Sinister Sakkaran Stones and Other Silly Things

I have run ACKS before, though not in significant quantities. Two of the players have decent experience with the more recent iterations of the game. One has not played for more than a decade. I am liberally supplementing Sinister Stone with various one-page dungeons, because I am lazy.


The cast:

  • Chalupa Batman (“CB”), a Zaharan Ruinguard
  • Doctor Senor Foggy (“The Doctor”), a Nobiran Wonderworker
  • Sinbad, a Venturer
  • Borgnar, a Mystic
  • Maximus, a Thrassian Gladiator
  • Aladdin, an Elvish Nightblade

In recent months, beastmen attacks have ravaged the fertile farms of the Borderlands. Lacking the manpower to stop them himself, the stern and proud Legate of the mighty fortress Türos Tem has put out a call for brave (or foolhardy) adventurers. They will risk their lives and stop the attacks for gold and glory (and XP, obviously). Six such would-be heroes answer the call and make their way to Türos Tem to halt the beastman tide.

En route, they encountered travelers and heard some peculiar rumors. Some said that the Legate himself was to blame for the attacks, somehow. Others suggested a renegade elvish wizard-lord, nursing a grudge against the empire for centuries, had decided finally to air his grievances. Others still blamed the local dwarvish enclaves, though they failed to provide a motive.

Only a day or so away from the mighty keep, the party reached the edge of the mysterious Viaspen Forest and noticed a column of smoke rising a small distance away toward the forest. They considered investigating, but ultimately continued on the road toward Türos Tem. Until, that is, they ran into a squad of Auran legionaries. The squad was led by a brute unpleasant in both appearance and demeanor, Peleos Methori. Despite the grimace he gave upon seeing yet more adventures, he shared with them that he had been ordered to provide aid to a village of charcoal burners that had been attacked by goblins. Suspecting this might be connected to the beastman attacks as a whole, the party offered to accompany the soldiers.

During the walk, the party befriended a young soldier, Virgil, who was clearly in awe of the adventurers' skill. It was learned that Maximus had been raised in the fighting pits of Arganos, jewel of Southern Argölle. The young Virgil asked Maximus what the biggest thing he had ever killed was. The stoic lizard-man (man-lizard?) responded, “My father”. No one knew if he were telling the truth.

Upon reaching the charred remnants of the village, the charismatic Sinbad smoothly made contact with the local headman, learning that the goblins had since departed and were likely taking refuge in a nearby slave pit that dated back to Old Zahar. The adventurers sensed that the time had come for them to adventure something. Before departing, they were warned by the headman that the slave pits contained a great stone door no one had ever succeeded in opening.

They hastened toward the pit, which had been dug underneath a great tree on the outskirts of the forest. They moved through the pit, dispatching many goblins with little remorse and much efficiency. Tragedy struck, though, when an unexpected arrow flew from the darkness and pierced The Doctor in the leg. Swift ministrations by Maximus saved the good doctor's leg, but it was clear that he would need a week to convalesce. After a brief debate, it was decided that the doctor would be sent back with the soldiers to Türos Tem while the rest of the party continued exploring the slave pit. Now bereft of their healer, the party continued their slaying of the goblins. (The adventurers briefly left the pit to escort Senor Foggy back to the charcoal burners' village. Upon returning, they found that the thoughtful goblins had written “GO AWAY HUMIES” on the walls using the blood of a hapless villager, a request they gleefully ignored.)

The course of events nearly turned against the heroes when they were flanked by two groups of goblins, one containing “Da Boss”. But the razor-sharp teeth and claws of Maximus (a remarkable 18 Str, 16 Dex, 18 Con after buying up prime requisites) tore through the hapless beastmen and carried the day. Taking stock of their surroundings, the party found that they had discovered the aforementioned stone door. Inscribed on it in the hateful glyphs of Old Zahar, among the standard supplications to various demonic overlords, were numerous warnings that the door in question should never be opened. Ever. After yet more debate and pointed reminders about the absence of their healer, these warnings were heeded. For now.

Instead, the heroes ventured down another passage and discovered, in a room filled with ancient treasure, a crystalline statue of an elf that promptly animated. Its fierce blows beat down on hardy Maximus' scaly scalp and mangled one of his ears. His last words before succumbing were to encourage his friends to flee, and for a time it seemed they would. But Borgnar and Chalupa Batman bravely stepped forward and shattered the statue to pieces. Post-battle medical attentions revealed that Maximus would be bedridden for two weeks. Having explored all that they could find and slain every goblin inside, the party decided to leave the slave pits and allow their members to recover at Türos Tem. During the walk back, the savvy Sinbad opined that the statue's elvish nature suggested that one of the rumors they had heard might in fact be true.

The period of recuperation passed without much event. Sinbad presented the heads of the goblins the group had slain to the Legate. However, his method of doing so was to dump them all out onto the Legate's extravagant upholstery, a decision that could have had far more serious repercussions than it in fact did. Leveraging Sinbad's mercantile connections, Aladdin was able to procure for himself a pet osprey, which he named Bloodwing. The group discovered too that another group of adventurers had been staying at Turos Tem, but had just recently left to explore the Viaspen and search for the lair of the beastman hordes. The party's natural courses of actions were either to seek out these Fierce Brethren, or to return to the mysterious stone door. The latter was chosen. In retrospect, it may have been the more unwise of the two options.

Luckily, no other creatures had taken up residence in the pits since the party's departure, and they quickly returned to the great door. Much debate and discussion ensued regarding possible ways to force it open. Ignoring all such plans, Chalupa Batman merely walked over to the door and pushed. His action's simplicity may have belied a deep understanding of the vagaries of ancient Zaharan sorceries. Or he may simply have been impatient. In any case, the door was open, and it led to a dank, dark, and deep pit. This pit could be descended only via a series of spindly railings hacked into the walls. The party cautiously began to edge along these railings, unsure of what they might find.

They were less than delighted to meet the pit's inhabitant, a black ooze abomination covered in putrescent, mutated tendrils of gooey flesh-substance. Merely gazing upon its unnatural visage caused Borgnar, CB, and Aladdin to lose all nerve and desire nothing more than to flee. The others stood ready, and, perhaps foolishly, made ready to fight. The newly recovered Doctor blasted the monstrosity with a gout of sorcerous flame, and Sinbad loosed a surprisingly accurate crossbow bolt. Unfortunately, the bolt split the creature into two new halves! It was at this point that Fate turned against the brave adventurers. In quick succession, Maximus and Chalupa Batman were hewn apart by the creatures' unnatural tendrils. The day clearly lost, Sinbad was forced to make a hasty retreat, albeit one of his own volition. The abomination let him flee, sated by the flesh of the still conscious Chalupa and Maximus. Outside of the slave pit, their madness of fear having lifted, the four survivors wondered what they had loosed upon the world.

Mortal Wound Count:

  • Doctor Senor Foggy: torn ACL via goblin arrow (so yes, he literally took an arrow to the knee)
  • Maximus: ear mangled by forceful application of crystalline statue's fist


Death Count:

  • Chalupa Batman: Body consumed and then dissolved by acidic tendrils of Zaharan abomination
  • Maximus: Body consumed and then dissolved by acidic tendrils of Zaharan abomination

Wow, what a bad-ass party! A Nobiran Wonderworker AND a Thrassian Gladiator with 2 18s and a 16? But so Tragic to lose that Thrassian, though...Egads.

What adventure are you using for the stone-door and ooze / slave pit?



Yeah, two players got extremely lucky with their rolls. But despite his remarkable stats, everyone still knew going into the adventure that Maximus would find a way to die. And he did.

I was running a Dyson Logos one-page dungeon, Goblin Gully. For the first session, I wanted to make sure the players had a choice in dungeons, so I threw it in with the rest of the Sakkara module. It worked pretty well. It is not a D&D campaign until the players inadvertently release a long-imprisoned demonic entity.

Session II

The cast:

  • Unser, an Elvish Spellsword
  • Doctor Senor Foggy (“The Doctor”), a Nobiran Wonderworker
  • Sinbad, a Venturer
  • Borgnar, a Mystic
  • Gnarrr, a Thrassian Gladiator
    • Bill, his donkey
  • Aladdin, an Elvish Nightblade

The four survivors stood outside the Zaharan slave pits. The heroic course of action would be to descend once more and perhaps find a way to stop or imprison the amorphous monstrosity. It would be dangerous, and it could cost all of them their lives. True, it might save the Borderlands much strife and destruction. But this was the mundane modern world, not the The Bellësareus, and these were petty money-grubbing adventurers, not the legendary heroes of old. So they beat a hasty retreat and vowed to tell no one of the day's events. While returning to the keep, they encountered another Thrassian, Gnarrr, and a spellsword, Unser. Gnarr traveled with a donkey which he had named Bill. Learning that this dynamic duo plus one intended to fight the beastmen threat, the two were inducted post-haste into the party. Back at Türos Tem, the adventurers licked their wounds and prepared for a foray into the Viaspen. Communication with the innkeeper about the previous band, The Fierce Brethren, suggested that the beastmen were almost certainly based somewhere in the forest.

Once in the forest, Aladdin drew upon his woodland experience and discovered evidence that a large band of beastmen had been moving westward through the forest. Following these tracks, the group stumbled upon a great granite dome sticking out of the ground, hundreds of feet across and the deepest of black in color. Everyone was properly wigged out by such an intimidating sight, but they bravely pressed on and noticed a method of entrance into the dome: a large crack that the tracks led up to. After hiding Bill nearby, the group trundled up.

Guarding the entrance to the dome were four bored kobolds. Upon seeing the adventurers, the kobolds inquired if group were here to serve “the Lady”. Taking a chance, Borgnar assented, and the group was granted entrance. Initial exploration of this complex was relatively peaceful. They encountered a band of coarse-looking brigands, but careful diplomacy won out and bloodshed was avoided. Instead, the bandits directed them to their leader, a fierce and dangerous man named Drusus. With Drusus an alliance of sorts was forged, as the bandit chief mentioned that his neighbor, the kobold king, was weak and violent. If the adventurers could possibly eliminate him, he would vouch for their behavior should any of the other factions complain. Being mercenary and disdainful of the gods, he knew little of the complex's leader, the mysterious “Lady Below”. He did warn them, that to the northwest of his position was an ancient ziggurat, and that this ziggurat was the lair of a true dragon. No one seemed to know if the dragon or the “Lady Below” could be said to be the dominant power of the area, or if perhaps there were some hidden monster orchestrating events. They also heard from another brigand that some mysterious entity had been consuming and destroying large swathes of the forest, having started near the charcoal burner's village. When asked if they knew anything about such a monstrosity, the adventurers of course affected a complete lack of knowledge. While such important conversations were being held, Sinbad took the opportunity to lose most of his money gambling with the other brigands.

Thanking Drusus for his advice and vowing to slay the kobolds, the party continued onward. Minor tragedy struck when, exploring a dusty storeroom, two spiders dropped down from the ceiling and latched onto Sinbad. They were quickly slain and their deadly poison neutralized, but the heavy fall Sinbad took badly damaged one of his knees; it would necessitate a week's recovery. Having slain the spiders, the party acquired the spiders' eggs. Not wanting to return to the keep, the party decided to test the extent of their friendship with the brigands and leave Sinbad to recover in their camp. This was a doubtlessly a risky decision. But they adventurers deemed it safe, particularly since Borgnar had paid a few bandits to keep an eye on his venturer friend.

After the spiders had been killed, the group had found some heavy but valuable amphoræ of oil. The proper thing to do with these seemed to be to keep them with Bill, outside the complex. Sadly, it was discovered that in the intervening time, something had devoured the poor donkey. Gnarrr mourned the loss; if anyone were to eat Bill, it should have been him.

The oil stashed in a hopefully more secure location outside the temple, the party began their assault on the kobold sector of the temple. With little difficulty, they slew more than a dozen kobolds and located the kobold king's throne room. The frightened lizards had barricaded their room's door, but the mighty thews of Unser and Gnarrr burst it open with little difficulty, and a fierce battle was joined. In this battle, careful tactics on the adventurer's part won the day. Even the fragile Senor Foggy acquitted himself well, slaying a kobold with his handaxe. The only hero to sustain serious wounds was Unser, who escaped with a set of nasty scars from a few lucky crossbow shots. Two kobolds chose to lay down their arms rather than be slaughtered; these were interrogated and then summarily executed. But no victory is without cost: while cataloging the kobold king's treasure, Aladdin was surprised by a king cobra that had been hiding in the folds of an Opelenean tapestry. The serpent sunk its fangs into the nightblade's flesh and its venom blinded him in a matter of moments.

With one of their number convalescing in a nest of metaphorical snakes, another blinded by the bite of an actual snake, and a third in desperate need of a good night's rest, now may have been a prudent time for retreat. But adventurers have never been known for their great prudence. Instead, careful investigation of the king's throne room revealed a hidden chamber filled with three treasure chests, one each of gold, silver, and copper. These chests nearly claimed the life of Borgnar, as their opening released clouds of poisonous gas. His mystic powers were unable to throw off the poison, and only the frantic healing of Senor Foggy saved him from a supremely painful death. But each chest contained a wonderful vastness of riches both magical and mundane.

Yet there was still one great trial left for the heroes. It was decided that the group would return to Türos Tem so that Aladdin's blindness might be cured. Laden with unfathomable amounts of treasure, leading a pair of elves, one blind and the other not yet recovered from his near fatal scarring, the group crossed paths with a trio of hungry gnolls. The gnolls assessed and then took advantage of a most favorable situation. This was the most desperate battle yet waged. Twice Borgnar was rendered unconscious. On the first of these occasions, Senor Foggy leapt into the fray to revive the mystic. He did this with remarkable skill, and Borgnar was immediately ready to continue fighting. Such healing, though, exposed him to the bloodthirsty gnolls, and a brutal smash by one of their flails ended the good doctor's life in a flash. In the end, only two combatants remained standing: Gnarrr and a gnoll. The two titans struggled with each other for entire minutes, neither managing to land the fatal blow, until, finally, Gnarrr's gladius curved under the gnoll's guard and ended its savage existence. The still weak Unser rushed to attend to Borgnar, but his healing prowess proved insufficient. Surrounded by his maimed friends, the mystic slowly bled to death.

Their strength having been shattered in mere minutes, all seemed lost for the adventures. Yet when faced with this abyss, Unser and Gnarrr did not flinch. They escorted their friends and their bodies outside of the temple, and then went back inside to retrieve Sinbad from the brigand's camp. Fate gave them a minor reprieve, though, when they encountered Drusus. Gnarrr explained away the absence of his companions by saying that they were all waiting outside. The bandit king was as skeptical of this account as any reasonable man should have been, but he let the wounded gambler leave without trouble. After all, he had gotten the adventurers to eliminate one of his major rivals, so perhaps they deserved a break. His demeanor was further sweetened when Gnarrr decided to leave some of the heavier treasure they had found as tribute for the beneficent brigand.

The surviving adventurers knew that, in their condition, they would have difficulty fighting off even an especially determined feral cat. And they fully expected to encounter far worse on their way out of the Viaspen. But yet another reprieve was delivered, and they made it back to Türos Tem without further trouble. It was decided that a quick journey to the nearby city of Cyfaraun would be made. There a cleric powerful to raise the doctor and Borgnar could be found. Through the grace of Ammonar, Borgnar was indeed returned to life. He seemed a bit empty from his brush with beyond, but otherwise no worse for the wear. However, Calefa, the Mistress of Fate, had one final twist of the knife left for our heroes. During the second attempt to raise Senor Foggy from the dead (the first having been inconclusive), the cleric's restorative spell went horribly awry, and the divine-blooded Nobiran's soul was extinguished by the oblivion of nothingness. (Two natural 1's rolled in succession on the Tampering with Mortality chart meant the wonderworker was never coming back!)

Mortal Wound Count:

  • Sinbad, damaged knee
  • Unser, notable scarring

Death Count:

  • Bill, eaten by something unpleasant
  • Doctor Senor Foggy, killed instantly by a gnoll's flail, soul extinguished while trying to be raised
  • Borgnar, bled out after unpleasant encounter with wrong end of gnoll's flail, later raised

Tampering with Mortality Count:

  • Borgnar, XP penalty

Also, let's talk about appealing randomness. Before leaving T. Tem, the party learned from the innkeeper that the gnolls were the toughest of the beastmen tribes. Many of the players did not know what gnolls were, so we google imaged them, and everyone was all "Yikes, let's try to avoid those." And then at the very end, after having encountered a surprisingly low number of wandering monsters and having been able to negotiate peacefully with those that were rolled, the gnoll chance encounter gets triggered. And it gets triggered at the worst possible moment when the party desperately needed to avoid any hostiles. The players' fear of the hyena men was super palpable and they were quite worried that what had been a quite successful session would still end with a total TPK. Even though it did not, the survivors have sworn to kill any gnolls they come across from this point forward.

Reading this account was awesome. Thanks for sharing!

That was an intense session 2! Oh man. The brutality! Losing a Nobiran Wonderworker to a double d20 roll of 1...NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Thanks! My players and I have been enjoying the game quite a bit so far. It doubtlessly is the whole "new game/system glow" effect to some extent, but I suspect that this has been the most fun I have had running D&D since doing Red Hand of Doom in 3.5 some sixish years ago. Which is pretty neat.

To make matters even more absurd:

The Nobiran's player was understandably distraught over losing his character after the second roll. So he picked up his d20 and was all "I bet if I had gotten another roll, it would have been a natural 20", and he rolled, and he did indeed get a natural 20. It's the sort of thing where, if you were to read about it on a forum, your natural impulse would be that the poster was just embellishing for dramatic effect. But sometimes truth is stranger than fiction and what have you.

Session III

The cast:

  • “Poor Unser” Unser, Elvish Spellsword: probably an alcoholic
  • “Gaz” “Gazebo” Gazorpazorpfield, Dwarven Craftpriest
  • Sinbad, Venturer: novice gambling addict
  • Borgnar, Mystic: total straight edge
  • Gnarrr, Thrassian Gladiator: vicious, uncouth, and ready to party
  • Aladdin, Elvish Nightblade: definitely a lightweight

Our heroes were spread between the keep Türos Tem and the nearby city of Cyfaraun. In the former, Sinbad lay recovering from a poisonous spider's bite. In the latter, Unser, Borgnar, Gnarrr, and Aladdin had been crushed to discover that their dear friend The Good Doctor Senor Foggy would never be restored to life. Having until just recently been very dead, Borgnar needed some time to recover. As such, Unser, Gnarrr, and Aladdin found themselves flush with an excess of both time and loot. It was thus time for some casually excessive revelry and debauchery. When the heroes ended their long sequence of benders some two weeks later, they discovered that they had at some point in the interim made the acquaintance of a dwarvish priest with an inexplicably long name. This Gazorpazorpfield and Unser became fast friends. Nursing hangovers together, the two discovered that they had, whilst under the influence, funded construction of a school for the underprivileged urban youth of Cyfaraun.

Gaz hailed from the nearby dwarvish enclave of Azen Radokh. He had fled his ancestral home because it had recently come under siege by a dreadful army of giants. Having had difficulty fighting mere kobolds and goblins, the adventurers vowed to stay far, far away from Azen Radokh. Gaz assented gladly to this decision.

Their numbers and morale restored, the five companions returned to Türos Tem. There they found Sinbad, looking rather more attenuated than he had when they had left for Cyfaraun. It turned out that the venturer had begun his stay in the keep's infirmary with only fifty-nine copper pieces to his name. To make ends meet, he had been gambling excessively with the local soldiery, and the meager profits had barely covered his sustenance. He had made a discovery, though: some years back the Borderlands had experienced an earthquake, and this earthquake had just preceded the increase in beastman attacks. The temple they had discovered in the Viaspen had been enclosed by a cracked black granite dome. So perhaps the earthquake sundered the temple's dome and allowed its malicious inhabitants to lay waste to the surrounding area.

Wondering what dark evils such a dome must have been put in place to imprison, the adventurers once again traversed the Viaspen Forest and arrived at the mysterious temple. The temple's factional dynamics had undergone significant change since their last visit. By the entrance where once lazy kobolds could be found now stood two fierce brigands. From these brigands, the adventurers learned that Drusus had expanded his power to take advantage of the kobold's removal. He was now perhaps the premier power in the temple. Also in this confusion, the hobgoblins had moved to eliminate their goblin brethren in a bloody struggle.

The natural course of action seemed to be to engineer the mutual destruction of the brigands and the hobgoblins. Hoping to manage just that, the adventurers continued their delving. In a more frequently traveled portion of the temple, they encountered and defeated two orcish patrols in rapid succession. The first demanded a toll of 140 gold pieces to avoid a fight. Sinbad took a gamble and threw the orcs a pouch with 14 copper, that being all he had. Perhaps the orcs would be not think to count their new earnings. If his goal had been to start a fight, he succeeded admirably. In the second encounter, a lucky orcish spear thrust severed one of Gaz's fingers; he was otherwise no worse for the wear. Borgnar acquitted himself most admirably, slaying five orcs with his enchanted mace that hence bore the name Orcslayer. He then thought back to his monastery days, remembered he had never been trained in the wielding of a mace, and quietly passed Orcslayer over to Gaz.

Knowing that strength could be found in numbers, the party made common cause with a group of three brigands. Yet this was not a lasting alliance. The augmented group's next encounter was with an unholy monstrosity: twelve giant rats that had been somehow fused together to act as one by methods most arcane. The brigands refused to approach the creature. “Ammonar's tits!”, one swore. Another took the opportunity to void his stomach of its the contents. After the fight, Gnarrr castigated them for their cowardice. “We signed up to fight beastmen, not abominations” was the defense proffered. “You're an abomination!” the tactful yet honest lizard-man responded. Brigands are normally used to a certain coarseness of language, but, for whatever reason, the day found these three feeling rather more sensitive, and they promptly departed from the adventurers' company. To hear Gnarrr talk about this encounter after the fact, he had never trusted them and just wanted them to leave. Accusing them of being abominations was certainly a way to do that.

The day's slapstick was not over. Another orcish patrol was encountered and another orcish toll demanded. Sinbad again tried his coin substitution trick, this time offering silver and claiming it to be platinum. Yet luck continued to rule against him, and another battle was joined. Its noise brought another group of orcs, and things began to look dire. A well-placed sleep spell evened the odds, but in the battle's closing moments a lucky orcish spear thrust lamed one of Gnarrr's legs. Their strongest fighter in need recuperation, the group began to beat a hasty yet careful retreat. But in an eerie parallel to their last withdrawal, a pursuing band of orcs caught up to the adventurers just before they reached safety. Ultimately, victory was achieved. But without Gnarrr's indomitable fury, it came only at great cost. A vicious slash by a jagged orcish blade lamed both of Aladdin's legs; the assassin was in a stroke made bereft of his elvish grace. And after being rendered unconscious by a brutal attack, Poor Unser took a heavy fall and lost six teeth. Half of the party was now incapacitated.

Their wounds tended to as best could be managed, the adventurers took refuge from the beastmen in Drusus' camp. They planned to rest the night, and thence to Cyfaraun. There their broken bodies might be restored. But perhaps this was merely a shift from one danger to another. For the weakened heroes were now surrounded by almost two dozen lawless brigands. And they could not help but mistrust the avaricious gleam the bandit king's eyes took on when he considered his new guests and the wealth they might have.

Mortal Wound Count:

  • Gaz, one missing finger
  • Gnarrr, one lamed leg
  • Aladdin, two lamed legs
  • Unser, six missing teeth

Death Count:

  • None! (For now.)

Tampering with Mortality Count:

  • None!

Holy moly, what a brutal outcome! It seems like your adventurers need to adjust their tactics and retire from the dungeon one encounter more quickly than they do. That is, it seems like they retire when they can no longer fight effectively, but that leaves them vulnerable to a wandering encounter each time.

That is what I thought as well. But upon further reflection, I am not sure it is the case. Unser, Gaz, and Foggy have all had Healing 2 or 3. A few other characters have had Healing 1 or Lay on Hands as well. So they've been entering almost every battle at full health. It is just the general fragility of level 1 characters ensures that bad events are rarely isolated.

It was brought to my attention that part of my notes from last session were in error. Although Unser did lose six of his front teeth, Ammonar blessed his treatment, and he needed no recovery time. So the party's situation in the bandit's camp was perhaps not as dire as it might have been.

Session IV

The cast:

  • “Poor Unser” Unser, Elvish Spellsword
  • “Gaz” “Gazebo” Gazorpazorpfield
  • Sinbad, Venturer
    • Audarius, his henchman, a former Legionary
  • Borgnar, Mystic
  • Gnarrr, Thrassian Gladiator
  • Aladdin, Elvish Nightblade

Drusus leered at the wounded adventurers. Their hope was to rest the night in the bandit's camp before returning to civilization. The brigand king swiftly made it apparent that their safety would cost great tribute. Understandably concerned, the adventurers ended up offering him every last coin they had on their persons, nearly half a thousand gold pieces in total. When this was not enough for the rapacious Drusus, Unser handed over his most precious possession, the potion of dragon control he had found near the kobold king's lair. Doing so nearly brought him to tears. Still the bandit king was not satisfied. He suggested that perhaps the adventurers might donate their armor to his cause, but the savvy Sinbad was just able to persuade him to relent on this demand. Satiated but not content, Drusus made it clear he would expect more the next time he saw the party. The party made ready to rest for the night. During Borgnar's watch, a few drunken bandits tried to make some trouble with the mystic, but his inner calm came to the fore and a fight was avoided.

Now the adventurers had only to escape the forest. Wounded and burdened as they were, it would take them three days of travel to reach its edges. The first day passed without event. Yet tragedy struck on the second. Entering a clearing, the adventurers came across a small meadow pool. Drinking at this pool was a monstrous yet wretched creature: a dire wolf that appeared to have undergone some sort of bizarre mutation. Its eyes gleamed with fell sorcery, and spiked bones poked through its fur. Baying in pain, it charged the adventurers. Borgnar dealt it a mighty blow with his elephant trunk blade, but that only angered it further, and it brutally clawed his face and mangled his eye. Next Sinbad stepped up, yet the creature casually ripped off one of his hands with its teeth. Knowing that the party's fate lay in their hands, Gaz and Unser carefully fought against the creature, and eventually they slew it. With two more of their number wounded, it was Calefa's grace alone that let them reach Türos Tem without further incident.

The next obstacle that needed surmounting was basic survival. The party needed two weeks of rest at the keep before they would be ready to travel to Cyfaraun. And the only money they had was 49 copper pieces Sinbad had kept from the bandits. “You don't want to know where I hid these”, he muttered. Luckily, the party discovered that they still had in their possession an abandoned morningstar. It had belonged to Chalupa Batman what seemed like a lifetime ago. Since he had not needed it for months, it was quickly pawned.

In Cyfaraun, Sinbad negotiated intensely with the local temple of Ammonar. He was successful, and in exchange for nearly 5000 gold pieces of “temple spellcasting credit”, the priests took the bundle of ancient Zaharan mint the party had discovered in the buried temple. With this money, the adventurers threw themselves upon the mercy of the gods and had restore life and limb cast on their maimed members. Gnarrr went first. His leg was healed, but, somehow, his lizard-man scales grew hair at an astonishing rate. Then went Aladdin. His legs too were restored, but he felt that his hand might harbor within it a malevolent spirit, and he counseled his friends to stay away from him in subsequent melees. Then came Sinbad.

The Sad Story of Sinbad

First Sinbad's hand was restored. In exchange, the gods made horses frightened of him. The experience left him feeling lucky, and he went back for a second round. This time he hoped to heal his wounded knee. And here Fate abandoned him. Although his knee was healed, an extraplanar mark of calling was placed on him. Walking through the market a few days later, an invisible demon crept up to him and slew him with a single blow. Its mission accomplished, the demon departed. The newly dead venturer was rushed back to the temple. He was restored to life, miraculously with no side effects. The adventurers could but hope that the invisible demon would not return.

A full month was needed for everyone to fully recover. During this time, Gnarrr spent fifty gold pieces to have “curved swords” carved on both of his curved swords, and Sinbad brought a crusty former legionary named Audarius into his employ. The adventurers also heard a peculiar piece of local folklore about the nearby Black Mire: Locals venturing into this mire always buried at least ten gold pieces in it before departing. Not doing so would leave them vulnerable to the curses of the dead and forgotten gods of the mire, ancient statues of which were scattered throughout the region. Sinbad's first thought was to buy a shovel and go hunting for buried treasure. His friends were able to dissuade him from this plan, at least for the moment.

For it was time to put an end to the reign of Drusus. Fully aware that it was perhaps not the smartest course of action, the party nonetheless committed fully to this goal. Their hope lay in Unser. If he could get a sleep spell off, then the brigands' numerical advantage would be neutralized. Drusus and his favorite bands normally stayed in a room separated from the bandit's main camp by a passageway. Attacking Drusus would doubtlessly bring reinforcements from across the camp. But if the adventurers could remain in the passageway, they might minimize the potency of any flanking maneuvers.

And so they ventured to the bandit's camp. Drunk on their newfound power, Drusus and his bandits were caught by complete surprise when Unser began his arcane incantations. The adventurers breathed sighs of relief; finally Fate was supporting them. Unser completed his spell.

And two bandits dropped to the ground. The thirteen remaining bandits and their enraged leader charged the adventurers. This would not be easy.

A long and bloody melee ensued. In the north end of the passageway, Drusus and his enchanted blade laid waste to Borgnar, Gaz, and Gnarrr. After less than a minute, only the lizard-man remained standing. In the south, Audarius, Aladdin, and Unser held the line against a seemingly endless line of reinforcements. Unser quickly fell to a concerted bandit attack. Aladdin bravely fought back whilst standing atop his friend's body. But in the end he could not stem the tide, and darkness took him. Audarius took several cuts but proved remarkably adept at not dying. He otherwise accomplished little. Sinbad took shots with his crossbow whenever he could. Yet when his friends fell, he bravely stepped forward to hold the line with Gnarrr. A minor blessing was had when two bandits, aiming at Sinbad, instead hit one of their fellows and killed him instantly.

Both Gnarrr and Sinbad both came within a hair's breadth of death. But somehow they were able to triumph, and finally Gnarrr's curved blade cut deeply into Drusus' stomach. The bandit king's enchanted sword was quickly appropriated. The remaining bandits did not immediately stop fighting with their leader's death. But it was clear that the fight was over, and they shortly threw down their arms and fled. Gripping onto his new sword, Gnarrr hacked off Drusus' head and held it aloft.

Sinbad, Gnarrr, and Audarius tended to their fallen comrades. Unfortunately, none of them was learned in the art of healing. So although Borgnar, Gaz, Aladdin, and Unser's wounds were bandaged and wrapped as best as could be done, Death's inexorable claws had latched onto of all of them. Grimly, Gnarrr put his friends out of their misery.

What treasure could be taken from the bandit's camp was, and those things too heavy to move were destroyed. Gnarrr admired the ancient Zaharan fresco on the northern wall of the throne room. He became rather less interested in it when he learned that a fresco was not something he could wear as a cape. And although Sinbad and Gnarrr searched intently for the potion of dragon control that Drusus had taken from them earlier, it was nowhere to be found.

The three survivors dragged their friends' bodies back first to Türos Tem and then to Cyfaraun. In Türos Tem, the legate gladly turned over the 750 gold piece bounty on Drusus. He offered to hold an imperial feast for the heroes, but Sinbad requested that such a celebration be delayed until his friends were restored to life. In Cyfaraun, yet another trip to the temple of Ammonar was made. First Borgnar was restored. He awakened still missing the eye Drusus had cut out, and gifted too with a newfound bottomless hunger. It took two castings to restore Gaz, but he was restored with no negative effects. When Drusus had cut him down, though, he had fell hard and bitten off his tongue, yet this was not as positive as it could have been. Aladdin had received some gruesome scarring from the bandits, but much of it was covered up by his sudden outgrowths of hair. And so only Unser remained to be restored. The bandits had severed both of his legs, so the adventurers knew that his restoration would be a risky process. Yet still they were unprepared for its outcome. For the spellsword's soul was cursed to wander for all time through the eternal darkness.

Mortal Wounds Count:

  • Borgnar, eye damaged by mutated wolf
  • Sinbad, hand eaten by mutated wolf (later restored)
  • Borgnar, eye destroyed by Drusus
  • Aladdin, gruesome scarring by bandits
  • Unser, legs severed by bandits
  • Gaz, tongue severed by Drusus

Death Count:

  • Borgnar, Drusus (later restored)
  • Gaz, Drusus (later restored)
  • Aladdin, bandits (later restored)
  • Unser, bandits

Tampering with Mortality Count:

  • Gnarrr, hairiness
  • Aladdin, possessed hand
  • Sinbad, invisible stalker
  • Borgnar, bottomless hunger
  • Aladdin: hairiness
  • Unser: soul cursed to wander for all time through eternal darkness

Double 1s on the sleep spell? Oh. My. Ammonar.

Party name: Gluttons for Punishment

Session V

The cast:

  • Hugo Reyes, Elvish Spellsword
  • “Gaz” “Gazebo” Gazorpazorpfield, Dwarven Craftpriest
  • Sinbad, Venturer
  • Audarius, his henchman. Fighter
  • Borgnar, Mystic
  • Gnarrr, Thrassian Gladiator
  • Aladdin, Elvish Nightblade

As was traditional for visits to Cyfaraun, the adventurers engaged in intense and excessive acts of decadence. When the alcohol wore off and they were again cognizant, they realized they had made a new friend, Hugo the Elvish Spellsword, cousin of the fallen Unser. Hugo had come to Cyfaraun seeking vengeance; learning that his cousin's slayer had already been ended, he decided he might as well get filthy rich.

There was then the question of what where next to seek adventure. The party was on the verge of venturing into the mysterious Black Mire when, gambling late one night, a local told Sinbad that a dozen black dragons were said to make the mire their home. Deciding that one definite dragon was less dangerous than a dozen potentially ones, the buried temple was hastily returned to.

As the party approached the temple's entrance, they were unsure of what they might find. With the kobolds, goblins, and bandits all defeated, which faction might have seized power? What they were not expecting to find was nothing. No one guarded the main door, no one stood in the main hall. The putrid corpses of Drusus and his brigands lay where they had fallen more than a month ago. Fear of the unknown being the greatest of all fears, this frightened the adventurers more than anything they had encountered so far. Having no idea of what to expect, they crept through the halls toward the orc territory.

Instead of orcs, they discovered an eldritch pool. Mundane in appearance, it nonetheless radiated an eerie energy. Knee-sized depressions systematically placed along its boundary suggested it had once been utilized by the cruel Zaharan sorcerer-priests for sacrificial mass drownings. Hugo, having some training as an alchemist, made to examine the water and learn what he could from it. He concluded that it had the capacity for both great weal and wretched woe. He thought back to words of advice his master had often shared with him, that “you make your own luck, Mr. Reyes”, and took a gulp of the water. Tragically, luck was not today in his favor, and the sorcerous water rendered him feeble of mind [in the process draining him of the nearly 1000 XP he had started with from his prime requisites and Unser's reserve XP]. “We all knew that was going to happen”, Sinbad quipped. The rest of the group guided their quietly babbling friend along with them as they continued exploring.

Entering the orc territory, the party was immediately struck by the wretched scent of orc foeces. Tracing this to its source, they came to an old animal hide stretched across an empty doorframe. Stealthy Aladdin pulled back the hide and saw a most peculiar sight: Eleven orcs sat in a circle, chanting slowly in unison. They were surrounded by old and rotting bookshelves, this room having once been a library. In the corner a dire wolf watched the ritual intently. The excrement caked around the orcs made it clear they had not moved from these positions for a remarkably long period of time. Knowing a bit of the orcish language, Aladdin was able to make out assorted appeals to Sakkara among the chanting, asking her to punish the interlopers who had so ruined their people.

Feeling that an assault on this room would be augmented significantly by a sleep spell, the party made a hasty retreat to Türos Tem. There they enlisted the divine powers of the priestess Genelen to heal Unser of his madness. Barely giving him time to reorient himself, the party then dashed back to the buried temple. As they had hoped, the orcs had not moved even an inch.

Like Unser, Hugo was able to finish his sleep spell before the orcs could charge the party. Unlike his cousin, Hugo proved himself a master spellcaster that day, for he put all but one of the orcs to sleep. Yet the beastman left unaffected was Apsa, King of the Orcs. Bereft of his most loyal followers, the orc king still proved himself a deadly combatant. First Borgnar and Gaz fell. The mystic escaped with a damaged knee, but the dwarf's sturdy spine was completely severed, and he bled out in seconds. Apsa's wolf, meanwhile, tore through Sinbad's knee and bit deep into Aladdin's chest. Yet Hugo, Audarius, and Gnarrr stood firm, and eventually their foes were defeated.

Once again, the party's strength had been shattered in a single blow. Yet Hugo had an idea. Before anyone could stop him, he grabbed Gaz's corpse and tossed it into the drowning pool. Gnarrr hissed and prepared to kill whatever might crawl from its murky depths. And moments later, with a great splash, Gazorpazorpfield pushed himself out of the water. He was alive! For a moment, it seemed his swim had had no ill effects. But then he felt a great pressure against his hauberk. Throwing it off, he discovered with horror that two fleshy tentacles now bulged from his chest! Audarius took this opportunity to vomit.

The party hoped desperately that Gaz's mind remained untainted by the chthonic powers that had granted him his new appendages. Meanwhile they hunkered down in Drusus' old camp and waited for Aladdin, Borgnar, and Sinbad to be well enough to travel. During their stay, they quickly learned to stay away from an old door behind the brigand king's throne. This door had been boarded up, perhaps excessively so. For every night, unnatural moans and groans could be heard from behind it. The adventurers knew that Drusus had not been lying when he spoke of undead living beneath the temple. They were divided as to whether this signaled great opportunity or terrible danger.

Returning to Cyfaraun, the party again sought the temple of Ammonar. Its priests were delighted to show their frequent guests a new golden statue of the sun god that the adventurers' frequent and generous donations had allowed the commission of. And more donations were promptly given. Aladdin's damaged lungs and Gaz's spine were healed. But the exchange was as twisted as it ever was. Gaz was left shaken and damaged. Sudden noises and lights left him completely stunned. And the energy needed to fix the nightblade's lungs must have been taken from his eyes, for he was stricken of his sight. Ever conscious of the important questions, he wondered how he would be able to shave his magically enhanced hair in such a condition. More importantly, how could the adventurers recover from this latest setback?

Mortal Wounds Count:

  • Sinbad, knee wounded by dire wolf
  • Borgnar, knee wounded by Apsa
  • Gaz, spine severed by Apsa (later restored)
  • Aladdin, lungs damaged by dire wolf (later restored)

Tampering with Mortality Count:

  • Aladdin, blinded
  • Gaz, paralyzed by sudden light and noise

As of this session's end, Sinbad is level 3; and Borgnar, Aladdin, and Gnarrr are all level 2. So their survival potential has all been enhanced noticeably. (Assuming that they can find some way of getting around Aladdin's blindness.)

Session VI

The cast:

  • Hugo Reyes, Elvish Spellsword
  • “Gaz” “Gazebo” Gazorpazorpfield, tentacle'd Dwarven Craftpriest
  • Sinbad, Venturer
  • Audarius, his henchman, Fighter
  • Borgnar, Mystic
  • Gnarrr, Thrassian Gladiator
  • Aladdin, Elvish Nightblade

The party realized that a blind nightblade would be of little contribution. So they spent their time in Cyfaraun asking around to see if any restorative magic could be found. They were in luck: legend had it that the Viaspen contained a hidden shrine sacred to the Empyrean gods.

Since Aladdin was currently not fit to act as navigator, wandering through the forest could be a dangerous proposition. Yet Fate shined on them, and they discovered the shrine in less than a week. Its guardian, a proud unicorn, bestowed the shrine's magic upon Aladdin, and his sight was restored. In return, the nightblade accepted a geas to slay Idimmu the Demonic, the dragon known to lair in the buried temple. Hearing that his friend had been geased, Sinbad quipped “Just remember, every day you tarry in this task will leave the rest of us completely unharmed.” Gaz hoped to have his wounds healed as well. But the unicorn informed him sadly that the shrine's powers would not work on him, tainted as he was by chthonic sorcery.

Reaching the edge of the forest, Aladdin and Hugo noticed a circular patch of wheat of unusual vivacity. In the center of this wheat patch was a farmhouse; nearby was a solitary scarecrow. Such a description matched a rumor Sinbad had heard back in Cyfaraun. Their attentions piqued, the adventurers approached the farmhouse, following a narrow path of beaten-down wheat. Inside the farmhouse was a deathly wounded man. Upon seeing the party, he whispered, “Now you too are trapped...” Sinbad offered him some food, which the man greedily took, but he offered no other information. The group decided to test his claim, and they attempted to leave. To their surprise, the wheat around them was regrowing, and the path they had taken was almost gone. Furthermore, a few steps away from the farmhouse, a massive tentacle burst from the ground and ripped at Sinbad before vanishing back into the earth.

The adventurers broke into a mad dash for the road. Fortune shined on them, and all but Hugo made it. And even then, in a remarkable feat of strength, the puny Sinbad dragged his friend's body to safety. It turned out that the spellsword's tongue had been ripped from his mouth by the hidden monstrosity. Gaz sincerely apologized for the behavior of this particular tentacled creature and promised that not everything with tentacles was inherently evil.

The nearest settlement was the outpost of Türos Spen. Hugo would need a month's rest before he was fit for longer travel, so the group resigned to wait there. During this period of convalescence, the adventurers heard that their fellow adventuring party, the Fierce Brethren, long thought lost, had stumbled out of the Viamir Marshes. They too had discovered the buried temple, and had slain some number of orcs and hobgoblins in it. The party resolved to stand firm against their competition.

Even healthy, Hugo would be of little use as a spellcaster so long as he lacked a tongue. So Cyfaraun was again ventured to. The party just barely managed to scrape together enough gold to pay for his restoration, which luckily went well. Sinbad wondered to Borgnar whether it would be possible to keep Audarius on retainer given their financial situation. The party needed a big score on their next outing. While waiting for Hugo to recover, Aladdin heard news that a new organization was said to have appeared in Cyfaraun. Little was known about them save their (rather unpleasant) name: The Brotherhood of Pus.

Finally, the adventurers were prepared to return to the buried temple, to seek Idimmu the Demonic. Thanks to the Fierce Brethren, the temple was still fairly empty. Some member of their counterpart group had a most peculiar tic: a true passion for labeling. “Orcs (dead)” was written on a note attached to a pile of orcish bodies. “Blood (hobgoblin)” read another. And so on. Hugo was truly perplexed as to why anyone would do this.

The party knew that Idimmu had to be making his lair in the great ziggurat they had noticed in the northwest corner of the temple. So into this room they ventured, unsure if any of them would leave it alive. The wyrm was awake and aware of their intrusion. From the top of the ziggurat, he beckoned one of them approach and do him homage. Trembling, Sinbad stepped forward. Idimmu asked what tribute the venturer had brought for him. Searching his pockets, Sinbad realized he had no valuables at all on his person. So he presented the old, worn pair of bone dice he carried with him for gambling. He fully expected to be devoured for such a paltry offering, but, instead, Idimmu was amused by his audacity and bid him rejoin his companions.

Nervously, the party looked at one another. For Aladdin's geas to be lifted, the dragon would have to be slain. But how could such a feat be done? Lacking a better plan, they lifted their weapons and charged. Yet here Fate turned decisively against them. As if he had expected such treachery, Idimmu flew forward before the adventurers had had time to fan out. And with a single blast of his corrosive breath, he ended the lives of Sinbad, Borgnar, Gnarrr, Aladdin, and Hugo. One might hope that their deaths were at least painless, but this was probably untrue. Audarius had carefully ensured during the advance that he remained by the room's exit, and he beat a hasty departure at this turn of events.

So only Gaz remained. He was too far away from the exit Audarius had taken, so he instead chose a nearby door and dashed through it. Yet not content with her accomplishments for the day, Fate cruelly twisted her knife. For the room Gaz now found himself in was tiny and lacking in any means of escape. The dwarf knew his chances of survival were slim. He made peace with his gods, raised his enchanted mace, and swung at Idimmu. He got in one good hit, and then the dragon ended him.

Mortal Wounds Count:

  • Hugo, tongue ripped out by tentacled beast

Tampering with Mortality Count:

  • Hugo, drained spirit

Death Count:

  • Hugo
  • Gazorpazorpfield
  • Borgnar
  • Sinbad
  • Gnarrr
  • Aladdin

Survival Count:

  • Audarius

A tragic end to a great read. Will they try again?

My players are the true gluttons for punishment of this campaign. After the TPK, they insisted on rolling up a new party and playing again the very next day.