[AP] Zharillia Campaign Report

From our game on March 1. By the fantastic Jason Biggins
[Several pages of the following journal were discovered among the
possessions of a local patrician (a Red-man adventurer who had lead a
rebellion to overthrow the previous manor lord, who had enslaved the
local populace for several generations) whose unquenchable search for
knowledge was well-know…as were rumors surrounding darker interests,
including sorcery and sado-masochism. The fact that he was beheaded
and his body burned to ash in front of hundreds of witnesses is beyond
dispute. Later reports of someone fitting his exact description being
seen months later and a thousand miles away, remain to be verified…]
It may seem overly indulgent, but I must confess to enjoying this
new-found taste of wealth we have experienced of late. Our
“benefactor” has been quite generous with his coin and it has been a
bit of a game finding new experiences amongst these lesser environs.
And yet…many fine things can be found down the seedy alleys of this
wilderness outpost.
{Note to self: update “journal of biological studies” entries on my
efforts to experience every color of female on this Gods-forsaken
rock. Of particular interest are the Jale & Blue varieties…with no
slight to the Orange twin acrobats of the “Dreaming Goddess”
performance troupe – Hella & Shella truly set a new standard!}
Of the rumors we were able to find out while exploring hedonistic delights:

  • A small Green-man (with large glasses), one Otto Aggenbaucher,
    herbatologist (and general gadfly), wandered to the gate of the keep
    one day. After causing a rather inexplicable ruckus with members of
    the Guard, he was allowed entry and we made his acquaintance. Without
    any prompting he confided in us of his plans to lead an expedition to
    find Thunder Lions on the southern plains. {While making no
    commitments, my companion and I did file this away as a future venture
    bearing investigation.}
  • More talk of the fabled amethyst throne in the lost dwarven
    citadel of Thrumi Zud. {At this point I should note I have never put
    much stock in these rumors (let alone that the equally legendary
    “Chained Ghoul” also feverishly seeks an entrance); however that may
    have been changed by what happened next…}
    Advisor to the keep’s high priest, Krutus Schneps, a Bone-man of
    indeterminable age & power, Oxnard, made it clear who the true power
    was within these walls. An “invitation” was made to an audience with
    the advisor – a meeting which (apparently) never took place since the
    entirety of the inner keep was completely emptied to ensure total
    privacy (and deniability). A peek behind the purpose of our previous
    errand is revealed: Schneps has indeed found an entrance to Thrumi
    Zud, but the way is blocked. Therefore, a ritual is to be preformed to
    summon and bind a demon, forcing him open the way, but sacrificing the
    Orange-men we captured in the bargain.
    The demon, “Ashgorat”, however, will be set loose because of Schneps’
    lack of ability. In addition to the Orange-men, a map of some sort and
    a third, unspecified object, are needed for the ritual. Equally
    important are a dagger consecrated on the lesser moon, a chalice, and
    a crystal. Oxnard proposes that we, as newly-trusted outsiders,
    disrupt the ritual – with intention or using a manufactured
    “accident”. According to the mysterious sorcerer, failure to prevent
    this ritual will mean devastation and demonic enslavement on a massive
    scale. His proposal is sweetened by offering himself and the keep’s
    bailiff (Umvelt Morne) as “training mentors”, helping myself and
    Brandon to further our abilities. In addition, twenty able-bodied
    guards are made of use as mercenaries troops for whatever manner plans
    we concoct to his desired end.
    One of the many unexpected burdens of wealth is storing and managing
    the monies itself. To this end, Brandon and I enlisted the services of
    the banker with the highest reputation (in such a backwater as this),
    one Chulin Tomith (Yellow-man). Tomith was able to put us in touch
    with Juju Bees (Dolm-man) as a provider of necessary equipment. In
    addition, we made the acquaintance of a provisioner (always important
    when one takes on the task of feeding 20+ fighting men); as well as
    Greel the Elder (Blue-man), a “hard-to-find stuff” guy {in less social
    circles he would be called a “fencer of pilfered goods”.}
    Brandon and I were able to cover much ground inside the keep during
    our extended stay. In comparing notes we have located:
  • Schmael (Black-man), silversmith who has been pressed (very
    unhappily) into service as a blacksmith when needed. {Possibly of some
    use should we elect to visit Sitherath.}
  • Suckling Ruth Rest (Black-man), Captain of the Watch (inner keep).
    {Bares further research for the purposes of “friendly persuasion”}
  • Umvelt Morne, Bailiff of the Keep. {Considered by many as the
    greatest man-at-arms for many, many leagues. Possibly in league with
    Oxnard to some extent…potential leader of a coup should the time
    As the summoning ritual is not to occur for another two weeks and
    Schneps was with a group of his acolytes outside the keep, it was
    decided to make use of this time to venture back to the valley of the
    “Trickster God worshippers”. Our thinking being that we could hold our
    mercenaries just outside the valley, gauge the reception we receive
    from Tagg et. al., then, well, “play it by ear”.
    Just past the silver mines (of the keep), we see a jet black owl with
    glowing blue eyes. {a Night Owl, known to often serve as a wizard’s
    familiar} Truly a unique sight given that they our nocturnal dwellers,
    yet this encounter occurred in broad daylight. With some quick
    Zentanos puts it to sleep and we secure it with a well-made cage of
    local materials. {Given several weeks of research & a few hundred
    silver, I could configure the proper techniques to make it my
    familiar…though should I become a student of the Bone-man, this may
    be done quicker and cheaper…even more motivation toward his plans.}
    Our luck, however, never seem to hold for long. Thus during the night,
    a pack of three large “bear-like creatures” are heard stalking nearby.
    They have “shiny metal arms”. Brandon takes the mercenaries out,
    setting spears and holding for a charge. With the loss of only a
    single soldier we were able to overcome the creatures. Zentanos and I
    proceed to dissect the animals of their machine parts for later resale
    back at the keep.
    The unusual nature of the attack leads us to believe we have
    accidentally wandered into their territory; therefore, we discussed
    making a detour from the valley and tracking the path back to the lair
    of these frightful beasts. Brandon is easily able to follow the signs
    and we arrive at the entrance to their cave in the early morning next
    day. Our “army” refuses to follow us in, so it is decided we will
    chase anything we find inside out into their waiting swords.
    Carefully mapping out the insides we find things are not as they
    appear from the outside. Machinery and man-made walls hint at greater
    knowledge laying about this place. After finding a room full of such
    equipment we discover a room filled with equal horrors. Among the
    victims within the bears’ “kitchen” we find some recoverable items we
    are able to equip our trusted henchmen, much to their eternal joy.
    The final room we find what appeared to contain a ceiling full of
    those devil-bat things we had previously encountered in one of the
    valley caves (along with those damnable bear-things!). We opted to
    fight another day, sealed them up, and leave promptly. The map back to
    the lair and it’s inside being of some potential worth to those
    seeking greater knowledge.
    Not wishing to press on (or press our luck), we return to the keep for
    rest and resupply. Discussion of plans to further the various plots we
    find ourselves enmeshed end seem necessary.
    Upon our return it is only slightly surprising how quickly I fall into
    new habits: nights of heavy drinking and carnal indulgence. Truly I am
    not meant to be far from “civilization”. My sleep is now filled with
    notions of just what I might learn from our inscrutable host…and if
    I will be willing to pay the price required for such knowledge.
    “From the Private Journals of Khao Cyztlic,
    Neeltag, 14 Morning Star 1174,
    within the walls of the Lotus Dream Inn (‘Fat’ Balto, proprietor),
    Castellan’s Keep”

That’s terrific! Are you doing an ACKS - B2 - Carcosa hybrid?

That’s pretty much exactly it.
I’m using the rules from ACKS, a lot of concepts from Carcosa (one group has a light-saber [2d6 dam, roll a d12 every hit, on a 1 the saber is out of energy] and an neon energy pistol [1d6 dam, 1/20 chance for out of energy]) and the players and locations from B2, suitably gussied up, natch (the Castellan’s adviser is an immortal bone-man sorcerer of some power, the EHP is a jolly fat man in red and white who wants to get past the blocked passage in the Caves).
Then I sprinkle the mix with my own stuff: cyborg bears, Dwarves that can’t drink alcohol, space alien elves, continents floating in the aether - orbiting one another, no goblinoids (though the various races of men do a good stand-in), no clerics or thieves (yet), classes other than Fighter, Magic-User and Vaultguard are unlocked through play.
That last one deserves some attention: I don’t let people play a class until they’ve interacted with the culture in some significant way or done some class-related things.
So, to unlock Thieves, steal stuff and disarm traps. To unlock elves, kill them or learn about their culture in some other way. That way, the classes have meaning.

That’s an interesting idea. I’d be very tempted to intone “CLASS UNLOCKED” in a deep, resonant voice every time a new class was made available at the table.
I really REALLY need to check out Carcosa.