fantasy

The Downfall of Dunross

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19 March 2012

Present: Ferrisa, Frelest, Goran, Wulfric, Zanatos

Two pyres were built: a crude pile of sticks for the bandits and a proper funerary pyre to honorably send the family of Hralf Haraldsunu to the afterlife. Gates were repaired, outbuildings secured and provisions gathered from the stores of Hralf.

While two of the party remained at their newly-won stead, the others continued north toward Aslov. A lone rider on horseback approached from the way they had come, a large man with long auburn hair and long beard gathered in braids. He wore a bright chain shirt, bore a gold/black round shield on one arm and gripped a long single-bladed battleaxe in the other. After a wary moment, the party exchanged greetings with Aethelred the Tall, whose keep stood nearby to the stead of Hralf. A small village lay several miles farther west and the folk there considered Aethelred their Hearthmaster, for he was mighty in battle and fair-minded. He sought an accounting of the events at Aethelred’s stead and the party’s story, corroborated by so many witnesses, among them Iron Guild warriors, was deemed truthful and sufficient. Aethelred offered to speak with them further when they returned to the stead to take up residence, then galloped back south.

After another day’s travel, the party entered the fertile farms and fields that surrounded Aslov. The Icebarrier mountains towered in the distance and the black smoke of many fires issued from the walled city of Aslov. The farm folk of the outlying steads gazed northward in wonder and worry. Two days ago the fires had started, they said. Refugees from the north, fleeing famine and war, clustered around the three great gates of the city. Others, unwilling to wait patiently to die of starvation, headed south.

It was decided to send Zanatos ahead to make contact with the recipients of the grain and iron, and to arrange for protection of the caravan from the throngs outside the gate. Moving quickly and with purpose, Zanatos completed his mission unhindered, except by desperate folk begging for food or coin. Twenty guards of the town constabulary would emerge to form a shield wall around the wagons and escort them to the High Quarter. The Iron Guild, whose mission it is to protect caravans and trade routes, would provide no assistance without payment.

The party approached the Great South Gate and dozens of refugees pressed forward seeking food. The constables emerged with clubs and shields to keep the throng at bay, but several among the crowd were armed and attempting to incite violence. A single sword thrust toward an Iron Guild guard but he cracked his spear haft on the hand that wielded it, after which a mighty warcry from Wulfric cowed the remaining instigators. The party passed within the South Gate without further incident.

Aslov looked like a city under siege. Smoke rose from many parts of the city, especially near the city’s mill. There had been a food riot two days earlier and the streets were filled with the starving and dead. Aslov guardsmen and private mercenaries hired by the city’s many merchants were posted at every important intersection and building, giving the impression of martial law. The mill was surrounded by burning wreckage and cordoned by guards who allowed no one to enter or leave the block. Grain and flour was now raised and lowered to the site from the High Quarter wall on makeshift lifts.

Shipments were finally delivered: grain to the granaries, supervised by a young lad named Wilkin who had responsibility beyond his tender years, and steel to a representative of the High Constable. The party’s diligence and sense of duty were recognized with a referral to Rodgar ap-Annwn, a merchant in need of security for his own shipments. He would meet them that evening at the Last Chance Tavern by the South Gate.

In the interim, Goran volunteered his services to the Sisters of Mercy at White House, the nearest thing Aslov had to a hospital. Zanatos and Frelest sought knowledge at the library of the Temple of Var.

The party arrived at the Last Chance and made the acquaintance of the proprietor, a retired Hearth Knight named Jorg Nader, who told tales of battles beyond the Icebarrier. Rodgar arrived late and joined the group for a round of drinks. The city was still well-stocked with drink but food was scarce. His proposal: take a wagon to the mill town of Dunross, pick up a shipment of flour and bring it to the baker at Dalsetter. The flour would be worth its weight in gold scields and must be protected from harm and theft. He provided the group with a map of the area around Aslov. They set out with the empty wagon the next day at first light, heading southwest to Dunross.

A small raiding band of orcs of the Eye Piercer tribe, know for their archery and black garb, botched an ambush and the party defeated them with steel and coldfire. One of the two Iron Guild guards was brought back from the brink of death as Goran healed a grievous arrow wound. Several miles on, the party discovered a dead horse and rider, possibly killed by the same Eye Piercers. The rider carried a note from Dunross to Aslov about a plague of rats that threatened their grain supplies and very survival.

As the sun set they discovered a travel tower of the Road Wardens, built at intervals along trade routes to provide shelter to travelers. The tower was deserted but an empty wagon and two dead draft horses were found outside. Each horse bore the bite marks of some animal and the wagon cover bore the emblem of Dunross, crossed barley sheaves over the letter D. Inside were the skeletons of two people, flesh gone and gnawed to the bone. Rats were suspected, in great numbers and of unusual ferocity. The party moved everyone, including the horses, inside the tower and barred the door for the night.

The Stead of the Dead

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5 March 2012

Present: Ferrisa, Frelest, Goran, Wulfric, Zanatos, Aethelred, (Michele)

The party is escorting a small shipment of steel ingots and grain through the eastern Freelands, north to the city of Aslov which nestles against the Icebarrier Mountains. Their route leads them up the River Crystalflow, making landfall at Bridgewater, continuing along the western borders of Nordmark, and crossing into the Freelands at the town of Nara. It is the month of Snaermonan (Snowmoon) and high winter is approaching the Hearthlands, the frigid wind already howling down from the mountains. The two carts, drawn by four shaggy draft ponies, are under Iron Guild protection, for this winter will be a hungry one and the Freelands are under threat from rough and desperate folk.

The ambush was hastily laid and reckless, and the party was ready. Bowmen rose on either side of the snow-covered track and loosed arrows. Moments later, the assailants to the left were ablaze with Coldfire and those to the right cut down by spear and axe. The bodies were poorly clothed in mixed Saxa/Anari fashion and emaciated by hunger, perhaps refugees from Heligioland to the north. Heligioland, where the winters are longer and harsher and the harvest less bountiful, home now mostly to orcs, wolves and worse.

Continuing north, they came upon a strange sight by the side of the road. A lone man sat on the ground, head buried in his hands weeping. He was a Saxa by his dress and long hunting spear. The party approached to investigate and have words with the fellow.

Hralf Haraldsunu was his name, a farmer whose stead lay to the west. A armed band of strangers had appeared at his longhouse and requested hospitality. Hralf offered it but these strangers were dishonorable men. They helped themselves to his food and drink and roughly treated Hralf and his wife and two children. When Hralf raised his voice in protest, the men slew his wife and children without thought or hesitation. Hralf claimed that he was severely wounded by a knife in the side but managed to escape. Now he wept for his shame and begged the party to take vengeance on his behalf. If they swore on the gods to do so, he would bequeath them his house and lands, for he no longer had the heart to set eyes upon the place again.

Wulfric Dagsunu swore the oath and the party set out to deal with the situation. Zanatos searched the ground thereabouts for tracks but strangely found none. No footprints or blood trails led to or from the spot where Hralf sat, nor was there sign of the passage of a large number of men. Hralf was wounded, as he had claimed, and bore the symbol of Thunor, God of Storms, about his neck. Goran the Frost Dwarf tended to his wounds.

Zanatos scouted to the west and found Hralf’s stead after a mile or two. The single thatched farmhouse was surrounded by a four foot high wall of stone, behind which could be seen three or four men with spears. Smoke issued from the central chimney and the smoke of campfires wafted from within the wall. The party moved the wagons to a clearing a mile away from the stead, under guard from four Iron Guild spearmen, and decided on a course of action.

[Can’t recall exactly who did what or the sequence of events; players, feel free to jump in and correct my account]

Aethelred the Loud openly approached the gap in the wall where a fence once stood while the others quietly arranged themselves behind cover of the wall. Markus proclaimed his presence to the two bandit guards and requested hospitality. The bandits, confused but not fearing this lone stranger, went to deal with Markus as several other guards approached.

[GM memory failure]

Long story short, the guards were disposed of as the other bandits, numbering a good dozen, shut themselves inside the house. The party’s warriors bashed the door open and the rout was on. Ranged fire covered the rear door through which the bandits imagined they could escape. None did. Ferissa’s Coldfire once again blasted many foes.

A strange mist had suddenly crept up toward the party during the battle and just as suddenly disappeared as the last bandit was slain.

Searching the stead, the party found the bodies of four Saxa: a woman, two children and a man who in every respect resembled Hralf Haraldsunu, including the silver token of Thunor. The learned among them surmised that they had encountered a genganger, the restless spirit of one who leaves some task unfinished in life and cannot proceed to the afterlife to be judged by the gods. Under auld Saxa law, the oath of a genganger carries the same legal weight as the oaths of the living, and thus the party found itself in possession of their own steading… assuming the claim can withstand challenge.

pcfarm HralfStead

 

Hellfrost – Heroes

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Our heroic band of heroically heroic heroes. Heroically speaking.

  • Aethelred Sigmundsunu (Markus)- Saxa Iron Guild warrior
  • Ferissa (Ozge)- Frostborn Hrimwisard
  • Frelest the Cursed (Eric)- Lorekeeper of the Reliquary
  • Goran (Rich)- Frost Dwarf Runemage
  • The Unnamed (Michele)- Noble Frostborn Iron Guild warrior
  • Wulfric Dagsunu (Brennan)- Saxa warrior
  • Zanatos (Mike)- Saxa hunter, tracker, ranger

 

Dungeon Crawl Classics Intro

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Yesterday I ran the Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC) RPG, by Goodman Games, for the family.  DCC is a new system with streamlined d20 mechanics that is a stylistic throwback to 1970’s-era D&D, right down to the rulebook artwork.  I will describe features of the system as I retell our game sessions.   

DCC strongly encourages groups to begin a campaign with a technique they call “the funnel.”  Each player randomly generates 2-4 level 0 characters–a motley assortment of clowns, ne’er-do-wells, wannabes and zeroes–who are then thrown into a beginning adventure.  A high body count is expected and characters who survive the funnel (if any) attain 1st level and can then choose a class.  Humans can select from Warrior, Thief, Wizard and Cleric, while demi-humans are forevermore Dwarf, Elf or Halfling (i.e., race as class).

Links to reviews of the system can be found at the Goodman Games website.  Next, our zeroes start out on their lives (often brief) of adventure.

Silver Marches, April session

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Before leaving Dead Snows, Cetan inquired on the sheep snatching in the upper pastures to see about claiming a reward from the green dragon that he, Nongo, and Brother Logan slew a week or so earlier before meeting the rest of the group and the merchant’s mission. Apparently sheep are still disappearing, so some other evil force is at work.

The group joined the caravan heading to Sundabar in the morning. It was around the 22nd day of Eleint, with an 8 day journey planned with arrival just prior to the Harvestide holiday.  Cetan ran into an old drinking pal, the fighter Vidar (Mark Z.). Vidar said he would join the group for the time being. Morgyn met with the Argent Legion who would escort the caravan, but a messenger appeared with official documents say that the Silver marches were at war with the orc tribes, and the Argent Legion rode off to Adbar. The caravan leader, Fuad, accepted the group into the 13 wagon caravan (with several prospectors on foot and some sheep herders) and Morgyn volunteered to scout up ahead.

On the first day of travel, the caravan crossed the Icespear river bridge, and Morgyn averted a pit trap off the trail leading to the Forked Road. Later upon investigating a foul upwind odor, he stumbled across a lair entrance in the form of a smelly ground hole. The caravan reaching the Forked Road and camping for the evening, most of the group opted to go back and investigate the hole in the ground. Vidar and Drungar stayed behind.

A 30 foot shaft of wet rough rocks and roots was descended, with Brother Logan bouncing down the last 20 feet or so and needing to heal himself. A sloped wide and short lozenge type stone opening was traversed that led to a larger cavern. A magically lit stone was thrown ahead giving the impression of a 60 foot wide and at least 100 foot deep area sloping down. Tarena and Morgyn spotted Otyughs within. The group would have left at this point, but Nongo charged in to kill them. He briefly ended up in the embrace of one, whcih he killed with the help of Tarena’s flaming sphere spell. The remaining two rushed into battle after taking ranged damage. Tarena and Cetan killed one, while Brother Logan and Morgyn killed the other. Morgyn and Nongo had both been bit by the diseased mouths of the Otyughs, but both made their Fortitude saves.

At the end of the cavern, a cave-in was investigated. Cetan and Morgyn climbed through to the other side into a chamber (not a natural cavern) with a doorway and longer hallway beyond. They came across some treasure in that chamber and a gas trapped chest, which Morgyn narrowly disabled (thanks to his masterwork thieves tools). It surely had the capacity to kill Cetan and Morgyn had he failed. They transferred some of the silver pieces, 9 potions, and 3 scrolls into a sack, as well as taking a small metal shield, bow, and crossbow back through the narrow hole as sounds of something approaching was heard in the hallway beyond the chamber.

The caravan continued. A stampeding herd of Rothe was diverted by Vidar getting trampled a bit, and spells from Tarena and Cetan (calm animal and grease). In the distance, Morgyn spied two Worgs that had been pursuing the Rothe herd. They turned away from the caravan and disappeared from view behind the hills.

About halfway to Sundabar (prior to the trail to Newport) they ran into some locals who relayed a rumor of a dungeon uncovered outside their village by an earthquake. The caravan continued on and the group entered Sundabar. Vidar visited the Hall of Vigilance and was told there wasn’t a massive orc invasion or war (at this time).  Cetan went about appraising the treasure from the most recent and last adventures, trading in several scrolls in order to get “identify” cast on the other items. He also sold some of the other loot, and the other people in the party went about buying items.  Cetan also researched the ruins from the first adventure and discovered that it may be an old abbey of Selune that had been taken over by a cult of Shar before its destruction. The group also received a charter to investigate some disappearances north of the city for 100gp each, which is  where we will begin next session.

Silver Marches, March session

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Quick recap of events from the March session. (Nongo, Tark, Cetan, Terana)

The group had packed up the goods into the wagon and begun the track back towards Dead Snows, along with the freed dwarf prospector Throed. Morgyn (Rich) volunteered his horse for the wagon and scouted on foot as the party made its way back along the original route.

Things were going fine until the scene of the ambushed merchant’s wagons was approached. The group encountered a hungry scavenging giant stag beetle.. The beetle dodged the entangling druidic powers of Tarena (Michele), and in combat tore through the horse of Nongo  (JT) throwing him to the ground.  That had the group rightfully worried. Nongo bounced up in a rage and into the fight. General battle was joined. The first beetle was soon put down by blade and spell but was joined by 3 additional beetles in the area.  Tarena used an entangle scroll, Cetan (Markus) a grease spell, and many crossbow and bow shots were fired amidst the chaos. In the end John, Paul, Ringo and George were dispatched, Nongo collapsed from his wounds as his rage wore off, but Tarena and Cleric Brother What? (Mark K) healed him back to consciousness.  During the battle a group of roughly 17 orcs had been spotted by Morgyn about a half mile away moving north towards the mountains. They ignored the group and appeared to have some wounded among them.

Following the battle, the group sought out the beetle lair. In a small wooded glen a cave was located. Some old remains were discovered of a human and halfling within the cave, along with a sizable amount of treasure. The group made it back to Dead Snows arriving late at night and staying at the inn within the town walls, with Morgyn taking his leave until the next day.

The following morning, the group went to visit the salt merchant to return the recovered supplies and collect reward. Cran Frinch however had left shortly after the group departed Dead Snows on the the adventure. The group was left to haggle with his assistant and came out with half the money of the salt and the wagon, with promise of the other half if they return a week later. Anxious to purchase items of great value and to sell some of the treasure, the group decided to tag along with the next caravan to Sundabar. It was perhaps ordained that such a caravan was leaving for Sundabar the next day.

Silver Marches, Session 2

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SESSION 2 (for JT/Nongo)

PCs present:  Tark, Nongo, Morgan, Cetan

The party had burst out of the old chapel into the exposed cellar of the ruins and fought off the gnoll ambush quite handily and also with the aid of a stranger (Morgan), who came to the group’s aid.

The meager treasure of the gnolls was quickly gone over, and the decision was made to investigate what appeared to be the gnoll lair, that doorway at the base of the earthen ramp where the previous night’s battle had been waged. The group descended along a sloping and at times stepped corridor to a guard room and then a turn left continuing as before but deeper into the mountain. Two large but damaged doors led to a long, tall, hall with rubble and a statue initially thought to be a gnoll waiting in an alcove. The group continued down stairs at the far end of the hall to another room. This chamber had a very high ceiling, like an old construction shaft. There was also a very deep, unexplored, square pit opening the group crossed via a plank to an alcove and concealed door beyond.

At this point the concealed curtain of leather led into a more roughly hewn or mined space. The group found some of the stock of the salt merchant Gran Frinch in the second room and some other items. The space beyond was the gnoll common room. Our cleric (Tark) turned a gnoll zombie chained to the floor in a side passage and just beyond a conflict in a prisoner holding area erupted. The party interceded in a human and dwarf fighting in chains with 2 orc prisoners. The group killed the orcs. Around this time the group was also dealing with another evil presence. Beyond a partition on the other side of the common area, an obscuring mist and darkness were penetrated and an evil shrine with the spell casting head of an animated undead gnoll shaman needed to be overcome. This was eventually accomplished.

Hostilities subsided, there was a questioning of the human and dwarf held in the store room. The dwarf identified himself as a prospector named Throed. The human man identified himself as Hiraz Ganoch, Frinch’s partner, when aggressively questioned by the group. During the group going through the store room, Hiraz fled, was shot at and kicked the plank into the deep pit as he ran out of the dungeon.  The group has some of his belongings, included a rough map and some coins wrapped in an oddly patterned cloth.

A wagon wheel was found in the storage room to repair one of the wagons found along the way to the ruins. The group decided at this point to return to town with the goods, and not search the other entrances around the inside of the ruins. We left off with the beginning of that trip back. Throed has joined the group until you get back to  the village of Deadsnows.