that both Meliusine and Devlin were somewhat familiar with.  A lucky guess allowed us to breach this magical portal, and we soon found ourselves before a double door through which my ears perceived the sound of chanting.  The cultists had already begun their wicked ritual!
Better stay out of the rain, demon
      After a few moments in which Bakari cast some protective enchantments upon the group, we barged into the room.  A horned demon with glowing red eyes and an armoured celestial stood before an open sarcophagus, about which they had drawn some kind of foul symbols.  We rushed in.  Disturbed, the cultists summoned shadow fiends to attack us.  Their touch drained me of my very strength, but I ignored the pain and dodged through them to the sarcophagus where Oeridien's bones lay mouldering.  Grabbing his dessicated skull, I threw it out of the chamber down the hall of approach, where Devlin's cat grabbed it and ran away from the battle.  Meanwhile, Bakari's Holy Storm spell bathed the foul outsiders and their minions in a devastating rain.  Meanwhile, his own summoned celestial lion raked them with its claws.  Well-deserved, I say!  Synast stabbed, Devlin shot, and it was our good fortune to ultimately prevail.  And not a moment too soon, for my strength was ebbing away even as the last of our foes fell to the ground.
      The battle won, it now falls to us to end this threat forever: Oeridien's remains must forever be set beyond the reach of evil followers of Nerull and Hextor.   How this shall be accomplished remains to be determined...

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Akwamu's way, pt. 4

Deadly foes and deceitful allies have haunted our steps of late. It is with a heavy heart that I resume this journal, for one of our party members has been revealed a traitor of sorts. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Ruined city
      After we had made our preparations, the wizard Xanan teleported us to the Old City. It was nought but a sprawling mass of ruins. In the distance we could see Koidarra, the town that rose in the aftermath of the Old City's fall. We set out to find our answers there.
       The guards seemed anxious; they were reluctant to let us enter and told us they could not guarantee when we might be able to leave. Even stranger, people moved nervously in the streets, avoiding us and even each other. No children were to be seen. Alarmingly, we found the temples of Pelor and St Cuthbert empty and abandoned, although as we inspected the latter a furtive figure slipped Bakari a note asking him to return to the temple district after nightfall.
      After settling in at our inn (which the innkeeper, Aaron, claimed was the only left open — a falsehood, as we later found out), we set out to explore the town some more. Alinestra had gone separately, but before long we stumbled across her in the midst of an altercation with three men. The whole business was being observed at a distance by a slight figure whom we didn't recognize. Before we could act, Alinestra attacked her interlocutors, killing two before we made it to the scene. I disarmed the third one, whom Bakari then grappled. As Alinestra predicted, all bore the symbols of Nerull. Foul cultists! Our prisoner would reveal nothing, despite Synast's best efforts. (Question, stab, heal. Repeat.) The observer, however, turned out to be a man named Devlin. He bore a fine bow and was accompanied by a rather intelligent cat named Alfie. He had caught something of the words exchanged
Credit: Vincent Tan
between our ally and the cultists: something about infighting between the devotees of Nerull and those of Hextor. It seemed to have something to do with the fact that a high priest of Hextor was in town. Suspecting that Devlin could reveal yet more of what he had overheard of Alinestra's conversation, Bakari arranged to meet him later at another inn. (Yes, another inn!)
      While Bakari was gone, city guards appeared at our door. We had the cultist imprisoned in our rooms, so I feigned drunkenness to stall them while Synast and Alinestra made their escape through the windows. I too departed and went in search of Bakari, whom I knew intended to make his clandestine rendez-vous in the temple district around midnight. Synast had the same idea, and so too did Devlin, evidently curious about what Bakari had revealed to him. We all found ourselves together outside the temple of St Cuthbert. It was not truly abandoned, as it turned out: some clerics and paladins remained, and they took Bakari inside and spoke with him at length. They explained how followers of Nerull had effectively taken over control of the town, controlling its administration and its guardsmen and keeping the populace in fear. They warned him about Alinestra although they had no strong evidence against her.  As it turns out, they were quite right that she was not telling us everything.
      While awaiting Bakari's return, Synast and I spotted a man spying on the temple. We pounced. He turned out to be a simple townsman whom the cultists had bullied into following Bakari. We induced him to flee and take his family into hiding, promising that we would take care of the cultists if only he revealed their headquarters to us. This he did. With Bakari back in our midst, we set out for the warehouse district to confront the evildoers.
      We soon located the building and its sole entrance, well guarded. Alinestra used some hitherto unrevealed magic to assume the guise of the erstwhile 'spy', managing to approach the guards and convince them to patrol elsewhere. This allowed us to slip inside, where Synast soon located a secret door leading underground. We knew we were in the right place for we found murals depicting Nerull and much evidence of foul and bloody rites. Devlin took the precaution of spiking each and every door shut behind us, but this made it difficult for the guards we encountered — mostly fearful townsfolk, desperate to escape the terror inflicted upon them by the Nerullites — to leave the complex. As we proceeded further, we found an ever greater number of traps: thankfully, Synast was able to disarm most of the them... emphasis on "most."
Graffiti by Bakari
      Behind one secret door we came across a frightened gnome hiding in a barrel. He seemed harmless enough, so we let him be. But behind a skilfully trapped door we found our real target: a cleric of Nerull who had just finished summoning some kind of skeletal creature. We leapt into battle, Bakari calling forth a storm of holy rain that inflicted terrible damage upon our evil foes... and upon Alinestra as well! While Bakari and I dealt with the Nerullite and her skeletal minion, Synast and Devlin battled Alinestra, whose evil nature had now been revealed to all of us. Despite being thus divided and weakened, we prevailed, in large part due to the effect of Bakari's divine tempest. We found that Alinestra bore a holy symbol of Hextor, not of Wee Jass.
      Seeing our victory over the wicked Nerullite cleric, the gnome Vek'nash became willing to provide some more information about this place. He was a mage who had helped the cultists  discover the
Credit: Astates
probable location of Oeridien's body: somewhere on the border between Artuare and Lanthiriel, the Elvish lands to the north, as mentioned in a tome on the civil wars of the Elves. Although he knew few details about the cultists, he warned us to beware of Ixal, a human warrior; Kirinafor, a winged demon; and the Mystiarch Atael, a powerful wizard. The Nerullite cleric we slew was Chakami, a death enchanter.
      Pushing our way further into the complex, we came across a demon — not Kirinafor, but some other fiend, eager for living beings to torment. We feigned servility while we maneuvered to strike. The battle was sharp, for the thing's partial incorporality meant that our blows did little damage. Nonetheless we managed to send the foul thing back to the abyss. Weakened, we retreated to the Temple of St Cuthbert to rest and to heal. A momentous decision awaits: do we finish cleaning out the next of vipers here in Koidarra, or make haste to the borderlands to find the body of Oeridien?

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Akwamu's way, pt. 3

The evil priest lay unconscious at our feet. We stripped him of his armour and belongings, many of which had the look of items of quality, and bound him securely. We noticed that his entire body was scarified—no doubt the result of some foul ritual.
City guard: "I used to be an adventurer like you..."
Credit: Windmaker
      Upon emerging from the warehouse, we found four town guards waiting for us. They claimed that they had been sent to our last known location to arrest The Hammer on charges of treason: it was alleged that he was a spy for a foreign power. In our haste to report our findings to the clerics of St Cuthbert, we allowed the guards to depart with our comrade, hoping to sort this obvious misunderstanding out later. As it turned out, we misjudged our peril in the moment of our victory, for we would soon learn that these were no city guards and that we had been deceived.
      The clerics of St Cuthbert and paladins of Heironeous listened to our story and recognized the name Oeridien. He was an archmage who lived long ago, before the Cataclysm, and who went insane and joined forces with a necromancer. We now had to ponder our next move, but as it was late and the guard commander had not yet arrived, we settled down to rest—another mistake born of complacency, for we assumed that we would be secure in the midst of the clerics. But it was not so: in the middle of the night, the church compound was attacked. Bakari, who had taken the wise precaution of sleeping near the prisoner, awoke to strange sounds and muffled cries. No one responded to his hails, so he set forth to find answers, only to find several of the priest of St Cuthbert dead or unconscious in the halls. When he returned to the gaol, he saw that our prisoner was
dead—beheaded, in fact.
     By this time, the rest of us were awake. (I might have woken sooner, but Davos's deafening snores blocked out the commotion.) It turns out that most of the priests had fled in panic when the attackers struck. It also became apparent that our attackers had been invisible. We quickly enlisted the clerics to aid us in our search for answers, first by using their divine spells to detect the presence of any remaining evildoers and then by communicating magically with the corpse of our prisoner. We also had them employ their various powers of divination. Here is what we discovered:

  • the cultists of Nerull had already gathered the four ingredients for the ritual (blood from a dragon, a vampire, a deva, and an old god)
  • they were gathering near Koidarra, the old capital of Artuare, to perform the ritual
  • their goal was to achieve "true death and rising"
Unable to rest, Bakari went to seek out the guard commander while I remained with Davos, who needed to rest so as to prepare some much-needed spells. Synast also went forth, returning to the inn at the sign of the Hopping Leprechaun. Both came away with unexpected news. Bakari learned that the guard commander had not ordered The Hammer's arrest and that a great fire had been set in the slum district just about the time that the temple of St Cuthbert was attacked, no doubt a diversion to keep the real city guards busy. Meanwhile, Synast was approached by a mysterious woman who claimed she knew of our purpose and had valuable information for us.
     The following day, with Davos having identified several useful magical items we'd taken from the cultists' headquarters, we set forth to meet Synast's contact: Alinestra. We were all shaken by the deceptions and treacheries of the last day and so were understandably suspicious of her, Bakari most of all. Alinestra, too, was initially tightlipped and reluctant to say much. But little by little we came to an agreement to work together.
      Alinstra is a cleric from a temple devoted to Wee Jas. It was from her temple that the cultists acquired the blood of a god, in the form a living being who is "god-blooded." This person, likewise a cleric, had voluntarily joined the cultists, presumably for self-interested reasons. Over the last six years, Alinestra has been investigating the cult and seeking the traitor to her temple. In that time she has killed several creatures like the one we fought below the streets of Bahor. Perhaps nine now remain.
      We agreed to allow Alinestra to study the book of Oeridien, and in return she divulged more of what she knew of the cult. The purpose of the ritual was to bring Oeridien back to life. Long ago, Oeridien had been a follower of Pelor, but after the tragic death of his family during a war between humans and elves, he went mad and turned to evil. He was wont to kidnap people and sacrifice them to Nerull, then raised them as zombies. He acquired powerful followers from the church of Hextor by promising them great power. One of these was a half-demon priest named Kirenifor. At one point, he is said to have constructed a great airship out of the bones and skins of his victims.
      Though our enemies now have the four ingredients for the ritual, they yet lack one crucial thing: the body of Oeridien. According to Alinestra, the latter is located near the old capital and this is why we must go there at once. If we can prevent the evil ones from retrieving the body, we can prevent the return of Oeridien.
      One more revelation awaited us. Bakari now informed us all that he had formerly been a martial follower of Hextor who had repented of his ways after being resurrected by that dark god's agents. Now this follower of St Cuthbert is being drawn, with the rest of us, into a confrontation with the worshippers of Nerull and Hextor. As a hero of legend once said, "This time, it's personal."


*chain maille
*ring of protection +1
*cloak of resistance +1
*periapt of wisdom +2
sack of gold
*wand of shocking grasp

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Diary of a bounty hunter, pt. 2

Credit: Richard Pace
Something I ate shortly before leaving Kawa'ho violently disagreed with me and I spent the next while below deck, fevered and barely conscious. As a result I missed some interesting events: a sighting of a mysterious ship at sea, and the destruction of a barge full of the living dead. At our next landfall, on a larger island, my comrades reported the zombie plague to the authorities and for their pains we were attacked in our rooms at the inn. (Apparently I slept right through it, exhausted as my body was from fighting back to health.) Our attackers were not zombies, but a pair of mysterious ninjas whose faces were tattooed entirely black.
     We were told later that these "dark ones" or "shadowed ones" are creatures of legend and nightmare, feared and despised among the Togapa. Still weak but mostly recovered, I was able to conduct some research in local records and learned that the dark ones seem most associated with high seas piracy on the fringes of Togapa territory. The local magistrate, a thirty-something woman named To'kau, reported that some of the shadowed ones may, contrary to popular belief, actually have "normal" tattooed faces and thus be capable of blending in. This, of course, only makes this organization more dangerous. We could only assume that they attacked us because of our role in trying to prevent the spread of the zombie plague, but we have no proof.
Credit: Skokloster Castle
      Recognizing our efforts, the magistrate allowed us to take useful gear from the armoury. All of us found something to our taste: a new helm, or shield, or weapon.
      We then set out to recruit local followers—ideally clever street urchins who could run messages to the authorities and blend into the crowds, perhaps even detecting any who attempted to follow us. On a tip from our innkeeper, we set out to find one such prospect, but en route Dolly noticed we were being tailed. She confronted the man, but he made excuses and vamoosed. It was perhaps not surprising that we were soon ambushed by five hooded men. Although we were caught off guard, Sarkona's tail swipe almost ended the fight before it began and Archimedes proved might handy with his cane. Our attackers turned out to be from various Togapa clans—evidence of some kind of organization that crossed factional lines. Could they be somehow related to the dark ones?
      In the end we did locate and hire a young man: Koa Malaui. He recognized one of our attackers as a local tough and led us to the street our attacker frequented. We saw several of them loitering in doorways. Taking the initiative, Sarkona and I walked boldly into their midst. As they closed in about us, trying to intimidate us, I slashed out with my claws which I'd coated in a powerful drug. My victim fell unconscious immediately and his companions, facing an angry lizard and an unpredictable cat, fled. Perhaps if we enter their hideout, we will find some explanation for the motives behind their involvement with the hooded attackers....

Monday, June 24, 2013

Akwamu's way, pt. 2

After the paralysis inflicted by the ghouls wore off, I was able to take stock of our surroundings. The room was dominated by a 30’-tall statue of a vile horned demon in a sitting position, a great brazier held in its lap. The statue’s surface was so polished as to defy my best efforts to climb it, but a rope cast over its out-thrust arm allowed Synast and myself to ascend. Its eyes were great red gems, and Synast quickly set to work prying them out. Meanwhile the others discovered an alcove in which a solitary candle was lit. The candle’s flame was clearly magical; it gave off no warmth, nor could it be extinguished by any means we could discover.
Iconic looting

      We continued to explore the rest of this underground complex with Synast carefully searching for trapped doors, of which we found not a few. One such trap involved blasts of flame; another, spikes on springs. The cultists were clearly determined to prevent anyone from uncovering their diabolical schemes. In one room we found annotated maps showing the locations where they planned to acquire the ingredients needed for the ritual. In another, we found a great book, laid out on an altar surrounded by candles, that outlined the history of the cult and identified someone named Oeridien as its leader.   It revealed that the highest followers of Nerull can turn into an abomination called an animus, a lich-like creature whose mind is linked to Nerull and Oeridien. We are fortunate that Synast can read the Abyssal tongue, which the cultists seem to use for all their communications.
      We also found references to a mysterious name: Tsenix. In one room it was written in blood on a wall, apparently the dying act of a man opening a trapped chest. In another, it appeared on the base of a statue of an undead creature bearing an expression of grief. We will have to find out more about this Tsenix and his or her importance to the vile followers of Nerull.
Priest of Nerull
Credit: YngvarAsplund
      The foul practices of the cultists were much in evidence in a series of chambers designed for torture and confinement. In one we were attacked by a sinister cloud of shadow with glowing red eyes; its very presence seemed to suck the air out of our lungs. Our mundane weapons passed right through it, but magical ones and spells allowed us to destroy it. Other rooms contained sarcophagi, faded tapestries depicting all manner of disturbing magical activities, and a massive painting of a screaming face—apparently another reference to Tsenix. Davos’ ability to detect magic proved most valuable, as he discovered a number of items emitting dweomers of one kind or another.
      Finally we stumbled into a great room from whose centre, a stone throne atop a round dais, a prematurely aged young man in rich attire challenged us. Unsure of his powers, we slammed the door and prepared ourselves for combat. Upon re-entering, we found that he had summoned a great hound from Hell as well as a weapon of Nerull to destroy us. He exerted his evil will against us—each time we made to strike at him, a dark presence in our minds sought to dissuade us. He himself wielded a great spiked chain, whose wicked edges cut me deeply. Gritting my teeth and resisting the effects of his will, I used my sai to disarm him while the others dispatched the hound. With his summoned weapon of Nerull also fading away, the creature saw the tables turning and tried to hide in the midst of a magical obscuring mist, but Bakari, magically enlarged and strengthened, charged into
 the cloud and grappled the evil thing. I do not know if this enemy feels pain, but the embrace of an angry man in dragonscale armour cannot be very gentle. Thus restrained, the foul priest—for such I deem he is—was an easy target for my fists. I did not seek to kill, however, but rather to subdue. Now our prisoner, he shall, we hope, provide more answers to the mysteries of this place and of the cult itself.

magic candle
2 red gems (from demon statue)
2 small pearls
3 smoky gems
3 daggers
Book of Oeridien
wand of cure light wounds (5/50 charges)
divine scroll of ?
wand of (evocation magic)
potion of mage armour
vial of ?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Diary of a bounty hunter, pt. 1

Old gods, pirates, and zombies. Welcome to my world. And I was trying to run away from trouble.
      Things went south on my last contract and I ended up in a heap of trouble with clan Hamoa. You know: one of the most powerful Togapa clans out there. I figured it was time to get out of town and set sail on a ship headed up the archipelago. Just my luck: not long out of port and we get boarded by pirates. Clan Hamoa pirates, no less.
      They didn't spare any of the crew, but me and some other non-Togapi ended up in the brig. We were an odd bunch: me, Syl, a gurahl; a male Zentrayan named Sarkona; a human outsider named Merek; and a female half-orc magician named Dolly Lama. It was only a matter of time before the Hamoa figured out who I was, but luckily — that may not be the best word here — the pirates' ship was attacked by an immense shark. They thought it was an avatar of the Devourer, the Togapan god of destruction. Whatever it was, it gave us a chance to break out of our cell, thanks to the weird properties of Merek's outsider clothes. We managed to grab some gear and commandeer a lifeboat to get us away from the sinking ship.  In the process I got a close look at the Devourer. All I remember is the teeth. Lots of teeth.
      After some days at sea we made it to a neutral island called Mahoa
where we were able to sell the lifeboat. Sarkona also located a supply of some pungent spice he needs to eat. Things were going well until Dolly spotted some Hamoan sailors eyeing us in the square. They were pirates, survivors of the Devourer's attack. Well, they didn't survive too much longer. I joined Dolly in attacking them — she seems to have quite the vengeful streak — and by the time the constabulary arrived two were dead. Fortunately, the elders of clan Hawai believed our story and were only too happy to punish the Hamoan for piracy. They feted us with food and Po'an (a drink of fermented coconut milk) and found us berths on a ship so that we could continue our journey. Merek decided to stay behind, so we said our farewells.
      We embarked on the Luamoi the next day. About a week into our two-week voyage, we made landfall on an island to take on fresh water, only to find that the harbour was crawling with the walking dead —animated corpses that stank of rotting flesh. Zombies. The same was true of another, smaller fishing village where we went ashore. Here we found a crude diary that suggested the people had started turning into zombies about four days before we arrived. We also saw where a large barge had somehow gotten inside the reef and run ashore on the coast. Some zombies, still "alive", were trapped aboard. They were wearing clothing typical of clan Mamoa, but there's no way a barge from the Mamoan home islands could ever have floated here. That barge was brought here deliberately.
Dolly Lama
      The Luamoi crew blew a conch shell and we heard a reply from the interior of the island — some unzombified people remained on the island. Although it was getting dark, we launched a rescue, aided by a hulking religious man named Maulao who was among the crew. We hoped his clout with the Devourer would help him deal with the zombies, but in the end it was Dolly's electrical magic that did the most to keep the things off us. Also, it must be said that zombies are very easy to surprise from behind. My katana sliced off the tops of many skulls that night.
      We found the survivors — a group of youths led by two teachers — and escorted them back toward the ship. On the way we ran into another outsider, a human named Archimedes Newton. Believe it or not, he was actually trying to teleport between worlds. I reckon he wished he'd stayed put. Anyway, he joined our gang and soon we were hard pressed by the zombie hordes standing between us and the shore. Good thing those teachers turned out to be handy in a fight (especially that old woman with her trident). We managed to carve our way through to the launch and made it back aboard.
      Still in need of freshening our supplies, we sailed to the nearby island of Kawa'ho (clan Hawai).  Thankfully, no signs of zombies here. Some villagers said they'd seen a ship at sea towing a barge, some eleven days previously. We guessed this was the barge we saw wrecked. Looks like someone was behind this zombie infestation.
      We had a chance to rest on the island and to see the local sights. They have a deadly carnivorous plant here called the thresher that paralyzes its victims with a poison. We managed to collect a sample and it looks like I'll be able to concoct some unguent to apply to my arrows or even my blade. What more could a bounty hunter ask for?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Akwamu's way, pt. 1

"Mathura Young Sadhu"
by Tom Carter
I arrived in Bahor a few days ago, and discovered the place in uproar. The local temple of Pelor had been razed overnight by powerful magics and desecrated by the symbols of Hextor, the Herald of Hell and Nerull, the Hater of Life. What is more, many of the clergy of Pelor had disappeared as well. 
      Beginning my investigations, I heard rumours of strange noises heard at night and people gone missing. Unable to find any actual eyewitnesses, I resolved to keep watch at night myself on the rooftops. After a morning of practice and meditation, I lay down to sleep in my room at the Hopping Leprechaun so as to be well rested for the night's vigil, only to be awakened by a loud knocking late in the afternoon. A pair of strangers stood at the door, claiming to be volunteers investigating the mysteries. They struck me as a pair of rather desperate mercenaries. One, an unkempt spellcaster named Davos, seemed most eager to position himself at the head of this volunteer association he was cobbling together.  The other, a grim but astonishingly well-groomed cleric named Bakari, seemed obsessed with meting out retribution for various evil deeds. 
"Temple Ruins" by Jonas De Ro
      Despite my initial misgivings, I was impressed with the information they'd already gathered and the contacts they'd made and so agreed to join forces with them. Together we began our night's watch, with myself on a high roof over the city.
      In the middle of the night I heard a sudden sizzling noise, as if of electricity.  I quickly set off toward the source, motioning for Davos and Bakari to follow.  What we found was horrifying: hundreds of corpses, all very pale and cold like the grave, lying in the middle of a plaza. They were all dressed in the same brown material. Where had they come from? Were they the missing townsfolk? Our questions would remain unanswered, for just then I spotted a shadowy figure on a nearby roof and set off in pursuit. When I reached the peak, the figure was gone, but what I saw looking back down into the plaza chilled me to the bone.  The bodies had been arranged in a pattern
      We had just made this disturbing discovery when another pair of strangers appeared on the scene: a massive fighting man who called himself the Hammer, and a rather stealthy elf from the north named Synast.  They too were investigating these strange goings-on. Examining the pattern, Davos concluded that it was a symbol of some ancient summoning ritual. We began moving the bodies, hoping to disrupt the pattern and thereby prevent any summoning that was to take place.  When the Hammer threw a body, it disintegrated into nothingness! The mysteries were deepening, and we needed answers.
      Davos and Baraki hastened away to inform the city authorities while I remained in the plaza to confer with Synast and the Hammer, only to come under a surprise attack: some evildoer cast a magical ball of flame at us from a nearby roof! Despite our burns we gave hot pursuit (no pun intended), but the creature eluded us. Upon returning to the plaza we were astonished to discover that the corpses had disappeared. 
Nerull as depicted in
 Deities and Demigods
      In the aftermath of these perplexing events we spoke to the clerics of St Cuthbert (Bakari's order), the guard commander, and the mage's guild. We learned that the pattern we'd seen was indeed part of an ancient necromantic ritual known only to the highest followers of Nerull. Its purpose was to raise massive numbers of the dead in the evil god's service. In addition to the symbol, four types of blood were required: that of a dragon, a vampire, a deva, and an old god.
      By this time it was nearly dawn and, with Bakari complaining loudly of his need for sleep, we returned to the Leprechaun. After rest and a breakfast that received strangely mixed reviews, we returned to the plaza where the city guards were keeping watch. Amidst the crowd I spied a strange cloaked figure watching us intently — the caster of the fireball!  Once more we gave chase, and this time Synast's stealth paid off: she shadowed the creature to a secret door in the side of a building in the warehouse district. We entered and descended into an underground complex where we soon found ourselves beset by foul undead creatures. In one room we quickly destroyed one such abomination before it could complete some kind of spell. In another, we encountered a group of  ghouls whose touch caused paralysis. Stricken in this way, I would have surely perished had not the others pulled me aside and cut them down. Now we must continue our search, hoping to forestall the terrible evil that seems about to descend upon Bahor's innocent population.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Letter IV - Battle at the dam and the defense of Talsit

To my brother,

      I trust this will reach you at our family’s country estate. You have no doubt heard news of events at Talsit. It is dire. The cultists are here, preparing to assault the city. Everything hangs in the balance. If Talsit falls, nowhere is safe.
       Let me tell you more of my return to the city. When I last wrote, I was in a ship making its way back to Talsit. We had discovered orcs prowling the shores of the great river, attacking the locks and killing the workers. We soon discovered worse: they had constructed a massive fortified dam across the river. (I guess now that this was to prevent relief of the city during their forthcoming attack.)
Image credit:

      Although we approached the structure in stealth, we soon found outselves in a brisk fight and in the sights of their archers. At one point Aethelred (that’s the oiled dwarf I mentioned before) tossed me up onto the parapet so I could disrupt their aim. Lord Araval rushed through a hail of arrow to cleave an orc leader in twain while the engineer Aastrod set a fire on the dam. We had only just dispatched the dam’s defenders when a much stronger force of orcs appeared on the field. There was a warchanter among them who unleashed a great tongue of flame at us, nearly frying Mishka and Aastrod. “Red” charged straight at them but was felled by an arrow in the eye. Only Mishka’s quick application of a potion of healing saved the valiant dwarf’s life. Though blinded in one eye, he stood and fought toe to toe with the great armoured orc chieftain. The battle was fierce and I did not escape injury myself. But in the end, we prevailed.
      We took a surviving orc prisoner and returned to the ship, leaving the dam to be consumed by flame. From what we could gather from this Grashk and from a scroll found on the body of the warchanter, the orcs had received some kind of orders to deploy in the area. But by whom, we do not know.
            Our ship resumed its course for Talsit. Upon our arrival, we bore the messages of counsellor Anarion to the city hall. They took the tidings seriously and set about preparing the city for defense from the cultists who we suspected would attack. Aastrod worked at designing a water pump to fight fires while the rest of us reconnoitred the countryside around the city. Investigating a plume of smoke, we found our worst fears confirmed: 
Image credit: RuslanKadiev at
the cultists were there, killing innocents and using their blood in a foul ritual to summon a fiery demon so powerful that it consumed the water elemental I sent against it. Weakened therefrom, it was soon extinguished, but at the cost of all the water we had with us. We retreated to the city, and though we slew a dozen cultists on the way, we could see all about us the telltale flame-wreathed tornadoes of the dread firetreaders others of them had succeeded in creating.
      We can only hope that Aastrod’s pumps will help us protect the city. And the city’s greatest mages have been convened to bring nature herself to our aid. Only rain can save us now.
      Pray for Talsit, brother. And pray for rain.

                                                                   Yours in the All,