Lights in the Darkness

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Hardrada
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Lights in the Darkness

In late 2014, I began an ACKS campaign I dubbed "Lights in the Darkness" to evoke the imagery of adventures in a setting where disorder (Chaos/Darkness) is ascendant, and the characters would be this disorder's antithesis. As it happens, I don't think the setting has quite delivered all the grimness and disorder I originally envisioned -- I also now realize there are some much grimmer settings out there -- but that is hardly a good reason to jettison the name.

With three years and 42-ish sessions behind us, I thought it might be fun to share the journal entries of my players (with their permission and some minor editing by me). These journal entries are not mechanics-oriented, but you can certainly see the basic principles of ACKS and OSR play shine through in places. Where I think it's interesting to do so, I'll share commentary, but this will be by exception.

Four additional notes bear mention. First, I've used something like fate points from the Heroic Fantasy Handbook since the beginning to reward journal entries: every entry earns the author a fate point. This is a powerful incentive for the players to keep track of things and chronicle the campaign, but it's also had a significant impact on the game's tone since it's allowed the players to reroll otherwise fatal saves on more than one occasion. Second, I plan to post these as I get time; it may well take several months before I finish with this project. Third, I encourage folks to ask questions; if I remember the answer, I'm happy to share it! Fourth, I've reskinned several RPG products along the way; if you recognize something, please don't share anything unless I mention it first (though you're welcome to PM me if you have a question regarding how I did something).

By the way, as of this post, we are currently recruiting (see http://autarch.co/forums/general-discussion/looking-players-looking-group)!

Hardrada
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January 2015

The Company:

Maurice "the Muscle" de Granville, a Dreaman Fighter of Weanople

  • Athelwine, a Geating Hunter (Normal Man) of Acworth

Orhan, an Alfarn Spellsword

Osric de Mandeville, a Dreaman Warden

  • Urien, a Weallack Oblate (Normal Man) of Carlton

Oswald, a Geating Fighter

Zephyros, an Ellasene Mage

  • Ansger, a Dreaman Fighter
  • Dudda, a Geating Thief

From the journal of Oswald the Gray, a Geating Fighting Man:

TREACHEROUS LIVING TREASURE MAP

After our victory over the pirates, the group handed over their prisoners to two rather dubious looking sergeants. Maurice and Taeting (former pirate, now living treasure map) waited outside town, while the others interacted with the locals.

Folkhart the blacksmith is curious about the alloy used to forge the chains I salvaged from the dungeon, but is too superstitious (and insufficiently knowledgeable) to analyze it further. He recommends that someone in a city might be willing to buy it and also expresses his interest in learning more about similar alloys.

Athelthrith (headwoman of another adventurer company): The local reeve is a magician of some renown who is mainly interested in his research and his taxes. He might be interested in buying monster parts.

There is a bigger town called Carlton about one day’s march to the east of Froxhall.

The Sunken City is a collection of ruins. One can use the menhirs near Froxhall to teleport into random parts of the city, but it is dangerous: several parts are submerged and sealed. Few groups enter several times.

Colbert the priest tells us about a Frog Cult in Taygle’s End, a village to the southwest. The canon in Taygle’s End died some time ago, but for unknown reasons, the Metropolitan of Hewflore has not yet sent a replacement. Hewflore is the capital of the local kingdom.

Helmward the local reeve: The group asks for an audience with the local reeve, which is granted. The reeve hardly bothers to prepare and continues his studies till the group stands directly in front of him. He considers helping his village against the pirates barely a start and tells us that people who try to evade the adventurer safety tax by sleeping outside the village will be treated like bandits, but he is very interested in buying monster parts from the group if we behave (and pay taxes). He also hints that adventuring wizards who titillate him might have a chance to study with him.

We hire two mercenaries, Urien and Athelwine, to accompany us on our adventurers. Osric uses this time to plea for a prophecy and gets the vision of a strange menhir hidden in the mists. Soon, we set sail toward the promised treasure, luckily without running into any trouble.

After about half a day we reach an island with the menhir from Osric’s dream on top. Taeting leads us to the treasure and explains we have to dig close to it. Despite considerable digging, we find no treasure and settle for the night. The next morning, Tating tries to escape but is stopped by Zephyros sleep spell. After being bound, he confesses there would be no treasure: He wanted to use the menhir to teleport back to Froxhall, as most of the menhirs lead there. There is an underground ruin beneath the menhir, though, which could be opened by knocking on the menhir.

After binding Taeting, Oswald knocks on the menhir, and, indeed, a secret door opens, allowing access to stairs leading down. Taeting mentions that several pirates tried exploring the dungeon, but none returned. Fearing a trap, the group rolls a heavy boulder down the stairs, but without any specific results (except for a lot of noise).

Oswald, Osric and Maurice descend the stairs, reaching a chamber with cobwebs on the north, a crate to the southeast and a further tunnel to the south, ending in a metal door. When poking the crate, several skeletons burst from the ceiling, attacking the group. They are quickly turned by Osric’s invocation of the Maker and are easily dispatched afterwards.

When trying to open the door to the south, Maurice triggers a trap and almost falls into a pit directly in front of the door. Athelwine only just drags him back in time. A torch thrown into the pit reveals a natural cave with a pool at the bottom. We consider investigating the lower level but decide instead to return to the entrance to allow our magician to better prepare himself. We also learn that the secret door closes on its own after about one hour.

The next day, we first sent one team in to check whether one can open the door from the inside or not. That proves to be rather easy, so the whole group descends. We also find some strange dust on the walls that glows when squeezed; we fill a bottle of it for further study or sale. The metal door to the south proves to be false, but we find a strange rune on the eastern walls during a more thorough search. Maurice finds a strange skull (with a ruby for its left eye) in the crate on some kind of push-button. When pressing the button, a secret door opens in the wall section with the rune.

In a small chamber beyond the secret door, we are ambushed by small, white-skinned humanoids with sharpened teeth and hooked swords currently in the middle of cooking meat stew in a large cauldron. Walking in the lead, I kill the first attacker quickly, but I am then badly injured by the remaining attackers. Luckily, Osric and Maurice turn the tide before I fall.

Now seriously injured, I take a more passive approach. We push through another room, past a stairs leading further down, and finally into a room with filled with gears and mechanisms. While entering the room, the whirring machines hit both Maurice and Osric, and Osric is badly wounded. They quickly leave the room through another door and find themselves back in the room with the large cauldron. Using the cauldron and dropped swords of the gray-skinned humanoids, Maurice finally jams the gears of the machines and halts their movement.

Afterwards, we grabbed the corpses of the slain monsters and returned to Froxhall to heal. The reeve was very happy with the monsters and bought them and the skull for a great deal of money. Oswald gave the monster’s weapons to Folkart the blacksmith on the condition that he will turn them into tools and sell them for a low price to needy families; Folkhart was rather touched by this gesture. Osric donated a lot of money to the local church, pleasantly surprising Colbert. Maurice tried to buy better armor but discovered that only leather was available.

We discussed what to do afterwards, visiting the ruin once again (to gain more treasure and experience) or going to Hewflore (to sell our loot). We also learned that the Scaleless Snake, the local inn, offers a free safe deposit for adventurers on the condition that everything not reclaimed within a year and a day passes to the Inn keeper. With that, we rested in Froxhall.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Splendid! I'm so impressed your players deliver this.

Hardrada
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Joined: 2015-06-28 02:40

It took a few sessions for players to become invested in their characters. Once players became invested, though, journal entries became very much worth the trouble due to the connection with the campaign's equivalent to Fate points.

Hardrada
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January 2015

The Company:

Maurice "the Muscle" de Granville, a Dreaman Fighter of Weanople

  • Athelwine, a Geating Hunter (Normal Man) of Acworth

Orhan, an Alfarn Spellsword

Osric de Mandeville, a Dreaman Warden

  • Urien, a Weallack Oblate (Normal Man) of Carlton

Oswald, a Geating Fighter

  • Taeting, a Geating Pirate (Normal Man)

Zephyros, an Ellasene Mage

  • Ansger, a Dreaman Fighter
  • Dudda, a Geating Thief

From the Journal of Oswald the Gray, a Geating Fighting Man:

THE BROKEN LIFTING MECHANISM

I hire Taeting as guide through the swamp, offering him standard pay and a share in the treasure if he enters the ruins we discover. Taeting agrees on the condition that he can refuse to enter any particular ruin.

Afterwards, the group returns to the tunnel complex beneath the menhir. Before entering, the group takes time to reconnoiter the island. We find a trail that leads us to a swamp boat hidden on the short; this provokes a long discussion regarding what to make of the boat and what to do with it. During this discussion, a giant mutant frog (with a human arm protruding from its back) attacks us, but it is quickly gutted. While harvesting monster parts, Maurice gets poisoned and suffers nausea, diarrhea, and vertigo. Luckily, the symptoms subside after a short while, and, while relieving himself, Maurice also spots several submerged buildings in the water (which we do not further inspect).

The group returns to the overnight site from our last expedition and sets up camp. During Zephyros’ and Oswald’s watch, two short humanoids try to sneak into the camp but are noticed, and we react. The figures then flee towards the menhir. The group remains in place, and the rest of the night remains calm.

Next morning, we enter the complex anew. The traps (and skeletons) in the first room have been reset, we destroy the first skeleton by bowling a large stone down the stairs, afterwards Maurice and Oswald take care of the remaining. The skeletons look different from last time, mutated humans instead of normal humans. We stash their weapons outside and continue through the secret door.

In the former cauldron room (this time without a cauldron), we are again ambushed: this time by a frog man and a mutant human. There is also one of the small, gray-colored creatures (that I will now call “gnomes” for simplicity) we fought the last time, but it flees and shouts “prepare the defense” in Beastman. (To our luck, Zephyros understands the language and warns us.) Even though Maurice is wounded, the group manages to cuts down the attackers. We also mercilessly cut down the frog man that tried to escape into the machine room.

We find the door jammed, but Maurice easily bashes it open. When we press forward, we figure out that the gnomes did not try to ambush us: they were trying to prevent us from going to the stairs.

After checking the machine room and then trying to discern the origin of a strange jabbering sound at a turn toward the machine room, we descend the stairs. The stairs end in a long shaft with a large metal chain running up and down. I make it across, but I can only find some very small holes in the wall on the far side and nothing else. Neither a stone nor a torch dropped down the shaft reveal any further clues, but the torch flashes briefly before vanishing in the darkness.

We return upstairs and give the machine room a closer look. We find and pull a lever which starts some kind of machine. The group splits with half remaining in the machine room and the other half checking out the chain. They find something changed: there are not levers where the holes were. Maurice binds himself to the chain and tries pushing them. When he manages to do that, he suddenly vanishes down the shaft. With some luck, he manages to keep his wits and somehow lights a torch, finding himself shortly above two tunnels.

The rest of the group gathers near the shaft, looking for a way to recover Maurice. After some discussion (and yelling up and down the shaft), we learn which lever Maurice pressed and, by pressing the opposite one, return him to our level. This takes some testing. Afterwards, I am bound to the chain and lowered and lifted through the whole shaft. I discover that there is no level above us – only the ceiling with a small hole for the chain – and that there two levels beneath us: the one with two tunnels about 20 yards beneath us and a second one with a lake and a tunnel about 40 yards beneath us.

After some discussion about how to cut as large a piece from the chain as possible, to sell somewhere else, we decide to attempt  entering the lower tunnels through the trap door near the entrance instead of braving the chain.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Man, I was hoping Maurice would turn into a mutant frog the whole time, but I guess it was just poison.

 

Hardrada
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Alas, he made his save, so we'll never know.
Hardrada
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February 2015

THE COMPANY

Maurice "the Muscle" de Granville, a Dreaman Fighter of Weanople

  • Athelwine, a Geating Hunter (Normal Man) of Acworth

Orhan, an Alfarn Spellsword

Osric de Mandeville, a Dreaman Warden

  • Urien, a Weallack Oblate (Normal Man) of Carlton

Oswald, a Geating Fighter --> Mortally Wounded

  • Taeting, a Geating Pirate (Normal Man) --> Fled

Zephyros, an Ellasene Mage --> Mortally Wounded

  • Ansger, a Dreaman Fighter
  • Dudda, a Geating Thief

From the Journal of Oswald the Gray, a Geating Fighting Man:

MUSHROOMS AND CIVILIZATION

Returning to the front door, the group prepares to descend the trap door. After some discussion, the group lowered ropes and a lantern before I climbed down. At the bottom, I found a pool filled with algae and stairs leading upwards. I managed to swing over to the stairs and climbed them, where I encountered some kind of crocodile-man.

The crocodile-man considered unlucky me (carrying just a dagger and wearing no armor) a tasty snack and attacked immediately. When Maurice heard my cries for help and hurried to help, he almost drowned. Luckily, the monster was already wounded when we met, it died after two lucky stabs with my dagger.

Afterwards, the rest of the group descended the shaft as well and searched the chamber carefully. We found a decomposed warden’s corpse with some treasure (prayer scrolls, coins, and holy symbols). Osric blessed the corpse before looting it.

There was a second stair in the room, leading deeper into the earth. We followed it down, finding a room full of giant glowing mushrooms. The floor was rather wobbly (probably fungus and mold) and stank horribly. We could also see a giant door with a metal face on it. Maurice also found a second exit.

We decided to check the second exit first. It led to the elevator shaft we already knew from our last visit. Next, there was the metal door. Before we could check it, we were attacked by some giant vines which we shredded without serious losses (Osric was hurt, though).

The door was about 7 yards tall and 3 yards wide. It seemed to be fashioned of gold with a face made of brass protruding from its center. Nobody opened when we knocked; pulling and pushing proved pointless. We also could not move the door. Investigating the face more closely, Osric found some nubs within the mouth that were labelled with unknown glyphs that not even Zephyros could decipher.

I then tried pushing some of the nubs, resulting in an explosion of toxic spores which almost killed me and Zephyros. Luckily, both of us survived, even though I suffered a permanent infection of my joints, and Zephyros was horribly scarred.

Frustrated and quite bruised, we decided to leave the complex, taking a part of the vine, the crocodile and the frog man with us. On our way back, we found Orhan stabbed and Taeting (as well as our boat) gone.

Returning to the boat we’d discovered on the opposite side of the island, we found several opossum-men preparing to use it to sail away. A quick spell of enchanted sleep cast by Orhan stopped them long enough to allow us to smash them in melee and seize the boat.

Due to our lack of navigators, the return to Froxhall was delayed by two days (mainly because we became completely lost and accidently found ourselves deeper inside the swamp at one point instead of outside). Eventually, though, we reached Froxhall where we sold the monster parts, grabbed our stored things, and sailed towards the city of Hewflore.

Along the way, we stopped in Taygle’s End but found it an unwelcoming backwater, everyone refusing our requests to  stay the night. The local teacher was rather strange, and Osric deemed him suspicious. The local reeve was likewise unwilling to speak with us. We decided to paddle a bit further and sleep outside the village in the wilderness.

We reached Hewflore around mid-afternoon. Over the next few days, we sold our remaining loot, including the new boat. Osric tried to be received in audience by Metropolitan Warren of Speers, but learns that he was indisposed thanks to narrowly avoiding death a few days earlier when he was caught in a collapsing study.

After further enquiries, Osric managed to gain an audience with Yric, an experienced cleric who liked Osric enough to tell him what worries the Makerite church in Dwimores. Heresy is spreading, it seems, as too few well-educated priests are available and the local baron does not cooperate with the metropolitan. In fact, Yric claims that Lord Drogo finds ways to favor clergy connected to him personally and tithes exclusively to independent religious foundations rather than the metropolia.

Whilst hanging out with local soldiers, Maurice and Osric learned that there were many mundane problems too: bandits ravage the countryside, and pirates raid communities along the Great Marish and the River Hellfor often, whereas Lord Drogo is busy wooing the Lady of Orellfor. Also, the Deadlhaws are growing.

Shocked that so many things are amiss with so few ways to earn quick money, the company considered their next steps.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

I love the flavor. "Makerite Church" - I want to know more. 

Hardrada
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Joined: 2015-06-28 02:40

I'd love to pretend the name is mine. I wanted a monotheistic faith on which I could model medieval Christianity; that was not medieval Christianity, however; and that would not offend my sensibilities as a practicing Byzantine Catholic. Sine Nomine's Red Tide setting has a "Church of the Maker" that seemed a good foundation for the sort of structure I wanted to build.

I'll defer to my players, though, whether I've managed to keep it interesting enough to be a fun feature of the campaign.

 

Jard
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Joined: 2012-07-11 23:23

I thought "Makerite Church" sounded familiar, but couldn't quite place it.

Hardrada
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February 2015

THE COMPANY

Maurice "the Muscle" de Granville, a Dreaman Fighter of Weanople

  • Athelwine, a Geating Hunter (Normal Man) of Acworth

Orhan, an Alfarn Spellsword

Osric de Mandeville, a Dreaman Warden

  • Urien, a Weallack Oblate (Normal Man) of Carlton

Oswald, a Geating Fighter

Zephyros, an Ellasene Mage

  • Ansger, a Dreaman Fighter
  • Dudda, a Geating Thief

From the Journal of Captain Zephyros, an Ellasene Merchant:

THE CHRONICLES OF ZEPHYROS – Chapter 1

Deep in thought I spun the last bit of wine in my glass around before bringing it up to my lips. I set the glass down on the table and could not help but form a distorted smile across my face as I recounted the moments of my near-death experience and the days that followed.

I was so fixated by the peculiar face on the door jeering at us, along with all the gold, silver and bronze adorning it, that I didn’t even consider stepping back while Oswald was fiddling with the mouth. Time stopped as I heard the hiss of gas under pressure being released. I glanced over just in time to see a blast of brown gas billowing from the face’s maw. I only had time to close my eyes, as I felt the skin on my face burn. The pain was intense. Everything went dark. Then I heard screams followed by silence.

Suddenly, I awoke. Osric was hovering over me, calling to me, “Zephyros, wake up! You’re going to be alright. It’s not your time to meet the Maker!”

I was writhing, heaving due to the intense pain on my face. Darkness followed once again: the pain was too great to bear.

I woke up again to Osric completing a prayer over me. It was calm. We were outside now. I saw the grey sky beyond his head. His face could not hide his look of despair. “May the Maker have mercy on you, Zephyros,” he whispered. I reached up to feel my face only to be rewarded with the sensation of wax covering my skin. I felt a pit in my stomach like none that I had ever felt before.

“How bad?” I asked.

He replied, “My friend, you’re lucky to be alive. I’m sure the Maker has a purpose for this.”

I exclaimed, “What? A purpose for what?”

As I sat up, I saw Maurice staring at me, and he said, “We’ll find a way to remove the scars from your face, Zephyros. I promise we will.”

The reconfirmation of my greatest fear coming true was too great for me to take. “No! No! No! Stop it!” was all I could say as I scrambled to my feet, pushing Osric aside. I made it a few steps before crashing to my knees, holding my unfamiliar face in my hands as I sobbed.

Osric kneeled beside me, put his hand on my back, and whispered, “You have been through a lot today, my friend, and you will go through much more over the next few days. The Maker reveals Himself in mysterious ways, and I know you will discover His purpose in time.”

I went numb after that. I wanted to be alone. I pulled the hood of my cloak over my head and sat with my knees pulled close to my face.

My mind was a fog as the party insisted that I pilot them to Froxhall, as our navigator Taeting apparently had better things to do than follow us. Frankly, I’m surprised we even made it, as I was in no condition to lead us anywhere. My senses were dead; the only sensation to register was the empty pit in my stomach. I recall thinking, “This was all a bad dream that I would wake up from at any moment, right?” I don’t remember much else from that day aside from being led around by my companions and sitting in a boat on our way to Hewflore. It was mostly a blur save for one moment of clarity: when the pit in my stomach transformed to be replaced with rage.

I recall also that Maurice asked me to try to convince some guard into allowing us to meet with the local reeve in some dead-end town on our way to Hewflore. “Zephyros, try and talk some sense into this guy,” he whispered.

As soon as I made eye contact with this man I knew I had lost ‘it’, as normally folks were excited to see and talk with me.

Not this time. It was like he was looking at a corpse.

I don’t even remember what I said, but it didn’t matter as the conversation was over before it started. I’ll never forget the look of disdain on that man’s face. It made me angry, very angry. So angry, in fact, that I found myself starting to form the words of my spell of charming, but my conscience wouldn’t let me. My new purpose had not yet revealed itself to me. I cloaked my disfigured face, turned around, and walked back to the boat.

As we resumed our trip to Hewflore, I asked Osric, “Can you heal me completely when we reach Hewflore?”

Osric replied, “Zephyros, my friend, I have done all I can for you.”

I retorted back, “Surely there is a powerful cleric of the Maker that can make me look as I once did!”

And with that, Osric quietly said, “Zephyros, you know we do not have the resources for such a request, not to mention such prayers can take a great toll on you. I know you are in a dark place right now, my friend. We will get through this together, and I assure you that once you have come to terms with what has happened, you will go on to do great things, as the Maker intends for you. This is a blessing in disguise. You are close to solving His riddle, Zephyros. You will figure it out.”

I remember thinking, “This isn’t what I want to hear. Why was I so stupid to sit in front of such an obvious trap? Why didn’t I just die? Why is the Maker toying with me?” The questions soon ended and were replaced with depression, as I saw my new face in the reflection of the water as we arrived in Hewflore. “I’ve become a monster,” I thought to myself. I pulled my cloak close around my head to hide my gruesome visage as thoughts raced through my head. “Perfect! We’re in a town full of people ready to taunt and jeer at me. This is the last place I want to be. I don’t belong here. I need to be in some mage’s dungeon, luring poor adventurers to their deaths.”

The days passed as I elected to stay in the inn while the rest of the party attended to the business that brought us to Hewflore. I developed quite a taste for wine during that time. It gave me that sense of confidence that my charm once did, however temporal it that could be. Nevertheless, I was edging closer to accepting my fate. Perhaps the Maker knew this, or maybe it was my inner mind.

Anyway, that was how ‘it’ happened. I was sitting in the tavern, drinking my wine with my cloak pulled over my head and feeling sorry for myself when a burly local barged into the room. I glanced up to hear him yell at the barkeep, “The usual drink, at my usual table!” even as he strolled over to the table where I was sitting. “You’re in my spot,” he said.

I thought to myself, “The old Zephyros would have got up, apologized and moved on." But, the old Zephyros was nowhere to be found.

With a snort, the man continued, “Now, listen here, I don’t know who you think you are, but get the Hell out of my spot, or I’ll rearrange your face!”

I began to laugh, quietly at first and then louder as I stood up and pulled my hood out from around my face to reveal to him my ghastly countenance. I beamed, “It would appear that someone has already beaten you to it.” My gaze locked onto his, and I knew I had him: my terrible features combined with my gift of command was too much for his weak soul to withstand. “This is my table now. You will apologize to me, and you will buy everyone in this fine establishment a round.”

The man immediately prostrated himself on the floor, “Forgive me! Make yourself comfortable, my friend! I was only kidding! Barkeep, the next round is on me!” Making sure to keep facing me, he shuffled backwards to the bar and whimpered to the barkeep, “Get him whatever he wants! Put it on my tab!”

I nodded to him and winked at the barkeep. Needless to say, the burly gentleman didn’t stick around too long after that, but as I reflected back on the moment, I realized the wisdom of Osric’s words to me, “I’m sure the Maker has a purpose for this.” I thought to myself, “The purpose was clear now. The Mornlands’ oppressors aren’t going to succumb to diplomacy. No, as they do not value life or law, they must be coerced. This is why the Maker spared me and gave me a scar to remind me, as well as my enemies.”

After staring at my empty wine glass for some time, my recounting of my last few days was interrupted as Oswald walked through the door of the inn. I waved to greet him, “Oswald, I’m glad to see that you are well. Where are the others? We need to gather and make plans for returning to the Sunken City. We have much to accomplish there!”

Hardrada
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So, this entry deserves some mention, I think.

First and foremost, we get a third voice (beside mine and the Oswald's player). We'll get another voice with my next journal entry.

Anyway, during character generation (5 characters, 3d6 in order), Zephyros' player had some hot virtual dice. This particular set of statistics included a high intelligence and an 18 Charisma. Without hesitation, the player picked a mage who subsequently took Mystic Aura and Diplomacy. A reaction roll monster was born.

Many times over the past forty-four sessions, I've wondered if this combination should be nerfed. In a future campaign, it will, but I've let it stand. Some of the most memorable encounters and NPCs have only been possible thanks to Mystic Aura and modified 12+ results.

No journal entry captures it, but in the adventure just prior to the beginning of the first journal entry, the characters randomly encountered bandits in the swamp. I wasn't sure how it was going to play out: the "heroes" were terribly outnumbered, wounded, and out of spells. A lucky dice roll, however, and the bandits were best friends with Zephyros. The company made it most of the way to Froxhall, guarded by a large number of bandits intent on raiding traffic on the road to Carlton.

In a sandbox, you can't plan scenes like that. I have no idea if the other players remember that episode, but I sure do!

Anyway, thanks to the trap sprung by Oswald that mortally wounded him and Zephyros, Zephyros picked up some terrible scarring that gives him a penalty on reaction rolls. I've ruled that the penalty doesn't impact reaction rolls with beastmen; given that I reskin most humanoids into humans, the penalty is still a stiff one for a character built to "own" reaction rolls. The player, after some initial frustration, not only used it to inspire a great journal entry but also calls attention to it often in the course of play.

Another note is that I almost never roll any of the dice. A trick I picked up from Harley Stroh at GenCon a few years ago is making the players roll all the dice. Not only does it ensure that the dice always "fall as they lay," it also helps keep everyone engaged. If I'm rolling dice, it's usually to keep the pace quick rather than wait on someone to click on their dice macro (and then it's still in the virtual open).

Rodriguez
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Ah, the "making the players roll all the dice" is certainly not my favorite feature of the campaign, I just dont like the feeling of rolling against the other players...

The Makerite Church on the other hand is one of the most enjoyable aspects and if I would start a new campaign myself I would implement something similar! 

Just as the rest of society the Makerite church feels as if its in decline: Hampered by the lack of funds, support and manpower out in the field and paralyzed with internal power struggles and protocol in the larger cities. Over the years it seems as if they lost quite a lot of secular power and to recover that is one of the main ambitions of my character.

Hardrada
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Having passed many hours of both my undergraduate studies and subsequent leisure time reading about the medieval church -- not to mention countless more hours playing Merchant Prince, Darklands, and similar games -- I have never understood the aversion to monotheistic religions in fantasy RPGs. The politics can be so delightful.
Skean
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Joined: 2014-08-22 07:08

 

As Hardrada mentioned, the rolling for the monsters does keep players engaged, especially via Roll20. I think it also speeds up play - we are clicking buttons whilst the GM can be focusing on outcomes, options and what’s up next. I’ve managed to avoid emotional entanglement so far - but I’ve yet to make any of us roll on the Mortal Wounds table....

The monotheism also removes the easy common enemy (although there were crusades weren’t there?), leading to lots of delightful infighting and moral quandaries. I find it very ironic that our Warden (Cleric) is far more of a zealot than our Axiomar (Paladin). Osric is very Catholic in his approach; Zelik is much more personal in his relationship with The Maker

Hardrada
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February 2015
 
THE COMPANY
 
Maurice "the Muscle" de Granville, a Dreaman Fighter of Weanople
• Athelwine, a Geating Hunter (Normal Man) of Acworth
 
Orhan, an Alfarn Spellsword
 
Osric de Mandeville, a Dreaman Warden
• Urien, a Weallack Oblate (Normal Man) of Carlton
 
Oswald, a Geating Fighter
 
Zephyros, an Ellasene Mage
• Ansger, a Dreaman Fighter
• Dudda, a Geating Thief
 
From the Papers of Osric de Mandeville:
 
LETTERS TO THE PATRIARCH – Part 1
 
“… and there is barely a faithful soul to be found in these lands where uncaring lords reign while barely giving lip service to the one true church.”
 
Osric rose from his desk to take a short break, stretching and walking around to regain his focus and get his blood flowing. The Maker did not create him to read and write all day; that much was clear to him. Later in the day, Osric hoped to visit the collapsed study with Urien, but now he needed to return to the letter, even if he would rather do some exercises to get the frustration of the whole situation better under control.
 
Back at the desk, Osric continued to write about his travels: the strange well to which he was teleported, the undead-infested ruins where he met some of his current companions, and the horrible tree under the earth. He made a note to himself that he would return one day once strong enough to cleanse that place... He wrote also of the lord of Froxhall who cared more about his own research then his people and of Colbert the dutiful teacher of Froxhall's study who struggles to keep the faith alive in a forsaken village on the edge of civilization.
 
He recorded Colbert's stories about heathens and disgusting frog cults in the neighboring villages, adding his own observations from his visit to Taygle's End: “…there we found to our surpise that the study wasn’t abandoned at all! Someone lived there, claiming to be a warden of the Maker. If he was speaking the truth was hard to say: he certainly wasn’t all too hospitable, but the same could be said about the rest of the town. Certain is only that this would not be my last visit there. If he turns out to be some heretic -- or even a cultist in disguise -- I will make sure that he gets his well-deserved punishment, protection from the local ruler or not.”
 
Looking at the parchment, Osric noted that his writing certainly did not rival that of a monastic scribe, but reflected that it was high time for a visit to the damaged study. So, he rose and fetched Urien, his new understudy who was making remarkable progress in studying the teachings of the Maker. Osric was certain he was no material for a warden -- he predicted that a single, well-executed punch in the stomach would probably down him for a day or two -- but he thought the young man would make a fine canon one day soon.
Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

I love the sub-plot of Zaphyros and the scarring. That's top notch. I hope he gets Restore Life and Limb soon!

Hardrada
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February 2015

THE COMPANY

Maurice "the Muscle" de Granville, a Dreaman Fighter of Weanople

  • Athelwine, a Geating Hunter (Normal Man) of Acworth

Orhan, an Alfarn Spellsword

Osric de Mandeville, a Dreaman Warden

  • Urien, a Weallack Oblate (Normal Man) of Carlton

Oswald, a Geating Fighter --> Mortally Wounded!

  • Demoleon, an Ellasene Thief

Zephyros, an Ellasene Mage

  • Ansger, a Dreaman Fighter
  • Dudda, a Geating Thief

From the Papers of Oswald the Gray, a Geating Fighting Man:

ACCOUNTING AND REPTILE-MEN

Finally, we decided on a plan. We sold all our loot and used the money to hire a group of mercenaries, rent a boat, and buy plenty of supplies. This took a lot of time, in part due to a long debate in regard to boats (buying one, commissioning canoes, or renting one). Also, I hired a henchman called Demoleon, an Ellasene thief.

Afterwards, we returned into the swamp, staying away from both Froxhall and Taygle’s End, resting on a wooded island in the swamp instead. Thanks to Athelwine, we found a quicker path to the menhir. With the river current pushing us into the swamp, the journey was only two days instead of three.

Arriving on the island, we fortified our camp and rested for the night. The next morning, we reconnoitered the southern half of the island to make sure there were no hostile settlements and perhaps find a better harbor. Instead, we found: a) centuries-old ruins made of marble and alabaster, b) a copse in which firs and cypresses grew, and c) a second menhir on a low hill, similar to what we found on the northern half of the island. In Froxhall, there are two standing stones as well, which raises the question whether such stones were usually built in pairs, or if that is just a coincidence.

Before we were able to investigate the menhir, though, Orhan spotted several possum-men running from a second copse behind the menhir, followed by some giant beings. We quickly took cover, but to no avail: the giant beings spotted us, and three of them moved in our direction. The fourth continued to hunt the possum-men that fled northward.

We retreated into the copse with the fighters forming a battle line, and the mages preparing spells in the second line. When the beings came closer, we saw that they were green-skinned, as tall as two men, one standing on the other’s shoulders, had two pairs of arms and two pair of eyes each, and looked somewhat reptilian. They immediately threw javelins at us, which luckily missed. In return, our mages were able to charm two of them, while Maurice and I attacked the third. The reptile-man managed to smash my chest before an opportunistic attack of Demoleon -- (who only closed in when the already badly wounded monster seemed temporarily distracted) -- finally killed (and looted) the monster.

Luckily, Osric’s henchman Uriel is a healer, and he knew prayers of curing. Thus, I survived the ordeal with just a minor scar on my chest and in dire need of some rest.

Meanwhile, Zephyros found a language which he and the giant reptile-men could converse, and he started interviewing them. They told us: that they were scouting the swamp; there was nothing dangerous in the swamp (except for us, they laughed); that their tribe has more than two members; and the tribe lives somewhere to the south of where we encountered them.

Since the reptile-men are too large to fit into the tunnels beneath the menhir, we find ourselves at a loss regarding what to do with them and how to proceed. We are unwilling to simply let them go as they could easily kill all our mercenaries. We are halted now to consider our options.

bobloblah
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Joined: 2013-03-22 16:16

Great stuff! Looking forward to more.

Hardrada
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THE COMPANY

Maurice "the Muscle" de Granville, a Dreaman Fighter of Weanople

  • Athelwine, a Geating Hunter (Normal Man) of Acworth

Orhan, an Alfarn Spellsword

Osric de Mandeville, a Dreaman Warden

  • Urien, a Weallack Oblate (Normal Man) of Carlton

Oswald, a Geating Fighter

  • Demoleon, an Ellasene Thief

Zephyros, an Ellasene Mage

  • Ansger, a Dreaman Fighter
  • Dudda, a Geating Thief

From the Papers of Osric de Mandeville, a Dreaman Warden:

EXPLORING THE ISLAND: RUINS AND RATMEN

With our new four-armed allies, we returned to camp where Oswald and Maurice recovered from being mauled by the giant that resisted the company’s spells. Early the next morning, we resumed our exploration of the island, all being fully well again.

First, we returned to the menhir where we encountered the giants and explored the stone, but there was nothing special about it. Afterwards, we searched the nearby ruins, which were similar to the one we found further east – save that they were occupied by a flesh-eating willow tree. Quickly, it was hacked to pieces and turned into a bonfire. When searching the vicinity, we found the remains of the willow’s victims, among them a venturer who carried wine and many coins.

Still, our group’s greed was not yet sated, so we pressed on in our exploration. Further into the ruins, we found a doorway in a half-buried wall, the portal sealed by a large stone block. Being unable to open it by conventional means, we finally resorted to brute force. This caused the stone to fall, almost smashing Oswald and Maurice. Within the chamber beyond, we found four tusks which we decided to bring along for eventual sale.

Shortly afterwards, we confirmed that we were on an island in the swamp: there was water all around us. We also confirmed that the swamp was not deep to the southwest, allowing one to wade to another island. Feeling invincible (or just getting jaunty), we decided to press on, stumbling into a swamp crocodile lair. Only a quick sleep spell prevented us from becoming dinner.

We spied some movement on the other island, with metal glinting. We shortly discussed whether or not to attack, but finally decided to retreat and watch. For supper, we took some crocodile meat with us, and Zephyros took some crocodile leather for shoes. From our hiding point, we saw some widdigmen approaching, investigating the crocodile lair. Since they did not continue to our island, we retreated to our camp, where we sampled the wine and called it a night.

The next morning, explored another ruin south of the island we had spotted earlier but not investigated. We found an area with two giant frog skeletons, pink grass and some primitive (and abandoned) shelter. Inside, we found only a holy symbol and prayer beads. Afterwards, we went west to explore the new island with the widdigmen.

Zephyros managed to convinced the widdigman gang-leader, Longnose, that we were friends (without using magic). While talking with him, we learned that the widdigmen do not like the four-armed giants because they consider the widdigmen as food. Also, we learned that the widdigman chieftain is rich. We asked for an audience with the chieftain, a condition to which Longnose agreed. We needed to convince one further widdigman leader to be allowed into their stronghold. We also learned that the stronghold was prepared for the widdigmen’s preferred hit-and-run tactics, with barricades, cover for archers and slingers, and similar improvements.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

What monster did you use for the flesh-eating willow tree? We need more flesh-eating plant monsters in ACKS.