The Shadow and the Flame

Last couple of sessions, highlights:

Session 4:

  • The shield from the dragon’s hoard was cursed AC0. They figured this out via sparring (as they usually do), and ended up having to send for a Remove Curse scroll from the Elven Kingdom through the fairy ring. This was expensive.
  • They killed a bunch of ghouls (and zombie goats) haunting Olde Aethelred’s Orchard and Distillery (“finest in the barony”), and liberated a single dose of uisgebaugh, the Whiskey of Life, “good enough to raise the dead”.
  • Killed a bunch of ghoul woodsmen in the mountains north of Ostergot. This fight led to some musings on wilderness combat en blog. They then tracked the one who escaped back to the lair, killed him despite his surrender and pleas for mercy (I play ghouls as “of evil, sociopathic cunning”, which might reasonably include surrender and grovelling before a superior force), and took his stuff.
  • Hunted the Flayed Ghoul Yeti (source of the ghoul infestations) back to its lair in a defiled barrow, killed it and its ghoul servants. This was kind of a close thing, with several fighters paralyzed.
  • Hosted a great feast in Ostergot to celebrate their successes, recruited a new henchman - Njall Blacktooth, Assassin 2 with some notable stats (Str 16, Dex 18, Cha 3). Galinda made friendly contact with a local coven of witches, including Aella, the baron’s daughter and effective domain ruler.
  • Investigated a long-abandoned prospectors’ camp pointed to by a treasure map from the Monastery, found dire wolf cubs, got the loot and ran back to town with their tails between their legs. Would’ve gotten got by the dire wolves, but explorer wilderness evasion saved the day.
  • Closed the session with a random encounter roll on their way back to Bearholm - cliffhanger!

Session 5:
I was feeling pretty lousy, having wiped out on my bike on my commute earlier that day, so this was a short session.

  • Random encounter turned out to be an evil cleric on a nightmare, two evil knights, and a bunch of longbowmen. Opening moves: silence on the party wizard, arrows, ineffective cavalry charge. The knights were quickly unhorsed and dispatched, but it took some shape-strengthed thrown objects (including an angry dwarf) to take out the cleric on her flying steed, and the longbowmen were quickly mopped up after that. Conclusions: MOAR CAVALRY, better mounts that take more than two hits to kill.
  • The two surviving longbowmen were recruited by the party, as were the enemy’s three dwarven slave-engineers and pack-mule with disassembled ballista (they were out to hunt the dragon the party said had killed the constables, but found the party instead).
  • The party recruited more longbowmen to guard Bearholm from a nearby camp, and has tasked Grettir the Unwashed with leading them.
  • Up the mountain to the wine cellar, where they found shriekers, which brought in a bunch of mushroom men, who were slain with little incident. Sealed the exits from the wine cellar and the well room, resolved to enter through the abbot’s secret door next session.

Session 6:

  • Ambushed by giant spiders from the Spider House on their way across the compound to the abbot’s secret door; Galinda slain by poison, True Resurrected using the whiskey of life. “If it had been any party member but our only healer, we probably would’ve just let die, but we kind of need her.”
  • Met the angry volcano god trapped by the monks of the monastery; grateful for his liberation, friendly. Party wizard whose favorite spells are fireball and burning hands (“burny handers”) considers patronage, access to new fire spells.
  • Recovered the magic staff used to drain the volcano god’s power
  • Into the mushroomman portion of the caverns - killed lots of stuff without incident, recovered a suit of chainmail +3. The Elder Bear’s AC is now 12 at 6th level and I am a sad, sad DM.
  • Killed some shriekers, explored a secret exit, and on their return to the room with the shriekers were ambushed by a pack of spore-breathing fungus-infected man-sized centipedes with tearing mandibles. These breathed spores which caused nausea / coughing / flat-footedness; the party got split up and this got very ugly very quickly, with both bearsarkers coughing and one bite away from going down and Roger the Fighter at 0 HP by the time the sporipedes were all slain. With mushroomman drums beating in the tunnels, they stabilized Roger (knee injury, carrying capacity reduced) and fled out the exit they had just explored.
  • Healed up and returned to to the caverns, where they found another suit of +3 chain ): and slew the Mother Shroom and almost all of her brood, recovering a scroll of disintegrate and a treasure map in the process. Most of the party fighters were Confused by hallucinogen spores, and careful and quick measures had to be taken to prevent the raging bearsarker from tearing apart the party after the mushroommen had been defeated.
  • Returned to Bearholm intent on travelling downriver to Thrinvatn (class IV) or Ornhafen (class III) for a boat, a patron, and mercenary papers.

That was an enormous driver for our group in originally switching to ACKS. It’s a good thing, too! We’re lucky if we manage four hours of play.

That sounds like Nerdvana to me. For us it’s usually more like one-and-a-half hours of puerile, vulgar humour, interspersed with geekiness and arguments about politics, followed by two-and-a-half to three hours of actual play. Still, ACKS rolls smoothly enough that things are progressing along.

That sounds like Nerdvana to me. For us it’s usually more like one-and-a-half hours of puerile, vulgar humour, interspersed with geekiness and arguments about politics, followed by two-and-a-half to three hours of actual play. Still, ACKS rolls smoothly enough that things are progressing along.

To be fair, I think we had a solid half-hour of vulgar humor last session after someone noticed the “Sheep” entry on the lodging table…

Etymology and scotch: two of the finest things in life, especially in combination.

Ah, yes...the dangers of being lodged in a sheep.

Session 7 (The First Battle of Bjornaborg) highlights:

  • The party loaded their remaining trade goods onto mule and marched to Ostergot with the intent to charter passage downriver… and instead found a small army of orcs flying a grey face on a black flag making camp near town! ESP revealed that these orcs had come upriver to hunt the dragon on the mountain. The PCs’ mountain. Uh oh.
  • The party bought a few more donkeys and fled posthaste back to Bjornholm to prepare.
  • On the way back, they met a band of orcs with a wolf on their banner. These they told that the Iron Face orcs were coming, and gave a few donkeys in exchange for being left alone. The Howler scouts returned to their camp to gather a warband to attack the Iron Faces (an old rivalry).
  • Arriving at Bjornholm well before the Iron Faces, the party sets their woodsmen mercenaries and remaining pack animals to moving everything out of Bjornholm up to the mountain fortress, and to building a crude palisade wall across the missing front gate.
  • During the next couple of days, the party meets and bribes some grizzly bears (Servant of the Bear God finally came in handy), recruits some fleeing dwarf slaves (including a Vaultguard 4, Sindri Hammertoe, who reulctantly becomes James’ henchdwarf when offered a magic weapon (the Hammertoes and the Clearwaters have some history)), and kills some zombies.
  • The Iron Faces take their time, as they are foraging as they go, but it soon becomes clear to the PCs from the cookfires they can see from their mountaintop that the Iron Faces will arrive about a day before the Howlers.
  • The party runs out of mead. Morale is low among their mercenaries.
  • Scarth formally pledges his service to Tectonicus the Volcano God, and begins learning Call Remorhaz ( ).
  • The Iron Faces arrive, with their boar cavalry scouts in the vanguard. When the body of their force is in the pass to the south of the monastery-fortress (recently renamed Bjornaborg), the party blows the Avalanche Horn atop the dragon’s tower, crushing 80% of the Iron Face infantry, leaving them with scarcely half a platoon (plus their boaralry and chieftain). The remaining Iron Faces roll boxcars for morale and continue their march up the mountain, undeterred. They have seen the fires of the Howlers and know that their best chance of escape is in the mountains.
  • The Iron Faces arrive at Bjornaborg to find a dozen grizzly bears guarding the gates, the walls well-manned with woodsmen, and a bearsarker wearing the head of the dragon they were here to kill. They appeal for sanctuary. Following a brief parley and united by the threat of the incoming Howlers, the Iron Faces and the party make an alliance of necessity. The Iron Faces are permitted within the fortress for the night. Three giant boars are slaughtered and there is giant bacon for everyone.
  • The party learns from Grunak the Iron Face chieftain that their witchdoctor and his spellbook were buried by the avalanche; Scarth begins contemplating plans to recover it.
  • That evening, the Howlers reach Bjornholm. Frustrated at finding nothing of value, they burn it down.
  • The party plans a number of night operations to disrupt the Howlers. The grizzly bears are sent on a campaign of bearilla warfare, harassing sentries and raiding larders (inflicting a penalty on the Howler morale the next day, as they are sleepless and irritable). Njall Blacktooth and Grettir the Unwashed attempt to sneak into the Howler camp to assassinate their chieftain; they fail but are not caught. Scarth uses Fly and Fireball to bomb the Howlers’ giant boar pen; some die outright, others break free from the burning pen, and the Howlers’ boaralry is much weakened.
  • Giant spiders from the still-uncleared Spider Barracks attack Iron Face sentries on the walls of Bjornaborg, along with the dwarves James and Sindri. The spiders are slain without any casualties.
  • In the morning, the Howlers break camp and march through the avalanched pass. As it is summer and the weather is good, no new snow has built up, and so the Avalanche Horn cannot be used to stop them.
  • The Howlers arrive at Bjornaborg in mid-morning. The forces involved are too small for even platoon scale, so we zoom in to squad scale, with 4 cavalry and 8 infantry per unit on 15’ hexes. The Iron Faces are arrayed in front of the gatehouse, which is occupied by the woodsmen, Scarth, and Cass. The rest of the party waits in a hidden sally port that opens into the switchbacks to take the Howlers in the rear.
  • The one unit of Howler boaralry savages the Iron Face infantry in the first round, before being flanked by the Iron Face boars, catching a fireball from Scarth, and routing. The Howler infantry advanced up the path towards the fortress and is mauled by the Iron Face boars. The Howler chieftain catches Scarth’s second fireball per day and flubs his save, dying ignominously. Meanwhile, the melee components of the party devastate and route the Howler rear, meeting little resistance. Bears, woodsmen, and boaralry are dispatched into the woods to hunt the survivors. Friendly casualties: 2 Iron Face glaiveorcs. The Iron Faces take the majority of the spoils; the PCs are grateful to have survived.
  • Scarth begins sacrificing captured Howlers to Tectonicus for divine power. He also finishes learning Call Remorhaz.
  • The party makes a deal with the Iron Faces, employing them as a mercenary escort downriver to the Troll Lord, who apparently awards minor lordships in exchange for dragonslaying in his realm.

Session 8 highlights:

  • The party and their Iron Faces arrive in Ostergot and commission two barges to take them downriver. The weather turns foul before the barges are completed, however, and the party lingers in town for almost two weeks before it clears.
  • Galinda makes contact with the local witches’ coven and attends their bimonthly meeting during the bad weather. She brings with her Cassidy, who recruits Gyða, a third-level witch, to James’ service (though at much higher than normal wages).
  • The Elder Bear sneaks into the coven meeting (“I’m a cultist too, so it’ll be OK, right?”) and is charmed by the highest-level witch there. She makes him promise to return for the mid-summer festival (“Look, she didn’t need to charm me to guarantee I’d show up at a party. Partying is one of my fortes.”).
  • The party sets pole downriver. On the way they encounter a group of woodsmen rafting wood downriver to Thrinvatn. The party hires them as mercenaries. They are veteran skoglanders ( ), rough men used to a hard life fighting undead, wolves, orcs, and bandits deep in the woods far from rule of law, and garrisoning a fortress full of mead (or so they’re told) sounds like a nice cushy job.
  • The party arrives at Thrinvatn (Three Rivers, a class IV market) in the evening and docks. A group of armed Varangian taxmen come to assess their goods and take a cut, but after an excellent reaction roll it turns out they are led by Skorn’s uncle, who is happy to discover that she is alive and in rich company. He invites the party to stay in his hall. Gifts are exchanged, bread is broken, and mead is drunk.
  • The party spends a week in Thrinvatn looking for new henchmen, but the available candidates are lackluster and none are hired.
  • The Elder Bear makes his save to break the witch’s charm, probably in a whorehouse.
  • The knights of the Black Church, seeing the party in good stead with the Varangians, leave them alone.
  • The party sets out on the river again to Ornhafen (Eagle Harbor), the largest settlement in the Troll Lord’s domain and a class III market at the river’s mouth.
  • South of Thrinvatn, they encounter Thrinvatn’s orc garrison, of the Corpse Feaster tribe. A number of Corpse Feasters start paddling small boats towards the barges for a shakedown. Summoning a remorhaz is considered, but raising the Iron Face banner turns out to be adequate deterrence.
  • They make camp on the riverside a few miles out of Ornhafen as the sun sets.
  • The party arrives in Ornhafen and is met by an escort of troll pikemen who lead them through the city to the Troll Lord’s citadel. The Troll Lord is enormous (two or three normal trolls in height), but in good humor, and ennobles Alkaid the Elder Bear (he is the one wearing the dragon’s head as a hat, after all, so he must be the dragonslayer). The bear puns get absolutely out of hand (“Barbarian baron of barren Bear Mountain, whose arms bear bare-armed bears bearing bared arms”).
  • The party meets a number of high-powered NPCs in the Troll Lord’s court.
    ** Patriarch Halthor Child-Sparer, a scholastic legate who ended the practice of child sacrifice, arranges with the party to send his most troublesome apprentice, Thorvarthr the Heretical, to serve as the spiritual advisor for their new domain.
    ** Gnupur the Shaven, a dwarven warlord who serves the Troll Lord and who is gathering a host to reclaim the Mountainhome currently inhabited by the Great Dragon. James is invited to visit his fortress to the northeast of Ornhafen some time.
    ** Scarth attempts to make the acquaintance of Lady Fjonna the Fair, who turns out to be the Troll Lord’s chief assassin, as they learn from…
    ** Valan the Poet, dissolute elven courtier, court poet, herald and messenger for the Troll Lord, proprietor of many of Ornhafen’s finest bawdy houses and drinking holes, and the party’s new best friend in Ornhafen.
  • The party spends about two weeks as guests in Valan’s stately pleasure dome while looking for henchmen, trade goods, and mercenaries.
  • Much gold is spent on banners, tabards, standards, and other noblewear adorned with bears. Reserve XP is gained.
  • Scarth uses Valan’s library to attempt magic research on the volcano staff. He fails, then discovers that he has been sabotaged by the librarian, who works for elven intelligence.
  • Scarth also procures 60 stone of ghoul fingers, ostensibly for research purposes.
  • The party, noting that poling upriver will take much more time than marching, sells one barge and gifts the other to Valan, who promptly throws an extravagant party on it and somehow sinks it in the process. Several attendees die. It is lauded as the social event of the season.
  • The party parts company with Grunak and the Iron Faces, who return to the service of their overchieftain in Ornhafen, Kramuk the Stoic. Kramuk is none too pleased with Grunak’s losses of men and material, but a large sum of money from the party (wergeld of sorts) eases the tension. Grunak leaves friendly, Kramuk leaves neutral towards them.
  • Running short on cash and with payday for their mercenaries coming up again, the party plots a quick trip back upriver, a stop in Ostergot for the midsummer festival, and a raid on the gemstone mine poined to by the prospector’s map found in session 4.

And then I fell prey to some manner of pestilence which has infected all of my coworkers, which is why I am writing this instead of doing prep for tomorrow’s session, which is cancelled.

Sorry for the illness, but the write-up was great.

I knew Dr. Owl, MD had a waistcoat.

This is all really awesome, by the by. Do you keep the PC's stats/etc. anywhere accessible online?

Feeling better, ran again last night.

Session 9: Ungoliath

We spent probably the first half of the session fooling around with hiring mercenaries and overland travel back to Bjornaborg from Ornhafen. The party accumulated around 150 mercs of various types in Ornhafen (sadly there were no war mastadons for hire this month). We had been softballing overland movement modifiers from terrain, but this time ruled that hills and forest stacked, which led to a much flatter, terrain-following path than usual. They followed the path of the river up to Thrinvatn, where they crossed it via ferry, then split northeast into the woods to Bjornaborg. In the woods they passed through two skoglander camps and attempted to hire them on, but reaction rolls were not great and nothing came of it.

They arrived back at Bjornaborg on the fourth day of the fourth month of play, with pay in hand for their garrison. It is now late summer turning to fall. They were running low on cash (not all going to be able to make the next payday), and decided to follow the treasure map to the gemstone mine in the Blighted Vale. It takes them two days to get to the edge of the Blight marching through the mountains above the treeline.

The blighted woods have a thick canopy of blackened trees, beneath which grow fungal underbrush. They also observed spiderwebs in the woods during their first day’s march, and as a result camped in a clearing and kept strict but uneventful watches.

They arrived at the mine around noon of their second day in the blight and noted a long-abandoned campsite. They entered the mine and found a skeleton with a a bag of gems and a note. It is approached very cautiously, but does not rise. “Trapped and out of food. The spider is too big to get in here.”

The party does a double-take and starts freaking out a little. Cue ominously deep chittering from outside the mine, which sounds rather like a laughing DM. Looking at their map, they decide to rest in the mine for the rest of the day, sleep, then forced march back out of the blight the next day, dealing with the spider if necessary.

The next day dawns and there is much discussion of who gets to step out of the mine first in case the spider is waiting above the entrace. Jhames bravely volunteers, steps out, and… no spider. The rest of the party follows shortly and they haul ass for home.

Two hours later, as they are marching through some low-lying ground, happens. The spider is the size of a bull mastadon or large house and is armored in spiked black plate, with great cleaving blades twice the height of a man attached to its forelimbs. Galinda is poisoned by its bite during the surprise round and passes out immediately, and Njall and Sindri take serious damage from the cleavers. Cass hits it in melee with a natural 20 and a magic bolt, against all odds. Njall rolls Fight to the Death on morale despite having 2 HP left, and several of the melee party members do decent damage with high attack rolls to the spider before it drops Skorne with poison. It fails to focus fire with its blades, which is good because a cleave-chain would mean a party wipe. Grytha is on Cure Light Wounds duty and helps avoid this outcome. The Elder Bear howls and bites his shield, activating shape-strength. Scarth uses the disintegrate scroll on it but it saves! Doctor Owl ( , via Jhames’ player, who arts!), in a show of unusual competence, picks the correct healing herb and neutralizes Galinda’s poison. Still, things are not looking great going into the third round…

Whereupon Scarth calls the remorhaz from his absolutely insecure position, with one line of melee fighters between him and the spider. If he gets hit, there will be a remorhaz on the loose in addition to a spider, and everyone will die. The spider’s AC12 starts to kick in as the party’s attack rolls regress to the mean. It saves against Galinda’s Choking Grip, and then fails to hit the Elder Bear with its poison bite (AC12 cuts both ways) but does nail him with a cleaver. The remorhaz gets a solid hit in on initiative 1, and Doctor Owl neutralizes Skorne’s poison with a natural 20 on healing (“Oh, I just did this! I can do this again!”)

In the fourth round, the spider bites the remorhaz and combusts, dying in a spray of magma-blood and narrowly missing Njall in its death throes. The remorhaz makes its save vs poison and awaits further commands from Scarth. The party works on healing up, but they hear hoofbeats coming and form up around Scarth, who still needs to concentrate for another seven minutes to avoid a rampaging lava worm killing everyone.

Fifteen skeletal riders on skeletal horses burst from the trees, lances couched to the extent that they are able. They are bound (at random) for the weakest side of the party’s defense, with Njall and Cass both badly-injured, but nobody is surprised and the riders roll poorly for initiative. Heroic measures are taken, with Jhames and the Younger Bear countercharging into the oncoming cavalry and Sindri leaping in front of Njall. Grytha rolls hot for turning/commanding via Black Lore and the enemy are turned against themselves. Ultimately the riders are put to rest with few injuries (Jhames does catch a particularly nasty lance hit but has like 40 max HP and is OK), the line holds, and Scarth’s concentration is not broken.

The remainder of the remorhaz’s stay passes quietly and it burrows back to whence it came without killing anyone. The party performs a little more healing, Njall extracts the spider’s poison, and they resume their forced march with newfound enthusiasm. They make it out of the Blight without further incident. During their rest day in the mountain peaks, a warm front rolls in and there is much rain. It is unpleasant, but so it goes. They march home in the rain over the following two days, arriving at Bjornaborg with 30000 gp in gems on the 13th day of month 4 of play.

Quoth Scarth’s player: “I need a cigarette. We used the remorhaz and didn’t all die.” Personally, I was quite happy with both the degree of suspense (as a result of delaying the spider attack until after they’d gotten the treasure and left the mine, having dropped hints beforehand) and threat (desperate measures were taken to avoid TPK; probably our ACKSiest session yet by that metric). But I still haven’t gotten a real kill this campaign yet >:[ and if a 20***HD AC12 monster with save-or-die-at-minus-four didn’t do it… well, I’m going to have to get creative.

Next session, they plan to pursue more treasure maps. One points to a destroyed village in the Cinderwood, the other records the probable path of a paladin with an absurd magic sword who never returned from that expedition.

But of course! It comes in the mail upon completion of Roc University’s correspondence MD class.

I do not, yet. “I should really set up an obsidian portal” is becoming a common refrain.

Last night was Session 10.

The first hour or so was spent putting stuff on obsidian portal ( ) while I finished up the dungeon. Wooo prep.

The party then decided to pursue the “Demise of Saint Sven the Rash” treasure map, to recover his sword, Second Death. North of Bjornaborg they met a party of giants, with whom they parleyed, and who they learned were scouts for Surtr, the Giant-King in the North. They left this discussion concerned about the safety of their stronghold against giants.

Next they met a tribe of goatmen in a forested valley, including those goatmen who they had partied with previously while clearing the monastery. Gifts were exchanged and revelry ensued. Hiring some of the goatmen on as mercenaries was discussed, but it turns out they’re individually pretty expensive (~35gp/mo). In the morning they continued on their way north-west towards the Blight without hiring any.

On entering the Blight, they soon reached a village inhabited by undead peasants, who cringed from their presence. Here they found the corpse of Saint Sven, run through with Second Death, and with corpses with burned hands surrounding him. They formed up defensively around the casters, and Jhames pulled the sword from the corpse. He was judged sufficiently lawful and strong of will to wield it, and from it they learned of the presence of elves, hunting-ghoul packs, and death knights in the blighted woods. After some discussion, the Younger Bear was chosen as the best bearer of Second Death. He was also deemed sufficiently lawful by the sword, though he is somewhat weaker of will than Jhames…

They marched south-west towards the ruined keep which was Saint Sven’s objective, and arrived around midday. They hailed the archers on the battlements, who responded friendlily. Upon arriving at the mouth of the open gate, however, they discovered an enormous horde (>50) of armored zombies with greatswords. These they fought unwisely. The Younger Bear inflicted some tremendous damage with Second Death but was ultimately cut down. The casters sustained quite a bit of fire from the archers on the walls, and Njall was crushed when the defenders dropped the portcullis on him, leaving the Elder Bear and Sindri cut off from the rest of the party and in the midst of the enemy. Scarth levitated the portcullis back open, allowing Jhames and Scorn to close and relieve Sindri and the Elder Bear, as well as allowing the casters in out of the arrows.

Eventually all of the zombies were dispatched, and Njall and the Younger Bear’s wounds attended to - Njall lost an eye, and the Younger Bear’s ear was crushed. Both were stabilized, brought to >0 HP, and strapped to mules. The party then found themselves in a bit of a dilemma. If they retreated back out the front gate, they would catch many arrows on their way out, and their casualties might die if hit. But they also smelled oil being heated up through the murder-holes above their position, and knew they could not stay long. So they took the only option available to them, doubling down and going deeper into the keep.

After finding a few rooms with unintelligent enemies where they could just close the doors to prevent combat, the party eventually found a stairwell which ran all the way up to the roof, where they found the archers. The Elder Bear discovered that they could bestow curses with their dying breaths, much to his peril and sadness. Jhames began using Force Back to throw them off the battlements, breaking line of sight on death and preventing their curses, and this tactic carried the day. Here the party found some treasure, small consolation for their curses and casualties.

The archers having been dealt with, they decided to go back out the front gate… and on reflection realized that the oil might be rather warm by now, and so descended the rear wall of the keep using ropes (with which they also lowered their wounded and mules). They promptly put as many miles as possible between themselves and that accursed place.

The next day, they forced-marched out of the Blight entirely. Cass noticed that they were being pursued, and falling back and hiding in the underbrush, observed a party of some 30 elves clad in black leather tracking the party. She rejoined the group in the wee hours of the morning without further incident.

The next day, they decided to forced-march again, with escaping the elves as a priority. Their route took them within a mile of the aerie of a pair of large rocs… who turned out to be quite friendly, and who helpfully gave them a rapid ride back to Bjornaborg in exchange for their mules and remaining rations. The party discussed hiring the rocs full-time, but consulting DaW:C, it was discovered that their monthly rate (~3400gp/mo, each) was well outside the budget.

This put the calendar near the end of Month 4. Scarth did some magic research on the volcano staff (and failed again), and expeditions to patch up relations with the witch coven in Ostergot and to raid the Pottery Barn (a village that was once the home of porcelain manufacturing) in the Cinderwood were planned.

[quote="jedavis"] ...and expeditions to patch up relations with the witch coven in Ostergot and to raid the Pottery Barn (a village that was once the home of porcelain manufacturing) in the Cinderwood were planned. [/quote]


This is what happens when you tacitly let your players name places, by failing to provide a name in your description…

I shall endeavour to learn from your failure!

In the campaign world I’m working on, players are allowed to name places they discover with their in-world legal names that all NPCs in the world become obligated to use.

(There’s a place called the Tunneling Tunnels as an example of how sometimes adventurers give places terrible names.)

You could let them make up rough naming guidelines instead, or tell them what the rough guidelines are.  Clever players will find ways to make a few odd names, but most of them will feel right.

For example, in the game Puzzle Pirates, players could name their ships, but the rule was they had to be "The <Adjective> <Fish>", so most were things like The Lusty Mackeral or The Fiesty Halibut, but there is a fish called a Chip, so The Chocolate Chip was possible.

A little bit of this kind of malarky is tons of fun, but there's that fine line over which the whole campaign becomes a joke, you know? And I meant "learning from your failure" in the nicest possible way.

And it was received as intended! Yeah, I don’t mind the occasional Pottery Barn joke; for the most part things have remained reasonable so far.

Session 11: The Joy of Canoeing, Pottery Barn

The party split briefly, with most heading to Ostergot to try to restore relations with the Coven there, and Scarth remaining at Bjornaborg to do some magic research.

En route to Ostergot, the main body of the party encountered some elves, from Elven Intelligence, who had come to retrieve the staff. They gave the elves assurances that, despite appearances, they weren’t really working for the Troll Lord, and offered them safe passage / hospitality at Bjornaborg, where they were told they would find Scarth and the staff.

The elves arrive at Bjornaborg claiming to be emissaries from Valan the Poet in Ornhafen, and are welcomed within its walls. They speak privately with Scarth, who considers fireballing them (he really liked the staff), but realized that without the rest of the party to back him up this was probably a bad plan. They inform him that the staff is actually a Volcano Seed - if properly triggered, it burrows into the earth and gives birth to a new volcano god, and accompanying volcanic eruptions. Elven Intelligence is concerned that if it falls into the hands of the Enemy, it will be used on the elven Isles of Avalon, triggering an ecological and economic Cataclysm (as the spell) that would shatter the last bastion of light.

Scarth’s response: “Oh shit… We don’t really need a volcanic eruption in our new domain. Please get this thing out of our territory.”
Rest of party: “But Scarth, think of all the XP we could earn for volcano-bombing a city!”
Scarth: “We only get XP for things we survive.”

So he gives the staff to the elves, in exchange for promises of arcane library books and maybe a replacement staff of some other sort (after all, it would look weird for a powerful magic item, seen at a high-profile event in the Troll Lord’s court, to just disappear into Valan’s nominal possession…). He stops his research into the nature of the staff and begins researching a self-only version of invisibility that will let him cast spells while invis’d (for example: Call Remorhaz).

Meanwhile, the rest of the party arrives in Ostergot just in time for the bimonthly witches’ coven. They attend the coven and find the head witch absent, “not feeling well”, and learn that she has married in their absence. Turns out that with her father (the baron) on his deathbed and the party out of town / missing the festival, she ended up resorting to long-term magical coercion and settling for a local candidate with a large and powerful family. Oops. So the next day they pay their respect to the new baron, send Galinda to check on the baronness / head-witch and offer alliance, and start having canoes made. They also stock up on healing herbs and a fresh mule (their previous batch having fallen prey to dealings with rocs).

Having done the routing math, they decided to canoe along the rivers south from Ostergot (18.38 on ) into Mithrskog, then northeast up the fork at 22.45 and continuing up across lakes and through tiny streams to 31.28. Scarth was to fly from Bjornaborg (26.26) in to meet them there (it turns out that distance is right about two castings of Fly at his current level). Then they would portage their canoes through 32.29 into 33.38, and paddle downstream to their destination, the fabled Pottery Barn in 39.28.

This pleased me, as it matched my intuition that canoeing should be faster than hiking through hilly, forested, trackless terrain.

Their travel to the portage point took several mostly-uneventful days. Near the end of their journey, their canoes were attacked by curious giant catfish on the lake in 28.33. One catfish succumbed to Galinda’s Choking Grasp, failing every save until it was killed with spears. The other dealt a bunch of damage to the canoe of Njall and the Younger Bear, leaving it with 1shp at the end of the first round of combat. Both the Younger and Elder Bearsarkers heroically lept into the water to fight the 15’ fish with their swords, and took quite a bit of damage before Sindri killed it with an oar to the head. They towed the catfish carcasses to the abandoned woodsmen’s camp in 29.33, where they were butchered properly and cooked. The smell of cooking fish attracted a pack of grizzly bears, the strongest of whom the Younger Bear recruited as a war mount (having taken Riding (Bears) upon levelling) and named Grendel. They abandoned the badly-damaged canoe and re-shuffled people, rations, and Grendel between the remaining five canoes. “So you have a 600lb bull grizzly bear, a mule, 500lb of catfish, and a canoe, and you want to get them all across a river…”

The next day they arrived at their point of portage and lit a signal fire to call Scarth from Bjornaborg. He flew invisibly and arrived without incident.

The day after this, they portaged. Grendel was very helpful in this, as grizzly bears can carry a lot, and they strapped a shell of canoes over him. Unfortunately, they were met by three good-sized dragons (larger than the one they had slain in the Monastery) in the mountains, who demanded to know what servants of the Troll were doing in draconic territory. Knowing that the area was technically not draconic territory, and downplaying their servitude to the Troll, the party persuaded the dragons to grant them two days safe passage for a 400gp bribe. The party immediately began considering how to kill said dragons, get their money back, and earn three more favors from the Troll. They arrived at the headwaters in 33.28 without further incident.

The next day saw rapid progress downstream through the Cinderwood, arriving on the lake in 39.27 around midday. They explored the ruined village, finding a half-collapsed warehouse full of ceramics and a glowing orb of burning ghosts who ignited several of their fighters with terrible green hellfire that dealt quite a bit of damage and was a pain to put out. Nobody sustained a mortal wound, but it was a close thing, with at least one case of “well I sure hope your healer rolls higher on initiative than I do, because otherwise I will burn to death this round”. Second Death’s d10x4 damage against undead yielded several very satisfying cleaves in the hands of the Younger Bear. After dispatching the burning ghosts and healing up, they tallied their loot, finding some 110 stone of porcelain worth about 28000gp in total. This was too much encumbrance for their canoes, so they developed a crazed plan to transport the rest. They spend the afternoon constructing a makeshift raft out of rooves and doors. The next day, one canoe, drawn by Jhames and the Elder Bear, both with 18 Str, was made to pull the raft while Scarth levitated it. With four castings of levitate, this proved sufficient to get the goods back to 33.28.

Again, they portaged at 30’ speed to 31.28. Again, they were shaken down by dragons, this time for another 200gp. Again, vengeance was plotted. I have a pretty good idea of their intent for next session, I think.

They then canoed to 29.28, where they stashed the canoes and carried their goods back overland to Bjornaborg over the course of two days, one forced march. There was much discussion of building a road from Bjornaborg to the creek in 29.28, and their mercenary woodsmen have been set to the task of clearing a useable trail along that route. Meanwhile in Bjornaborg, the party’s dwarven engineers have succeeded in clearing the well of volcanic effluvia, rebuilt the wooden stairs, floors, and hoardings of the Dragon’s Tower, and supervised the labor of the other mercenaries in making improvements to the gatehouse (including a proper gate and portcullis). The smith who the Elder Bear purchased as a slave and then freed has produced a suit of plate, a shield, and a spear for one of the dwarven slaves from Sindri’s band, and has been retasked with the design of plate armor suitable for Grendelbear. Their domain’s appointed legate, Thorvarthr the Heretical, has taken up residence with his small band of fantatics in the Temple of Dusk, uncomfortably near to Scarth’s library and study in the Abbot’s Office. When he’s not bothering Scarth about his research, he has been preaching the Evil Word to the garrison. The Norse mercenaries are ambivalent about him, while the Skami detest his heresy and the dwarves have concluded that of all the legates they could’ve gotten, this one is actually sort of alright.

We conclude this session on day 25 of month 5. As we began the game in a late-spring / early summer month (Mayish), this puts us close to late September season-wise, and fall is now in evidence. In another month or two (so 2-4 more wilderness adventures, probably) the party’s newfound love of canoeing will be stymied by frozen creeks, and they may have to take up skiing or dogsledding for their overland travel needs instead.