Monday, January 31, 2011

Village of Hommlet - D20 Style (Part 7)

[continued from here]

Next Day (& the Next)

The following morning, the party sets off for Hommlet very early. You’ve got a lot of loot and extra company and it is fairly slow going. However, you manage to arrive by early afternoon, and you certainly cause a stir as you pony up to the Inn of the Welcome Wench! Ostler is there to take Horg and the others to rooms (on the house, of course!) and the patrons in the common room greet you with amazement and many questions. It appears they are more interested in getting news then giving any!

When they see the chest of treasure you’ve returned with, the buzz of excitement doubles! Along with all the silver you’ve brought (and the treasure you found before!) you’ve acquired quite a haul! There is a hush of woe when your party tells the tale of Spugnoir’s death, and a general clamor when you ask if any spell casters present are seeking fame and fortune!

There aren’t any spell users, but there appears to be plenty of others looking to strike it rich.

Kobort and Turuko are still staying at the inn and express their condolences for the loss of your friend; they also renew their offer to accompany your party. A swarthy looking man armed with a long sword introduces himself as Zert, and asks where and how your party found the brigands lair. His eyes widen at your tale. The village farmers are eager for your tales of daring, and they buy your party several rounds of Ostler’s potent drink as you spin your story.

About the same time you are finishing your third ale, the door to the inn bursts open and four well-clad and able-bodied men stride into the common room. A quiet falls over the crowd, for these are not common peasants. One is dressed in the robes of a cleric of St. Cuthbert, a second in the cowl of a druid. The third man wears the cloak and pointy hat of a courtly wizard and the tall man leading the way wears gleaming chain armor. It is this man who steps forward and addresses you:

“Greetings, friends of Hommlet! I am Rufus of Gilea, and this is my associate Burne,” he gestures to the wizardly man with the goatee. “We represent the interests of imperial Gilea here in Hommlet and have been commissioned to build an outpost here. We have heard word of your deeds, and your coming has been a great boon for this township!

“We understand that you have cleaned out a nest of brigands, and have rescued prisoners who may otherwise have perished! For this we are very grateful, and wish to extend our personal thanks as well as the hospitality of Hommlet.”

The cleric steps forward, “Well met friends! I am Terjon of the cudgel of St. Cuthbert. I am undercleric to the village curate (who is away at this time on important priestly business). I am here to see to the captives and provide what succor I can to them in their pain and misery.”

The druid introduces himself, “I am Jaroo Ashstaff, and I have already met with your companion Geffen. I have long served as a leader of the Old Faith for the people of Hommlet, and your help with the bandits around the area has been a boon to us all. If I can offer any of you healing, it would be my honor to do so!”

The captives are quickly brought forward and Jaroo and Terjon heal the entire group of pain and misery. After that Burne, Rufus, and the others listen to your tale. They are disturbed to learn that there is a new evil lurking in the ruins of the outpost, and they ask that your party stop by their keep on the way out of town, if you plan on making an additional expedition to the place!

Terjon, Jaroo, Rufus, and Burne all leave and eventually your party is too tired (or drunk!) to stay awake. Ostler shows you to your usual rooms, and you sack out for the night. Before you do, however, you carefully unfold the elven cloak and try it on. By some trick of its elvish design, it shimmers in the candlelight and almost seems to blend in with its surroundings…just what a young rogue needs to keep from being discovered! Smiling, you carefully store it in your backpack until the morning.

The next day, Horg and his fellow merchants are ready to leave, being well-rested, well-fed, fully healed, and equipped by the grace of Rufus and Burne. Horg promises you that he has not forgotten his words of reward, and will send it to you with the next caravan that passes through Hommlet from Gilea…probably in the next two to three weeks. He, Togo, and Iul (the other human merchant) all thank you one last time then set out on the southern road. They wave until they are out of sight.

Counting the Cash

Your party pools the wealth it has found, and you can easily see that this adventuring certainly pays off! The five of you have accumulated more wealth then you have ever seen in your life, enough to fill a small chest to a weight of well over sixty pounds, even taking out the worthless “shiny baubles” the ogre had accumulated. After careful counting, you inventory the total take at 899 copper pieces, 964 silver pieces, a whopping 1145 gold pieces, and 18 pieces of platinum. This is the amount remaining AFTER paying Ostler your enormous tavern bill!

In addition, you found three small zircon gemstones with Spugnoir. In speaking with Melubb the money changer he tells you he will give you 520 gold pieces for all four gems you carry (including the large peridot) and 32 gold coins for the golden ring you wear. Another eleven pounds of gold for a few small baubles seems well worth the trade to you! You tell Melubb that you’ll think it over.

You took the liberty of pocketing Spugnoir’s scroll of protection from undead, and have re-supplied your quiver with a full 30 crossbow bolts.

You think about buying an extra pony (or mule!) to carry your treasure, but for the time being, Ostler agrees to hide your chest temporarily. However, he does not want to be responsible for the party’s loot, especially knowing that there are bandits in the hills! Still, you are good customers and he’ll do this while you figure out a better location.

Thus being ready, you head down the Western Road, with intention to stop by the construction site of Rufus and Burne.

Rufus and Burne

Riding down the road, you see the construction site up ahead on your right. The main keep of the castle is not yet built, but the foundations are being set and already two towers, one small and one large have been finished. From what you’ve heard, Burne and Rufus are tough and cunning adventurers who earned favor in Gilea putting down a bandit hoarde, and earned a small fortune defeating a Green Dragon in the southern reaches of the Gray Hills. They are part of Hommlet’s Council of Elders and know all the important people of the village, but it is rumored they will lend aid to adventurers for the right price.

Riding up the hill and tethering your horses at the base of a long stair, you climb to the small two-story tower. It is pierced by arrow slits and two men-at-arms stand atop the battlements. The guard at the door leads you inside, obviously expecting you, and you find yourself in an audience chamber being announced for, “his most Worshipful Mage of Hommlet, Burne the Wizard.” Burne dismisses the guard with a wave as Rufus comes through the door.

“We have been granted leave to build a fortress here by the Emperor,” Rufus begins, “and while we are in debt to your efforts, we are worried about this outpost of villains being so close to Hommlet. We had thought that the old moat house was long abandoned, save by the occasional fell beast or giant spider, but the idea of armed and organized evil is extremely troubling.”

“Especially,” says Burne, “the fact that Horg states the blackguards used the symbol of the burning eye. The Golden Eye of Flame is a symbol of the old cult of Elemental Evil…the worship of the forces of Fire, Water, Earth, and Air that bring destruction and suffering to all peoples. Hurricanes, forest fires, tornados, and earthquakes all fall under the influence of that demonic cult! However, the cult was stamped out years ago, and its main temple…near Nulb…was sealed against any possibility of resurgence. If the cult was to rise again it would cause much harm to the inhabitants of this land, as it did before!”

Rufus says, “We need to know if this is the case. Bandits are one thing; evil cultists are entirely another! In years past, is took Hin Warriors from the Shirelands and Knights from Gilea to stop the evil, and relations between the two nations are not as good as they once were. If this is a revival of the cult of Elemental Evil, we need to present evidence as soon as possible so that resistance can be organized. We don’t want the cult, if revived, to get a toe-hold in the Gray Hills. Once firmly established, the cult will cost many lives and much suffering before it is rooted out. We ask, thus, that you bring us any evidence of the cult that you find.”

Burne adds, “You will of course be well rewarded for your efforts, and may even find a place of favor in our establishment, should the Emperor grant Hommlet the status of barony!”

Rufus says nothing at this but looks your party over grimly, as if estimating your worth in the venture. “Good luck to you,” he says finally, “Do not underestimate the abilities of the enemy. If it is an uprising of the cult, you will find them very strong foes. Seek aid where you will, and be careful!” Rufus turns and leaves the chamber.

Before dismissing you, Burne offers: “From the tales I’ve heard in town, I understand that your companion wizard was slain. It will be difficult to replace him since there are none of magical might in Hommlet save myself, and I am unfortunately not available for adventuring! There are too many things that draw my attention, and I am not truly free to leave them. However, I am not above providing aid to those in need. I could render service to your party in a magical capacity, but I would need to be heavily compensated for my time…perhaps one-third of any treasure that is taken from the moat house? It would go a long way to help in establishing suitable governance here in Hommlet.”

Onwards, Young Companions!

Smiling at your acceptance of his offer, Burne rises proudly from behind the table. “Well, I must tell Rufus that I will be away for at least a few days, then. I travel light, and it will not take long for me to make ready. You may await me below with your steeds.” He gestures to a guard and your party is dismissed.

Bryant and Eldoran are frankly aghast at your proposal to give away one-third of your treasure to the mage, but they have learned to trust your lead in these matters and will continue to do so. “He should certainly make things easier,” agrees Kendra. “Besides, if things get as rough as he and Rufus think, we’ll definitely have need of a good mage!” The five of you descend the chiseled stairs to where your horses wait.

It is less than thirty minutes when you hear a neighing from above, and you see Burne, robed in blue and riding upon a splendid white mare. He bears no wizard’s staff but he is hale and hearty and descends the hillock in a rush of hooves. Your party feels less than equal in his presence, yet you have confidence that the mage will not lead you astray. As he rides forward, you see that his horse is equipped with two bulging saddlebags, and he wears a dagger by his side in addition to several pouches and scroll cases. “Lead onwards, young companions! You know the path and I will follow for I know it not. The southlands and the Plains of Gilea were my home before I settled here in Hommlet, and I have never ventured far west.” Your company sets off.

While you ride, you ask Burne if he has a map of the moat house. He shakes his head, and says, “I did not even know there was anything to it but ruins. If we had known, Rufus and I would have pulled the place down ourselves before digging the foundations of the castle!”

You show him the mysterious potion, which he takes from your hand while barely slowing his mount. He uncaps the bottle and sniffs it. “Brr – smells of ghoul! I would imagine it to be a potion of undead control…or else the bile of a carrion eater! But you won’t know for sure unless you try it. It may come in handy since our group contains not one of holy power…the young paladin excepted, of course.”

It is only a few short hours, before your party arrives on the outskirts of the moat house, and Burne reins to a halt. “Now there is a good chance that any enemies of the Evil Eye have discovered your party’s handiwork and has fortified their defenses. What is our plan of attack then…by which I mean, how are we getting in, and what will be our strategy. Again, you know more about this moat house then myself; what do you expect to find?”

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Village of Hommlet - D20 Style (Part 6)

[continued from here]

Up the Hidden Stair

The party is silent with shocked grief over the death of their companion. Kendra, walking behind you, weeps openly as you grimly lead the way up the steps. At the top you find yet another door, concealed to look like stonework, but from this side the catch is readily found, and you open it quickly, and plunge through.

As the torchlight seeks the shadows, you recognize the jumbled and wrecked room where you find yourself; it is the lair of the brigands and the site of your battle with them. Through the doors opposite the secret panel you will find the ruined audience chamber, and through that is the courtyard and fresh air! You have led your companions back to the surface and it is just a few short yards to from where you stand to sunlight, the gate, and the road back to Hommlet!

Even their grief cannot mask the elation of the others as they come into the wrecked room and realize where they are. All are glad to be out, and proud at your ability to lead them. However, not all are quite so eager to leave the moat house as you are!

Kendra says, “Christoff, we should return for the prisoners now that we know the exit is so close to the lair of the ogre! Leaving them there for another servant of Darkness to find would be a terrible thing to do, and one that my patron god would not allow me to do in good conscience. It is but a short way down the steps, and there is no excuse for leaving defenseless captives to torture or worse! Surely the ogre had friends, and they will take out their anger at his death on the prisoners.

“Also, I feel strongly that we should not abandon the body of Spugnoir below. Not only is it disrespectful to leave our fallen comrade to the soup pots of any foul creatures, but I believe it would be better not to leave any evidence of our passing!”

Making Camp

By your leave, Bryant and Kendra head back into the dungeon, while you gather broken pieces of furniture to start a fire and Geffen looks to Eldoran. He is visibly agitated, but it is a couple minutes before he speaks, “Um, Christoff…there is nothing more I can do for Eldroan today, and the others could probably use my help, if only as an extra pair of hands. I’m going back down to find the others, but I’ll leave Eldoran here with you.” Before you have a chance to say anything, Geffen disappears through the hidden door! Eldoran looks at you sorrowfully but has given up trying to communicate through her wrapped jaw. She leads back against an old, moth-eaten cushion and closes her eyes.

You get the fire started and un-wrap your provisions. Only now do you realize how extremely hungry you are! You wonder how long you were in the underground without eating, but it must have been more than a day. Inside the brigand’s lair, you are not even sure of the time. The fire light is comforting to you.

It is only about thirty minutes before you hear a clattering on the stairs, and several figures stumble through the secret door. The first two are human, followed by a gnome, and Bryant comes in last. The ones you don’t recognize shirk away at the sight of you and the fire, until Bryant tells them that you are a friend, and not another brigand. Then they throw themselves at your feet and praise you for your help.

“Apparently,” says Bryant, “these folk are merchants who were waylaid by brigands some two leagues west of here…past Nulb even…but I’ll let them tell the tale. Come on Christoff, don’t be a poor host – give us something to eat!”

You grudgingly spare some food for the newly-freed prisoners. Though this was not your original plan, Eldoran and Bryant outnumber you and quickly break out some rations for the ex-captives. The taller human, who has the trademark red hair of Gilea, speaks while you eat.

“Our caravan was ambushed by brigands about three weeks ago; though it seems like a year, we kept time by scratches on the wall. We were not the only one captured, but we are the only survivors. The rest of our men were tortured, murdered, or eaten!

“I am Horg of Gilea. Our merchant caravan was coming from the city-state of Tryss on the western ocean, bringing trade goods through the Gray Hills to the plains of Gilea. Our assailants were hooded and cloaked in black, and carried the symbol of the golden eye of fire, a symbol unknown to me. We were brought here under cover of darkness and tortured and questioned, by one who calls himself Lareth ‘the Beautiful.’ In the end, we were left to rot in the ogre’s pantry and await our fates as meals for the creature!

“We thank you for our lives, and are indebted to you. If you can take us to the nearest town, where we can be outfitted for travel, we can provide you with some reward. Certainly our fortunes have not been favored of late (since all our goods were taken by the brigands), but in our homelands we still have some wealth, and I would not begrudge to spare some for our rescuers.”

At this, the gnome steps forward, and taking your hand bows low.

“I am no merchant of Gilea, and I have no wealth to offer. I am Togo Skintbiscuit, and I know that sounds a funny name to human (and half-human) ears. However, my people are seamen, and have been for many generations…a long number of years by human reckoning. The Skintbiscuit family has long been shipwrights and captains of vessels, and while I cannot offer any wealth at the next town, I do offer the gratitude of my family. This ring,” the gnome gives you a plain iron ring “will show you as a friend to my family and the gnomish race. It should be good for passage on any gnomish vessel, and you have but to give it to the master of the ship; he will see that the ring makes it back to me and my family. I daresay if you can ever brook passage to Gnomehold and the Gnomish Isles, you will find warm welcome in my house!” You note that inside the iron ring are several curious runes in the gnomish language.

Just then, Kendra and Geffen arrive, carrying between them the lifeless body of Spugnoir the wizard. They carefully lay him in a corner of the room, and cover him with his own cloak, blood-stained though it is. “We will bury him tomorrow,” says Kendra “At dawn.”

The captives have already met Kendra and Geffen, who helped to un-bar the door to their cell. They tell you that they did not bother to search the ogre’s chamber, but came right back after retrieving both Spugnoir and the captives. Bryant carefully sets spikes of iron in both doors, as the rest of the party settles down to their meal and to discuss the next day. Kendra feels that it is the party’s responsibility to take the captives back to Hommlet. Bryant likes the idea, if only to collect a reward from the merchants. Eldoran and Geffen say nothing, but go to sleep exhausted from their wounds and exertions.

Return to the Ogre’s Lair

You awaken the next morning to cool, fresh air and the far-off chirping of birds; someone woke before you and flung open the doors to the room. You find Eldoran and Bryant tending the fire and sizzling bacon. “Kendra and Geffen are burying Spugnoir. Horg and the others are bearing witness.” Soon enough the other party members return and you outline your plan:

..."Well, before we do anything, we're going to search the Ogre's lair. And thank you, Skintbiscuit, for the ring. I shall hold it near to me at all times. After searching the Ogre's lair, we will take you all to Hommlet to recover from your ordeal. While there, perhaps we shall run into a more useful spell caster, perhaps not. After that, I say we head for the Plains of Gilea ( or whatever that place was called ) where these people were captured, this may get us closer to the source of the problem..."

“Actually, sir,” says Horg “we were captured yet a few miles north and west of here…I would judge about five miles north of the town of Nulb. We were still in the Gray Hills, making for Gilea (the land south of the Hills) and I’m sure that no bandits would trouble us in the plains…not with the Knight Protectors of Gilea still riding the grasslands!

“The brigands and their superiors spoke specifically of the fact that they did not want to alert the nearby townships (Hommlet and Nulb) to their presence…that is why our caravan was ambushed so far from their actual headquarters, or so I gather. Your enemy is here, in this outpost, and they are many strong. Your party was lucky not to encounter more in the complex below!”

Horg’s words trouble you, but you are still decided on descending to the ogre’s chamber before leaving the moathouse. Geffen and Kendra take their time healing the various members of the party, and then you make ready for your reconnaissance. Bryant instructs the prisoners in the spiking of the door and not to open it unless the proper code be knocked by a party member (two sharp raps followed by three). And then you begin again.

It takes only a few minutes to descend to the landing between stairs and open the secret door to the ogre’s chamber. Eldoran volunteers to stand watch at the entrance while the rest of you search the chamber. Amazingly, it appears that no one has yet investigated the slaying of Lubash. You wonder how many actually inhabit the moat house; perhaps Horg was exaggerating.

The once barred door of the ogre’s pantry is now thrown open, and you find nothing in it but the stench of decay and quickly exit. Bryant finds a large purse inside Lubash’s skin cloak and it jingles with the sound of happy coins. Poking through the rags and skins that make up the ogre’s bed, you find a cloak of obvious elvish origin (obvious to your eyes anyway…you remember an uncle who possessed such an item of his people) and it appears to be in good repair. You take this for your own, easily stuffing it into your pack.

Kendra on the other hand has found a small chest containing a mass of articles including candlesticks, trinkets, glass beads, and many coins of various metals. She and Geffen easily left it between the two of them and carry it near the secret entrance. Meanwhile you open the other door (after carefully listening and hearing nothing) which moves silently on greased hinged. Beyond is a 20 foot square antechamber littered with useless rubble…there is also another door. But you ignore it for the surface.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Village of Hommlet - D20 Style (Part 5)

[continued from here]

The Crypt

Geffen chants a prayer to the Lords of the Natural World and healing power flows through your wounds. At your behest, he also tends to Kendra, who rises from her paralysis immediately!

“I just needed the warmth of a healing touch to revive me!” she says, smiling shyly at the young druid, who blushes. You wonder if there may be something more going on between the two of them. However, she quickly moves over to Eldoran and likewise lays hands on her, healing the dwarf with the power of her goodness.

You, Bryant, and Spugnoir explore the crypt; it is large and T-shaped, the base of the “T” extending west. In the dim light of the torch you see that a corridor of worked stone in the western end of the chamber leads back into other areas of the moat house. Meanwhile Spugnoir calls to you and Bryant…he has discovered another exit in the southern end of the chamber!

This second exit appears to be a breakthrough dug from the outside in; it does not appear to be part of the original construction and it is narrow, cramped and rough. From inside its depths comes a foul and fetid stench.

The party meets once again by the entrance you came through (in the northern end of the “T”). Bryant reports that he can find nothing in the ruins of the coffins; either the ghouls or someone else has looted the crypt, even of bodies! The others await your decision of which way to go…everyone is excited and battle-ready, though Geffen and Kendra tell you they will be unable to heal anyone until the new day has dawned.

The others follow your lead and agree to try the southern exit.

Poking your way into the tunnel to the south you find yourself in a cramped earthen tunnel about 5’ in diameter and definitely foul in odor. Walking hunched over and tapping ahead with your pole you eventually come to a smelly cave: the apparent den of the ghouls. Besides gnawed bones, there are many pieces of silver scattered about the area, several vials of holy water, and typical relics buried with the dead, now broken and desecrated.

As the others worm their way into the noisome smelling lair, you further find an unidentified potion and an old wooden scroll tube with an intact scroll! Carefully un-rolling and studying the parchment by torchlight, you find that it contains a mystical ward of protection against the undead…would that you had this earlier! The quarters are cramped with the six of you inside, and you find another three foot diameter tunnel burrowing out of this den. If you want to follow it, you will need to crawl!

Back to the Dungeon

Feeling claustrophobic in the cramped confines of the ghouls’ warren, your party quickly leaves after gathering the treasure. You give the scroll to Spugnoir, as per your party’s original agreement to hand over any magical writings found, and you pocket the mysterious potion in case you need it. All take a share of the silver and a vial or two of the (still fresh) holy water.

Back in the crypt chamber, you spurn the northern aperture you came in through in favor of the main exit in the western arm of the T-shaped room. Taking the lead, your party travels easily down the wide, worked stone corridor.

“Good stone went into the building of the moat house,” observes Eldoran. “I’m not an expert, but I’ve seen enough rock in my day to tell good from bad!”

The corridor leads west then jukes south before turning westward again. A few minutes after leaving the crypt, you come to a decision as the corridor splits in two directions, one way going north and the other south. Bryant takes a few steps south, and his torch shows a descending staircase.

“Wait here!” you tell the others, then you pad northwards with a torch of your own. Moving softly and quickly, you move far enough down the northern way to see that the corridor ends in a doorway…but not before a second tunnel branches off to the west. Rather then pass the opening in order to inspect the door (if there’s anyone lurking down the new corridor, you don’t want to be cut off from the rest of the group), you pad back to the party with your reconnaissance.

Deciding against the stairway, you approach the door, pausing at the empty corridor branching off to the west. At the door you stop and carefully lay your ear at the edge: you hear nothing. Carefully you open the door, which swings easily on we’ll oiled hinges.

There is a very short corridor that opens into a large empty chamber. Your party has just entered through the southwest corner of the room. The chamber is about fifty feet east to west, thirty feet north to south and devoid of even furniture. In the center of the north and east walls, corridors lead off into darkness. Spaced evenly across the southern wall are three short corridors, each ending in a door; your party entered through the westernmost one of these.

Taking a moment to look around, you realize there isn’t much here except for five choices in exit, including back the way you came!

Feeling Lost

Fighting your growing feeling of dread at the possibility of getting lost, you lead the company up the northern corridor. It winds about, first to the left, then the right and eventually forks; one passage leading northeast, one leading in a westerly fashion.

As you dig your chalk out of your backpack, the others are relieved that you are taking steps to avoid getting lost…they hadn’t even thought much about it! Everyone is tense because of the darkness and silence and the thought that at any moment, something could jump out at them.

Seeing the mysterious potion in your pack, you ask Spugnoir if he can identify it, but he shakes his head. “I’m sure I couldn’t even hazard a guess…for all I know, it could be rum punch! My spell book contains many spells, but not one that could tell you the qualities of the liquid. Your guess is as good as mine.”

Disappointed yet again with the mage, you are beginning to wonder what he can do! You carefully stash the potion, and lead the party northeast after making a small mark on the wall to indicate the direction. After following the corridor for 20 yards or so, it takes a 45 degree turn to the left for another forty feet or so before going up a stairway. At the top of the stairway, you quickly discover a stone door, disguised to look like part of the wall (at least from the other side…a secret door!). From this side it opens easily, and you find yourselves in a small ten foot square room with one other exit: a stairway leading upwards to the north.

You search the room cautiously for traps, while the others wait on the stairs behind you (the stairs downward). You’re uncertain of your depth below the moat house, and don’t know where this second stairway upwards would lead; consequently, your wary about rushing upwards.

Your search fails to yield any traps, but you must slip a catch somewhere as the wall directly across from the entrance through which you came opens with a creak! You have managed to find yet another secret door! As the others crowd you from behind you look around the new room, noting that it seems to be slightly furnished, though in an untidy fashion.

You realize you should be worried about the light in the room at the same time as you hear a booming voice say, “Lubash SMASH intruders!” Whirling you see a huge ogre who was crouched behind the door, swinging a huge club! The maul misses you but catches Eldoran under the chin and flings her across the room! She hits the wall and does not move.

Kendra is the next one through the door and catches a great blow from the ogre’s club on her shield. It flashes blue but its enchantment holds, and she smites the creature yelling, “Die, fell-beast!” The ogre yelps in pain as the long sword cuts deep. Bryant leaps through the door and likewise puts an arrow into the hulking giant, while Geffen scrambles through, and quickly crawls to Eldoran. You flee farther into the room and fumble for your crossbow. From behind a barred wooden door comes a frantic pounding and cries of “Help! Help!”

You finally manage to nock your crossbow as “Lubash” brings another crashing blow down on Kendra. Unhesitating, she leaps forward and plunges her long sword deep into the ogre’s belly. Bryant misses with a second arrow, but you take off an ear with your bolt and the ogre passes into a red rage! With a howl he leaps forward, just as Spugnoir comes through the door, chanting and gesticulating wildly. In the magical gibberish you can distinguish only one word: sleep! Lights streaks from his hands to engulf the creature’s head, but Lubash shakes it a couple times, and seems to shrug off the spell.

A backhand blow from his club strikes Spugnoir in the chest and knocks him back through the door and out of sight. Kendra strikes the ogre from behind, but her blow lands flat. You place a well-aimed bolt into the giant’s back from behind, and he howls in pain as the shaft lodges deep. Bryant draws his sword and hurls himself at the ogre!

Eldoran is starting to rouse under the ministrations of Geffen, but cannot rise from the floor. The ogre tries to strike the druid from behind but his club swings wild! Desperate to keep the monster from their fallen comrades, Kendra and Bryant redouble their melee efforts. You shoot it with a third bolt but the monster refuses to die!

The pounding from the closet comes louder. An elbow smash from Lubash bloodies Bryant’s mouth. You cannot fire into the melee for fear of hitting your friends, and they seem unable to bring the ogre down! Drawing your dagger, you rush towards the brawl, searching for a good opening.

The ogre stomps down on Kendra but misses as she wraps her arms around its weapon wrist. You stab the ogre behind its left knee and it falls to one leg. The point of Bryant’s sword enters its eye and it is over. As you stand up, chest heaving from excitement and exertion, the pounding and cries of help increase.

The Ogre’s Lair

You warn the others away from the barred wooden door, just as Kendra was approaching it. The voices from behind continue pleading and begging to be let out, but the others obey your command after seeing your leveled crossbow and steely look.

The chamber is large, about forty feet square with a pit for cooking and a heap of rags and fur for bedding. There is also a small table, some sort of cloak rack (holding the ogre’s disgusting skinned hide cloak), and a large flattened rock, hollowed to make a kind of seat. There are also skewers used for cooking, with some sort (?!) of meat on them. Directly opposite the secret door you came through is a large wooden door, unbarred, though there is a bar resting against the wall. Torches light the room.

The barred door is in the center of the southern wall (to your left as you come through the secret entrance). Geffen and Bryant helps a dazed Eldoran to her feet. She tries to say something, but cannot form the words; apparently, the ogre broke her jaw! You realize you have no idea where Spugnoir is.

You firmly tell the others that it is time to go. Kendra and Geffen both object to the abandonment of prisoners, and say that the poor souls deserve at least a fighting chance at life. Kendra points out that they could equip them with daggers, or even the skewers of the ogre! Bryant points out that there may be a reward.

However, you ignore their arguments, pointing out your depleted resources and the fact that you need to get out of here NOW! Obviously the moat house is deadlier then originally thought, and there is a lot more to it then you were led to believe. It is time to re-group and re-strategize. You wave your crossbow menacingly and Kendra moves away from the barred door.

The prisoners are screaming not to be left behind!

You lead the party back through the secret door, without bothering to even search the ogre’s chambers. You find yourself on the short landing at the top of the stairs you came up. In front of you is the stairway leading down to the dungeon (and back to the crypts). To your left is the stairway leading upwards to the unknown.

In the light of your torch, you behold a terrible sight: at the bottom of the stairway you first came up lies the sprawled figure of Spugnoir. His chest is crushed, and even from here you can see his head is twisted at a horrible angle from his fall. Blood has spewed from his mouth and covers the foot of the steps below you. It appears that the young wizard has met his final destiny here in the catacombs of the moat house!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Village of Hommlet - D20 Style (Part 4)

[continued from here. Sorry for changing the subject on yesterday's garbage...please feel free to continue the discussion/comments on that post]

What Happened

Much later, after gear has been stored, wounds tended, and mounts cared for, the six of you sit again in a private room with only Ostler and his best pot boy waiting on you. While the others sip broth, wine, or (in Eldoran’s case) ale, Bryant, being in the best shape, tells the tale.

“We set out from Hommlet in good spirits and fine weather, as you may remember, although it was different to be traveling as a group without you leading our way. Back at the moat house, we quickly made our way to the main keep and the chamber where we had the great fight with the brigands. Eldoran and I were worried that we may have overlooked something and some other denizen may have laid claims to our spoils. Luckily, such was not the case.

“Although fairly ripe from having rotted so many days, and obviously chewed by carrion-eaters, the brigands still carried their weapons and equipment…some of which we claimed for our own. Near one crumbling wall, Eldoran discovered a loose flagstone beneath which was buried the rogues’ treasure: a small chest filled with swank from their pillaging!

“We carefully re-buried it before setting out down the southern passage. Several empty rooms yielded refuse, bats, and some useful treasure (a broad sword of excellent quality that is now in Kendra’s scabbard)…then we ran into our first real danger: a twelve foot viper with gleaming fangs! It slithered quietly behind us and wounded Geffen sorely before we were aware of it! However, we were able to defeat the beast. In its nest we found the remains of an unwary brigand and his jeweled dagger….

“We rested for a day, before exploring the eastern passage…and it was here we met a danger that nearly had our lives! After finding and marking a stairway leading down to the basement invested with giant rats (they gave us a few nasty bites!), an old pantry, and an unused kitchen, we stumbled into an encounter with a giant lizard. Larger then a man it gave us quite tousle, nearly killing Eldoran, wounding Spugnoir, Geffen, and Kendra before we were able to bring it down. However, within its belly we found a shield Geffen believe is enchanted, being untouched by the acid of the animal’s innards. There was also another small chest in the room containing more coins, and the armor and crossbow of some past guardsman.

“Well, recovering from that green monster that evening (well outside the moat house!), we nearly decided to return to Hommlet…after all we had plenty of money now, and much to tell you. However, despite Geffen’s nausea from the viper’s venom and our relative injuries, we thought we’d try going one step more….

“The next morning, we tried the stairs going downward…hoping perhaps for some hidden pantry or forgotten storeroom where they might be a crate of old blades (or hell…old wine!) we could inventory. What we found is that there is much more to the moat house then the ruined upper level! However, as Kendra led the way down the stairs a patch of green slime fell atop her, tumbling her down the stairs! By the time we got to her it had already eaten through her armor and nearly eaten through her! Would that we had had your keen eyes on the lookout!

“As we shone our torches around the basement, we found a chamber with several doors, all in good order and with shiny new locks! Much to our amazement it appears that the under-complex in inhabited and well-used…and that’s not all! After the second door we tried turned out to be locked, we were nearly surprised by the un-living remains of dead men, animated with malevolent purpose!

“Deciding that discretion was the better part of valor, we gathered our fallen and retreated from the underground. We rested for a day before once again digging up the brigand’s treasure trove and then returning to the village. It is apparent to us, that we need your particular skills to proceed farther with our lives, and a healthy Kendra would be good as well!”

Return to the Underground

Several days pass and your party regains its strength. Kendra has replaced her burned armor with a suit of scale mail the party found on its last excursion and your group is once again ready to proceed.

After once again provisioning yourselves from Ostler’s larder, your party sets out. You notice that, with the exception of the wizard Spugnoir, the rest of your party displays an increased aura of confidence and vigor that comes from the experience they’ve gained. You hope to share in that feeling of confidence soon!

Once arriving at the moat house, the others quickly show you to the darkened keep. When you come to the main audience chamber, they gesture to the southern hallway to indicate the lair of the giant viper. It is the eastern hallway that leads to the chamber that housed the giant lizard and the stairway downwards.

You quickly make your way to the old storeroom that contains the stairway; it is both dank and dark. “This is where we encountered a hoard of rats,” says Bryant while the others make ready torches. “It was just at the end, where the stairwell opens into the chamber, that we encountered the slime.”

Taking a torch, you carefully descend, inspecting the stairwell for traps. Your half-elven eyes pick out a gold ring concealed in the dust of the 5th step, and you pocket it quickly. Holding the torch aloft, you see that the tunnel is carved from stone and slick with moisture…and then you see the green glisten of slime! You hold up the party to halt, and you put the slime to the torch, safely burning a path to the chamber below.

The stairway opens into a large stone cellar…perhaps fifty feet wide and forty deep. Stone columns hold the roof above secure. The stairway opens into the center of the room, facing south, and by walking around it you can see the stone foundation of the stairs sloping upwards. Two doors stand closed and locked in the eastern wall. As you circle the perimeter of the room, you find that it is in fact L-shaped, with a twenty foot wide portion vanishing southward from the southwest corner; more columns lie that way as well, and doors lining the eastern wall of this branch.

Turning to call to the party, you see yet another door in the southwestern portion of the main chamber. As you quietly gesture to Bryant and Eldoran, you hear a shuffling noise from behind you and spin around as two rotting zombies shamble towards you! Quickly you back away and yell a warning to your companions.

Eldoran and Bryant respond first with yells of challenge and charge. Kendra, red hair flaming, pulls her broadsword and moves between you and the zombies. Spugnoir seems at a loss, but Geffen hefts his quarterstaff.

The melee begins as you ready your crossbow. Soon, additional targets become available as more zombies begin emerging from the line of doors to the south. The zombies are tough, although easy to strike, and you find yourselves hard pressed. By the time one zombie falls, two more takes its place, and the party begins to fall back towards the stairs as the number of undead rises from two to four to eight and more! The zombies, though unskilled and slow, are strong and your party’s three fighters have soon taken several blows. Bryant moves back with you, and drawing his bow, begins to target shoot by your side.

Soon, you find yourself moving backwards up the stairs, your bolts quickly depleting. The party has slain five zombies, but at least half a dozen are still pushing upwards, intent on rending your bodies to bloody tatters. Behind you on the stair is Spugnoir, while Geffen stands between you and Kendra and Eldoran. Kendra seems most injured of all the party members, and Geffen aids the fiery red-head with a Cure spell. She nods her thanks before going back to work on the monsters in front of her.

There’s only room on the steps for two of you to fight side-by-side, as the zombies press the attack. Why did I drop my torch, you think to yourself…fire would indeed be useful at putting the undead to rest!

You move a few steps up as Spugnoir clears room, so that the others may back away from the undead onslaught, and in the light of the wizard’s torch, you see something you had not noticed on your way down: high on a dusty shelf in the storeroom at the top of the steps, is a large clay jug clearly marked “oil” in the flickering illumination!

Moving quickly you leap up the steps to the flask, hoping that it is not empty. Spugnoir looks askance at you as you pass him on the stairwell, but the others are moving behind you as Eldoran takes another blow from the restless corpses below. You turn back to the shelf and reach for the jug…it is heavy with sloshing liquid, and your hopes leap! Taking your dagger, you stave in the stopper, and smell the sweet viscous substance.

“Clear the stairs! Fire in the hole!” you yell to the others.

The others see what you’re at and quickly out-distance the shambling zombies as they beat feet up the steps to the storeroom. Eldoran helps you stave the top off the jug with her hammer, and the two of you tumble the flask down the steps to the zombies below, who crack the jug to pieces in a fury of destruction. You pull the torch from Spugnoir’s hands and flip the brand end-over-end into the creatures below, lighting them ablaze!

They burn.

It takes only a few minutes, for the fire to consume itself, and none of the zombies makes it to the top of the stairs before their legs disintegrate to charred ash. The party roundly congratulates you on your quick thinking, and then you file once again down the steps, stomping on the smoldering remains as you do so.

Your party makes a quick search of the doors from whence the zombies emerged. Behind each door is a small, ten foot square cell containing nothing of apparent value, though in the northernmost cell you find a large and lovely peridot gem stone behind a loose flagstone. There are no other zombies.

Placing the ring on your hand produces no noticeable effect and Spugnoir agrees to cast a spell to detect enchantment. After muttering and gesturing over your hand produces no affect the wizard informs you that the ring appears to be only a “petty bauble.” You are disappointed, but it is still a gold ring!

Now that you have explored the southern corridor its total length of fifty or so feet, you see that an opening lies on the west wall of the corridor (across from the cell doors). Shining a torch through the opening you see the light glisten off of some sort of metal apparatuses…apparently this is a torture chamber!


Again taking the forefront of adventuring, you lead the party by torch light into the long abandoned torture chamber. However, exploring the new room carefully leads you to the conclusion that it is not long abandoned, and the skeletons left hanging on the instruments of torture are fairly recent…simply picked clean! This leads to closer scrutiny, and it is Bryant the ranger that discovers a faint but fresh trail of blood that leads from one particular rack to the southern column of the room (the chamber contains two columns; one to the north, one to the south).

Carefully inspecting the suspect pillar, your hand trips a mechanism that opens a secret door in the pillar! A man-sized chute descends into darkness, although shiny metal rungs line the wall of the shaft, providing ready access to the depths.

There appears to be nothing else in this room except instruments of torture, most too large to be easily moved.

Into the Depths

You gesture for silence and listen intently at the opening of the shaft. After several seconds, you are satisfied that nothing is to be heard in the depths below, and you make ready to descend.

The shaft slopes gently downward at an easily accessible angle; the rungs along the side of the shaft provide stability and an easy climb. You push your torch out through the opening at the end of the shaft, and seeing dark flagstones (not some underground cavern) you quickly hop out to inspect the man-made chamber.

You are in a large, dark room that appears to have once been some sort of burial chamber. Lining the walls are niches for coffins, but these have been broken into splintered remains, and the floor is coated in dust. The room is long, extending southwards into darkness. To the north (your left) the wall opens, making the crypt L-shaped. Several dark forms lie against the north wall.

Kendra and Eldoran exit are climbing down behind you as you step farther into the chamber, wary of possible traps. The light of your torch gleams off the cold yellow eyes of several creatures huddled against the north wall and you realize that the forms are moving! Pale, grey and sickly with dirty ragged claws and slavering teeth, four ghouls charge to attack!

You quickly back-pedal to the wall, fumbling for your crossbow, while trying to keep your grip on your torch as well. Kendra and Eldoran draw weapons, step forward and meet the charge of the ravenous undead! They both strike well, before two corpse-colored creatures assault each one of them. The ghouls have difficulty scratching through their armor but one manages to bite Eldoran on the knee, and she lets out a choked scream before stiffening and falling to the ground, paralyzed!

Bryant fires an arrow over your heads, striking a ghoul in the shoulder…in falls to the ground.

You manage to cock your crossbow and fire it point blank at the ghoul Kendra has already struck. The bolt knocks its leg out from under it and Kendra brings down her long sword, silencing its gibbering! Bryant misses with a second arrow, and the two ghouls still standing flank Kendra and rake her with their claws as you back away from the melee. She cries out in pain and agony and stiffens in paralysis! They feast upon her flesh!

You and Bryant each pump missiles into one of the ghouls killing it. The final one turns and bounds towards you, tongue wagging and eyes wide! It strikes you with your claws, but your elvish blood is proof against the filthy contagion of its nails. You drop your crossbow, draw your dagger and strike ineffectively while Bryant carefully places arrows in the creature’s back. It bites your shoulder before falling dead at you feet. The others exit the shaft.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Absolute Garbage

Did y'all see this crap?

I guess prison inmates will be relegated to playing indie games with shared narrative control, huh? The only way the warden will be able to prevent one "game master" from rising to the rank of "gang leader." Or perhaps they can play Ars Magica "troupe style" with rotating Storyteller responsibilities...or would that lead to a shiv-worthy power struggle?

Obviously, the defendant's attorney was an idiot who didn't know enough about role-playing games to adequately describe their positive benefits. Guess they'll be playing checkers now.

***EDIT: Thanks to Greyhawk Grognard for the original news link***

I'm as Bad as WotC

Well...maybe only in spirit, not actuality. But I keep finding myself wanting to convert all my RPGs to some version of the same basic system (namely, B/X).

I mean it's hard not to...for any game where combat is a major factor, I find the B/X combat system to be pretty darn good. Recently, I was considering how easy it might be to convert Shadow Run to a B/X equivalent...after all, what is Shadow Run but a party of fantasy characters going on adventures in hopes of scoring ca$h. It's the same damn thing...except with guns and cyberware.

Ugh...I'm as bad as the brain trust behind D20 (or GURPS, for that matter). Not every role-playing setting requires the same system, and definitely not every system is a good fit for every setting. For example, I would NEVER try to make a B/X equivalent of Vampire the Masquerade...that's just ridiculous!

[well, probably never...I try never to say "never"]

But there are many games that just seem to be begging for a B/X-style streamlining. Shadow Run (i.e. "fantasy cyberpunk) is definitely one of them. The superhero genre is another. So is the space opera setting. So is the 1930's pulp adventure setting. Maybe even Rifts (i.e. "fantasy apocalypse").

Maybe I should come up with a list of games that I see (in my mind's eye) as "convertible," just to see what the common denominator of all of 'em are. Maybe I'm just in a semi-exhausted trance-like state right now and not thinking clearly.
; )

Village of Hommlet - D20 Style (Part 3)

[continued from here]


Eldoran and Bryant say they will try to fence the goods, since you are not feeling well; they promise to get a good price! You retire upstairs to your bed, and don’t come down until the next day.

The following morning you are greeted at the breakfast table by a bleary, but conscious Geffen. As you congratulate him on his quick recovery, you are joined by Kendra and Spugnoir! Kendra apologizes to you for not healing your injuries sooner, but she feels it was important to help Geffen and Spugnoir recover first. Now that the Druid is up and around, he can help her heal the other party members.

“Tomorrow,” Geffen says, “I’ll see what the Lords of Nature can do for you.”

Bryant and Eldoran also arrive at the table and tell you of their newfound friend Nira Melubb the money changer. Melubb gave them a fair price for both the gem and the chain, any your party is now 225 gold coins richer. Bryant is now wearing the chain mail armor taken from the Brigand captain, though he got Ostler’s pot boy to polish it. “The bastards at the Trading Post only offered me 60 cold coins for it! I wanted to swap it for a chain shirt but the price was 110…so now I’m going to clink as badly as a fighter! Once we’ve looted some more brigands, though, I’ll be able to make up the difference.”

Eldoran divides up the party’s money between the five of you. Each receives 47 gold coins, 16 silver coins, and 2 pieces of platinum. Spugnoir looks a little despondent, and Kendra gives him a handful of gold. “It’s not right that you receive nothing just because we didn’t come upon any scrolls; you risked your life, too!” Spugnoir turns his frown upside down, and you all settle back into planning your next outing.

Over the next two days, Kendra and Geffen heal the entire party back to full health. You finally feel like getting out into the sunshine a little more. You’ve each dropped a piece of platinum for a full week’s lodging and meals (and the guarantee of provisions when you set out again!). Though the regulars of the inn have gotten used to seeing your party lingering around, Ostler has arranged for your group to take your meals in private and you have been quieter regarding your adventuring exploits.

Your last evening before setting out again, Kendra comes to the supper table with a large roll of parchment. On it is a map!

“I made the acquaintance of Calmert, one of the local priests of St. Cuthbert. I wasn’t able to get an audience with the high priest, Terjon (he spends most of his time in meditation when not proselytizing to the good people of Hommlet. Anyway, Calmert was willing to part with this map and a bit of local lore, once I told him of the nest of brigands we wiped out.

“We are here in Hommlet in the region known as the Grey Hills,” she indicates pointing to the map. “The moat house (which we have yet to finish exploring) is a few miles outside of town on the Western Road. It is about halfway between Hommlet and the nearest town, Nulb. Some years back, there was a large Temple devoted to evil gods located in Nulb, and it had a corrupting influence on the population. Even though it was destroyed, the people of Hommlet think that people in Nulb are a shady bunch, although not outright evil.

“The temple was destroyed by a force of valiant heroes…Knight Protectors of Gilea, Hin Warriors, and priests of Apollo. The moat house that we have been exploring used to be a minor outpost of the temple, but it was sacked around the same time as the destruction of the temple.

“Past Nulb to the west is southwestern tips of the Cold Mountains of the north. The road continues on to the kingdom and city-state of Tryss and the Western Sea. The road south of Hommlet will eventually take us to the Plains of Gilea and into the central interior of the continent. The road running north of Hommlet is Shire Road, and it runs all the way to the Shirelands of the Hin, Moot of the Halflings. The Shirelands are bordered by the Grey Hills to the south and the Cold Mountains to the North and they are fiercely protective of their territory, but Hin merchants will travel as far south as Uxor, south of Gilea, so they keep up peaceable relations with humans.

“There are many warrior monasteries on the Shireland roads, and they are quick to put down incursions of evil…that is why the Knights of Gilea petitioned the Hinling for helping in putting down the Temple of Elemental Evil (as it was known). The Grey Hills owe some allegiance to the Gilean Empire and Gilea provides them with nominal protection; however, much of the hill country is wild and the Halflings were only too glad to offer their strength in purging what could have been a terrible threat on their southern border!

“Anyway, since that time, brigands and the occasional beast or cannibalistic humanoid tribe have been the only real threats to the people in the area. Hommlet and Nulb are two of the largest settlements in the western part of the Grey Hills. Boy…I think it’s time we got some sleep…we can discuss more local history later, if you want!”

Second Excursion

Your party sets out again, though later than your first excursion (it is nearly noon). Still you make good time since you are now all individually mounted; you and Geffen have both acquired steeds from fellow-travelers at the inn.

You and Blackie ride side-by-side with Eldoran, who tells you of the dwarfhold from whence she comes, now destroyed. She tells you that some day she would like to return and clear the underground ruins of goblinoids; perhaps marry and settle a clan of her own. She suggests that your skills as a thief could be helpful in such an adventure….

By late afternoon, you have arrived at the moat house and are once again crossing the rickety draw bridge, your horses remaining safely behind in the marshy field. No giant toads trouble your party this time.

Once again in the courtyard, you must choose whether to explore the main keep (through the northwest doors) or the ruined tower to the southeast. You recall that the main audience chamber of the keep had three exits: two corridors running south and east and the locked doors that led to the darkened “brigands’ chamber,” piled high with ruined furniture. This also a pile of rubble in the northeastern corner of the courtyard, though Bryant tells you it is probably not worth risking a scorpion bite to poke around in it.

Ignoring Bryant’s warning you poke around the rubble. You find nothing, however, not even a scorpion.


The upper portion of the tower has collapsed and the interior is very dark. The door, half open provides no obstacle and you light a torch before stepping through the doorway. The dripping fire gleams on shiny coins in the rubble, though you also can pick out a few odd bones. Thrusting your torch aloft to see what is above you, you are surprised by something large hairy, yet silent, that springs down from above! You drop your torch and try grappling with the beast but you feel a sharp sting as it sinks its fangs into you!

Kendra gives out a cry as she smites at the beast, but only bounces her blade off its chitinous armor. The weight of the creature bears you to the ground, and you pull your dagger, stabbing at the creature ineffectually. You feel your self grow weaker as poison courses through your veins. It continues biting you! Eldoran strikes a blow with her sledge and knocks it from your back. You fumble for your crossbow as Bryant sends an arrow over your head. In the dim light of the fallen torch, you see the creature revealed as monstrous spider, nearly man-sized! It scurries back towards you, bent on destruction, but Eldoran and Kendra step forward, weapons swinging, and blocks its path.

The poison continues to do its evil work as your weapon drops from your numb fingers. The dwarf and paladin are now hurrying towards you as you tremble on the floor. It is so cold! They quickly pull you outside into the courtyard and the last light of the day. People shout and Geffen is building a fire. You feel the paladin lays her hands on you, and gentle warmth fills your wounds, though it does not banish the chill from your bones. Someone covers you with a blanket as you rock back and forth. Geffen approaches you, hand outstretched, and lays a glowing palm on your arm where the spider had ripped it open from the shoulder to the elbow. The wound heals almost completely, but your vision is still blurry and all the strength seems to have left your body!


By your feeble requests, the party removes itself back through the gates and out of sight of the moat house. They move off the road and make camp before getting back to Hommlet, as it is too dark to travel. The night passes uneventfully.

The next morning, you are feeling a little stronger, and can lift yourself into an upright position against a tree, though your vision is still blurry, sluggish, and numb in the extremities. Bryant and Geffen, both at home in the outdoors, argue against camping for too long, as the danger of being attacked is too great. The party understands you are not willing to continue while recovering from the spider venom, but they offer to take you back to the inn, where they will put you up in a room while you recover.

To cheer you up they show what they found in the lair of the spider: a few dozen copper and silver pieces and a box carved from ivory that could fetch a good price from the right buyer.

Your party is really anxious to explore; specifically, they want to go back to the lair of the brigands and see if there was any additional treasure they missed, since your group left in such a hurry the first time. They don’t really want to wait a week and a half, since they are not injured. They know you want to regain your strength, but they hope you understand that staying in town that long will just drain their money supply when they could be going over the villains’ hideout.

Back in Town

Your companions accompany you back to the Inn of the Welcome Wench and you give Ostler the innkeeper 2 pieces of platinum, enough to put you up until your body recovers. Ostler greets you with a smile and says he’ll have your meals brought to your bedroom – you are quickly becoming his best customer in years!

Your friends stay the night and then leave the next morning, leaving you with plenty of silver for any extra wine you may wish to buy. They promise to give you a complete report when they return!

A couple days pass and you have enough strength to walk around, but don’t feel like lifting anything heavy. Asking Ostler about a map, he suggests you try the trading post though you may find one talking to a passing traveler. In answer to your questions regarding a harlot, the man blushes and apologizes but he does not offer that kind of entertainment in his establishment! He says your more likely to find that sort of think in Nulb, the women of Hommlet are goodwives and maidens and “not of that sort.”

On the fourth day since your return to Hommlet, you are feeling much better, but are quite lonely with the absence of your friends. Going down to the common room and ordering a bottle of mead, you wonder if you made the right decision to let them go alone…hell, you may missing out on the profits of the enterprise!

Looking around the common room you see several other travelers and two who are familiar faces: men who have been staying at the inn since you arrive. Seeing your gaze, they get up from their table and approach you. One is a large man who has the swagger (and weapons) of a professional fighter. The other man is barely taller then you and dressed in robes of soft grey. He looks almost like one of the Hin monks, but he is obviously a human, not a Halfling, and his hair is cut almost to the scalp, not left long like the Hinlings.

“Good afternoon,” says the man in robes, “I am Turuko, and this is my companion Kobort. We knew there was another wanderer staying at the inn, and we’ve been waiting for the chance to talk to you! You and your friends have been keeping yourselves pretty close, but we couldn’t help but notice that you’ve obviously found some type of excitement in or around Hommlet. Would you mind passing the time with us and regaling us with stories of your adventures.”

“We’ll pay for the wine, of course,” says the giant Kobort, smiling.

You invite them to pull up chairs and you begin spinning tales…perhaps with a bit of fabrication here and there, but they are newcomers and you are not entirely trusting of them. Still, as the wine flows your tongue wags a bit looser, and as they tell you of their travels, you find yourself boasting a bit here and there in a good natured attempt at out-doing them!

As the evening winds down, you beg your leave to return to your room, but they offer to accompany you on any future adventures, “always hoping your own companions return, of course!” You tell them you’ll think it over and head to bed.

By the sixth day since your return to Hommlet (the seventh day since your injury) you are beginning to worry about your companions and their return. None of your previous excursions lasted more then two or three days and your friends have been gone almost a whole week! You think about possibly riding after them.

By noon-time of the next day, you are packed and ready to go. Ostler has given you enough dry rations to last a week, and you are resolved to pick up a map from the trading post on your way out of town. However, before you have finished your last meal in the inn there is a commotion in the stableyard, and you leap to your feet, seeing your friends have returned!

Each is in some state of disrepair, but the worst appears to be Kendra, whose scale armor has been twisted and melted, blackened at the edges exposing flesh that looks like it has been held to the torch! Eldoran is beaten and bruised, but appears otherwise fine, and is helping Geffen, who is lashed to his horse by rope to keep him upright. Even Bryant and Spugnoir are covered in bloodied bandages and seem to have suffered numerous small wounds, though they otherwise seem fine.

Bryant slings the saddlebags from his horse over one shoulder, and though obviously worried about the fate of his injured companions, still manages to throw you a grin. The bags clink and jingle in a most enjoyable fashion!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Village of Hommlet - D20 Style (Part 2)

[continued from here]

Surprised At The Moat!

You ride slowly towards the drawbridge, keeping a wary eye on the gates and the arrow slits. You see no movement, but observe that the drawbridge is fairly dilapidated.

Eldoran (riding in front) remarks, “The water in the moat sure is murky!” To the right of your party is a bubbling pool.

Suddenly several large figures burst from the pool, croaking loudly…giant toads! Your horses rear and paw in the air, trying to get away from the slimy monstrosities! Eldoran manages to get her mount under control, as does Kendra, but Geffen tumbles from the back of the paladin’s mount. Likewise, you tumble from behind Byrant, while the ranger clings to his bridle and fumbles for his bow (you sustain 0 damage). Spugnoir is thrown from his pony which turns and bolts back down the path towards the main road!

As you quickly sit up, you see two of the smaller toads (still as big as large dogs), hop toward you and attack with their long tongues…one tongue snags around each of your ankles! You are pulled between the two, both trying to draw you toward them! Over to your left, you watch in horror as the largest toad (easily man-sized) launches its tongue ten feet to wrap around Geffen; it drags him to its gaping maw and snaps down on the druid! He shrieks! Meanwhile, the other two (small) toads hop towards the wizard who is too dazed to draw his knife.


Kendra spurs her mountain forward and hacks downward at the largest toad, managing to free Geffen, while Bryant takes aim and puts several arrows into the toads holding you. You manage to cut yourself free from one tongue and viciously stab out the eyes of the second toad with your dagger. Eldoran wheels about and throws her hammer, striking one of the creatures threatening Spugnoir, who cowers and cringes even as he fumbles for a knife.

In a matter of seconds it is all over, and only Geffen is the worse for the ordeal (5 hps remaining). He takes time to comfort and speak with the horses, telling them to remain in the marsh while the party investigates the moat house. Meanwhile you take a look at the drawbridge.

The drawbridge is certainly in terrible repair, and you doubt it could bear the weight of your mounts. However, it shouldn’t pose a danger to your party on foot, and you are satisfied that you can walk across without falling through the floor.

Kendra is binding Geffen’s wounds (again) as you outline the marching order for the party. She objects to being placed in the rear! “I don’t have any missile weapons, and being the best armored of the party, I should be walking point…or close to it!” Bryant offers to switch positions with her unless you have any objections.

You cock your crossbow and sling it over your shoulder.

The six of you stride single-file over the creaky drawbridge, and carefully insert yourself through the fallen gates. Beyond them you find yourself in a paved courtyard, though the paving stones are in disrepair. Atop the western battlements, you hear the cawing of a nest of crows, startled by your arrival. Somewhere a stone falls and clatters against rock. Otherwise, all is silent.

You can investigate the buildings that outline the courtyard (north or west) or the southeastern tower which still stands (though in disrepair). The gate is in the southern wall.

Audience Chamber

You lead the way up the broad staircase in the northwestern corner of the courtyard to a pair of doors that has been rent from their hinges (one lies flat on the floor). Following you is Kendra, then Eldoran, Spugnoir, Geffen, and Bryant. Past the threshold is the remains of a once grand audience chamber, now in ruins and dimly lit by holes in the ceiling; the rafters look strong enough to hold up the ceiling’s weight, but barely.

As Bryant passes into the chamber he says, “It’s pretty obvious that someone’s been coming and going here recently…there are tracks both human and animal on the stair!” You take this in as you look around at the ruined tapestries that drape this fifty foot square chamber. In the center of both the south and east walls, a corridor leads into relative darkness. In the northwest corner is a pair of stout double doors that seem to be in good condition. They are closed and presumably locked. There appears to be nothing of value or interest here.

Geffen and Kendra are preparing torches. Bryant is making sure his long bow is strung and ready. Eldoran un-slings her hammer and rests it on her shoulder.

The Dark Chamber

“I couldn’t say what type of animal; animals aren’t really my specialty,” answers Bryant to your query about the tracks. The others are poking around the tapestries trying to find secret doors or trigger booby-traps, but they find nothing.

Squatting in front of the door, you work the lock carefully until you hear it click! Excited by your prowess, the other adventurers have gathered around you to watch as you slowly push open the door. Beyond is obscured in pitch darkness.

There’s a sizzle as Kendra lights a torch and passes it to you.

In the dim light your elvish vision makes out a large chamber cluttered with piles and stacks of rubble and ruined furniture. You move into the room, closely followed by the others.

Suddenly, you spot movement from the corner of your eye: a human male has reared up from behind the clutter to your left and has a javelin in his upraised hand! “At ‘em boys!” he yells and suddenly the room is alight with movement all around!

“”Ware the ambush!” you yell as you raise your crossbow with your free hand.


You drop the brigand with the javelin, putting a bolt in his chest, and an arrow from Bryant’s long bow pierces the eye of a second brigand with a halberd. Kendra charges a grizzled brigand dressed in chain mail and hoisting a shield and long sword. Eldoran leaps over a pile of rubble to the right and engages a large brigand with a hand axe. You brace your weapon against the ground and draw back on the pull while trying to see all sides of you at once.

A crossbow bolt just misses you, whizzing past your ear! You hear a grunt of pain as a second bolt strikes someone behind you (you think Geffen)! Suddenly you feel a sharp pain as a 3rd bolt lodges itself deep in your thigh! There is a clash of arms as Kendra and the brigand captain engage in fierce melee. You hear Eldoran cry out in pain!

You target a second brigand who is rapidly reloading a crossbow of his own. Despite his cover, your bolt pierces his throat and he goes down! You see Eldoran’s hammer rising and falling behind a pile of rubble as she makes short work of one attacker and moves on to another. Yet another brigand with a crossbow goes down under the sure aim of Bryant! Bryant moves farther into the room, and is whirling, looking for targets.

A brigand dressed in scale and swinging a flail looms on your flank! You turn in time to see him club Geffen senseless! Spugnoir flees! A brigand with a halberd charges you, but you duck underneath the point of his weapon! You hear a groan of pain from Kendra!

You drop your crossbow and draw your dagger, stabbing at the brigand with the halberd. Your knife plunges into his stomach and his blood washes over your arm as he collapses. Bryant drops a third crossbow man and is trying to angle a shot at the brigand captain. Eldoran emerges from behind a pile and clubs the brigand leader from behind! Kendra runs her blade into his bowels as he goes down swinging!

You feel a bones crack as the flail-swinging brigand rings a bone-crushing blow on your shoulder…you stagger backwards hacking with your knife.

Your knife glances off the final brigand’s scale armor. Eldoran and Bryant rush to help, the ranger drawing his long sword. Suddenly, Spugnoir reappears and attacks the brigand from behind! His blow misses! The brigand turns and delivers a hammering blow that crushes the wizard’s skull!

Eldoran and Bryant arrive and the three of you hit him with everything you’ve got. It is enough.

Kendra, wounded and winded, kneels beside Geffen and lays her hands on him. There is a soft glow in the dim torch light and she says, “He will live.” She moves to the fallen wizard and repeats the action; “He will also live.”

Return to Town

You make a quick search of the bodies. Each brigand carries a small purse of silver, though the one with the flail also had a few gold coins and the leader has a dozen pieces of platinum and a small citrine gem. He also has a gold chain round his neck that should fetch a good price! Otherwise, the weapons and armor of the brigands seems in reasonable condition, though you only take enough crossbow bolts to fill your quiver. Eldoran also picks up a crossbow and a quiver, and Bryant takes the chain mail from the leader. The rest you leave as you carry out your fallen companions.

It’s slow going back to Hommlet, and it is well past dark when you finally come within sight of the Inn of the Welcome Wench. The stable boy gets your mounts while you carry your unconscious companions into the common room. All conversation stops at the sight of your weary, blood and mud drenched figures. Byrant throws a couple pieces of platinum to the innkeeper and that gets Ostler moving; he quickly arranges for servants to help you get Spugnoir and Geffen to comfortable rooms, and your party winds up for a good long rest.

The next morning, you, Bryant, and Eldoran sit down to a late (and great!) morning feast, and talk excitedly about the previous day’s excursion. Kendra joins you later after tending to Geffen and Spugnoir.

“Even with my healing abilities, it will take at least a day for Geffen to regain the strength to heal himself. However, after that he should be able to cure all our injuries,” she looks at your arm, still sprained and in a sling. Eldoran has a bandage around her head, and you walk with a limp from your arrow wound. “I’m going to stay at the inn today and tend our two patients, but you three might as well explore the town…just don’t spend it all in one place!”

Monday, January 24, 2011

Village of Hommlet - D20 Style (Part 1)

[see this post for details. The protagonist (referred to in the narrative as "You") is a Chaotic Neutral Half-Elf Rogue named Christoff. He begins the game at 1st level. All characters besides the protagonist are NPCs run by the GM...this was a solo game]


Some days you wake up and still don’t believe your fortune.

Until three weeks ago, you did not know what you would do now that the farmer you had worked for so many years had died. Here in the Grey Hills north of the Plains of Gilean and south of the Shirelands life is difficult, what with the hard earth and the ravenous wargs, though you knew that your skills as a trap maker and lock smith would still be valuable to someone. However, you weren’t expecting the two strangers who came knocking at your gate inquiring after your services.

Bryant is a surly ranger, a half-elf with a chip on his shoulder, long-nurtured against the father who had abandoned his mother and left him to grow up a bastard. Skilled with his long bow, and a dedicated hunter of orcs, Bryant longs for the day he might meet his half-elf father and put an arrow through his throat.

Eldoran is a dwarf, and comely for her race. Her clan traveled north from Karac-Zuloc in an attempt to establish a new foothold for dwarves in the southern foothills of the Cold Mountains. Two years ago, Eldoran fled in very un-dwarflike fashion from a loveless marriage arranged by her parents and the clan chief’s family. When she returned repentant several months later, she found the new colony had been destroyed by orcs.

The two were looking for a skilled professional with a lust for adventure to wander with them, and you all but jumped at the chance. Taking the few possessions you could easily carry (including the farmer’s old crossbow for warg-hunting), and selling the rest, the three of you started traveling west, discussing the possibility of making for the Imperial Capital of Gilea, as your party is was ill-equipped to venture into the Cold Mountains of the north.

However, your plans changed a week ago when you met two new strangers on the road. Kendra, a beautiful young woman, was caring for a wounded man in his twenties named Geffen. After discussion, you discovered that the woman was a Paladin, one of those people called by their purity and innocence to serve the cause of Good in the land. Though you had never seen one, you had heard legends of their power and righteousness. The wounded man was a druid who had been fleeing from goblin warg-riders; Kendra and helped him to hide and was nursing him back to health.

Over the next two days, Kendra heals Geffen back to full strength while your group of five turned to the southwest, following the Farvienne river. Tomorrow, your party will find itself in the Village of Hommlet!

Adventure in Hommlet

Wandering through the street, you five make an odd sight, but in the border towns of the Grey Hills, odd parties of adventurers are not uncommon! As the path slopes gently down into the village it comes to a fork a modest sized farmhouse. A cheerful goodwife comes out of the main building to greet you all while two young men (her sons perhaps?) eye you suspiciously and two large farm dogs bristle warily.

The goodwife directs you to take the right hand (western) fork into town. She tells you that you should be able to find lodging at the Inn of the Welcome Wench; the only rest place for travelers in town. In answer to your inquiries, you learn that there is no town lord as such to whom you must present yourself; the town is guided by a council of community leaders. However, the town owes nominal fealty to the Emperor of Gilea (to the south) and two of the council members are from Gilea…in fact they have been charged with building a defensive keep on the west edge of town, “to keep out unwanted types from those parts.” She does not elaborate on this.

You take the right-hand path which quickly turns to south and passes by two more farms before coming to a largish crossroads with a large, cheerful building which can only be the Inn of the Welcome Wench. Across the road there is a leatherworker’s shop where you may repair both shoes and saddles. From where you stand you can also make out a blacksmith’s and another nearby building that seems to be of newer construction. The road continues south and also west, with several street/paths leading off. Wiping the dust from your mouth, you approach the Inn. A young stable boy runs up to take your tired horses (Eldoran, Kendra, and Bryant each have one) to an adjoining building as you enter the three story structure.

Inside the Inn of the Welcome Wench

You enter the large common room where about a dozen people are taking supper (it is late afternoon and the sun is beginning to set). The five of you find an empty table and a pot boy arrives to ask you if you’ll be wanting anything to wet your throats.

A few moments later, a good-sized man with a jovial grin approaches the table and introduces himself as Ostler the Innkeeper. He seems in a good humor and welcomes you newcomers to Hommlet. Asking if you’ll be wanting “food, drink, rooms, or all of the above” he says the first round is on the house as a welcome to first-timers (Ostler remembers every traveler whose ever stayed at his Inn). He tells you that rooms in the Inn range from 1 to 5 gold coins per night and that includes the stabling of up to one horse per person. He quickly goes to fetch some food.

Geffen states he will pay for the meal as his thanks for helping him (see the introduction).

The Inn is getting busier by the minute as patrons continue to arrive the darker it gets outside. You see a rather large fighting man conferring with a smaller man dressed in monk robes in one corner. By the fire a young, robust lad is getting loud and drunk with a couple of dirty farmhands. And in one shadowy corner, you catch a lone man eyeing your party from under heavy lidded eyes.

Ostler arrives with your food and asks you about your rooming situation.

Good Morning!

You and Eldoran head upstairs to the private room prepared for you by Ostler the Innkeeper, sometime later (you were preceded by Kendra who stated she had to pray and get a good night’s sleep). Bryant and Geffen stay behind to see what news they can pick up from other travelers in the common room; the druid seems to have picked out one of the stable hands for a particularly engrossing conversation. Shaking your mead-soaked head, you retire to sleep.

The next morning, you are awakened by the sunlight streaming through your window. You trot downstairs to find the others just finishing a hearty breakfast. Kendra offers you a piece of fruit while Bryant and Geffen share what they learned last night.

Geffen: “These are good people, mostly worshippers of the Old Faith (the druidic tradition, quite common in these parts), though recently a church to St. Cuthbert has been established. Both the leaders of these two faiths sit on the Town Council…one of Ostler’s stable boys is actually a druid in training, and says he can introduce us to the Head Druid if we like! I should probably present myself anyway, and share news from the east.”

Bryant: “There have been recent bandit raids on merchants and travelers. Rumor has it there may be someone or something up to no good at the Old Moathouse…a ruined keep on the banks of the river west of Hommlet. Back in the days when the Temple of Elemental Evil was operating (in the town of Nulb years ago) it was an outpost of the Temple. Though the Temple was razed and the Moathouse plundered, it might still be used as a bandit camp. There are several local adventurers staying at this inn who offered their services in exchange for a share of the treasure.”

Kendra asked around a bit for you (she was the first one up) and found out that “there isn’t a real marketplace in Hommlet. Ostler told me they have mostly shopkeepers: a trader, a weaver, a cabinet maker, etc. The farmers do organize a market during the main harvest season, to earn money with their surplus crops, but mostly each family is fairly subsistent (they grow their own food) and the shopkeepers exist off the people who pass through, like us.”

As You Are Leaving

You and Geffen wait outside the inn while Kendra and the others go with the stable boy to retrieve their horses. It is still early morning and your stomach is growling. The druid is giving you a concerned look when a young man dressed in grey robes approaches.

“Hello. My name is Spugnoir and I overheard your party saying that you were going in search of adventure! Perhaps I could be of some service…I am a wizard on leave from my master, the Sage of Yarg, and I have a week or so before I must return. I would be willing to assist your group with any magical needs you have, in exchange for any scrolls or magical writings you find while adventuring.”

Geffen looks askance at you as the others approach, horses in tow.

Outside the Old Moathouse

Your party “posses up” and starts off down the western road. You pass several other shops on the way out of the town (including the blacksmith and the wheel/wainwright). As you are just losing sight of the last house of Hommlet, the road passes by a great hill upon which stands a stout tower and an apparent construction project. Kendra points to where several dozen men are laboring and explains, “that must be where the representatives from Gilea are building their defensive keep…remember the goodwife telling us of their task?”

You journey for several hours at a slow pace, the horses being extra burdened by the weight of you and Geffen (the druid rides behind Kendra, while you share time with both Bryant and Eldoran). Spugnoir trails behind the party on his little pony, not saying much but watching the countryside intently.

The hills gradually give way to a mossy area, which turns to swamp as the path continues west and to the north; then, on your right you see the ruined moathouse many yards off the road. There is a branch of trail that leads out into the marshy scrub and towards the dilapidated building, and has your party turns your weary mounts off the main road, you can see that the place is a wreck. Though ominous arrow slits peek from stout walls, the drawbridge is down over the moat and your sharp eyes can see that the gate is barely hanging on its hinges. The southeast tower still appears to be firm and strong, but its battlements have fallen in disrepair.

Village of Hommlet - D20 Style (Part 0)

A few years back, I ran a solo, play-by-email game for my buddy, Dr. Love. At the time, I was getting the first strong itch to get back into regular gaming, and had not yet had the balls to go looking for a local group. The Doc and I had been friends for a good long while (we met, I believe, in 1997) but he had since pulled up stakes and headed down to Oregon. Email was our only option for gaming.

As I said, this was a few years back, and we were still playing 3rd edition D&D at the time (the Doc has followed me back into Old School gaming since then). Playing MOST role-playing games via email can be a bit cumbersome, but a low-level D20 game...and a solo definitely more manageable than some. It was an attempt at a high-level (15th) D20 game via email that broke the Doctor's love affair with 3rd edition. At least he never DM'd a game after that abortive attempt.

The adventure we played was the old TSR mega-module T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil, though we only managed to get through the first part (The Village of Hommlet). Back in my D20 days, I was generally converting the "old stuff" myself, but this may have been one of the conversions that used to be posted over at ENWorld (I can't really be sure at this time). It was fun and neither the Doc nor I had ever played T1 (and still haven't "technically;" I'm not sure how much the super-module differs from the original), so this was a new experience for both of us...and a fairly good one (even though we never got to the Temple of Elemental Evil proper, we did complete the entire "moathouse" scenario).

Why am I even talking about this? 'Cause I'm about to get lazy on y'all. Turns out I have pretty much the entire transcript of our game saved in a Word document (about 30 pages), and I'd post it to Ye Old Blog over the next week or so. I hate to let the blog go derelict, just because I have more important priorities (like the new baby), and this is an easy way for me to do regular updates, the document already having been written.

Plus, it's fun to read (well, I think so)...the only part I kept is my narrative...there are no dice rolls and such. Heck, it's pretty much a one-sided conversation (you won't find the Doc's replies and decisions in the document except maybe a couple times...though you should be able to infer what his actions were by the direction the narrative takes). Even though it was a D20 game, the transcript could read much the same for any AD&D take on the doesn't feel "D20 specific." And it shows one possible way that T1: The Village of Hommlet might play out. Some people might consider that entertaining.

Now, of course, there WILL be spoilers present in the transcript, so folks intending to play T1 may want to skip this series of posts. Those LOOKING for spoilers, though, should be advised that some of the background material is different from the original. Grognardia recently asked whether or not folks prefer published campaign settings to "homebrew," and I've always favored the latter...though often my 'brews are inspired by film and book. In this particular case, I created a whole campaign setting for our game, right down to towns and factions and allowable prestige classes. My intention was for T1-4 to be the start of a D20 campaign...however, the thing crapped out after the first 30 pages of emails (duh...PBEM is pretty cumbersome, as I said). It IS a rather neat setting, though, and I may post my campaign notes at the end of this series (in case anyone wants to run a Pathfinder game or something using it).

So, without further discussion (my wife is now making fun of my "laying off the blog" assertions), we'll get this party started. The first part of the transcript will go up later this afternoon or tonight detailing the adventures of Christoff the 1st level rogue. Later!

: )

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Thank You to Everyone...

...who wished my family such kind thoughts on our recent addition.

I will be getting back to blogging sometime in the near future, but it may not be till after to next week. Meanwhile, to those folks who have ordered copies of the B/X Companion, please know that they are going out in the mail tomorrow. Thank you for your patience!

Oh, and by the way...? The birth of my son has inspired me in many creative ways regarding my own game design and writing. I hope that (once things settle a teensy bit), I'll be able to put some of those ideas down on the computer. I am taking notes...

: )

[also by the way, tough break for Da' Bears. I still can't help but think Rogers and the Packers get smoked if they have to play in Seattle...Hasselbeck at home is just so much better than Cutler. But that Haine kid had a chance at the end. Perhaps he'll be Chicago's starter next year? He showed some good poise and accuracy. I am now REALLY hoping that my prediction about the Jets losing is wrong, as I'd hate to see Pittsburgh in another Super Bowl, but New York is currently down by 7. My son seems to enjoy the white noise of the playoffs and slept soundly through the entire Chicago-Green Bay game...a little football fan in the making? Yay!]