RPG@QUT Matt's D&D

DM log-- from Malareth death to Farallax fight

This log has a lot to catch up— we had three sessions with Scott and Rachael away, and for my own nefarious reasons, did not want to have the logs by either fraction of the party posted, to make it more fun when the two fractions unite. So, again keeping this short and punchy… forgive the tense changes; I copy from my own notes for parts and they are present tense…

{Note that the party got 850 XP for defeating Malareth, split 6 ways.}

A kobold comes to tell the party that Farallax was awaiting them. After a bit of resistance, they go there, across the chessboard. This results in a misstep by Zepher and a fight with the pieces. Fortunately it ends in checkmate, Zepher having taken the role of King. {This gave the party 500XP, split 4 ways.}

Farallax wants to know if they killed Malareth, and is very very pleased to learn it, roaring with manic relief and how clever he was to use his cunning to steer the adventurers toward him. {Minor quest completed by telling Farallax that Malareth is dead: 100XP, split 5 ways.}

He says, “Surely you want your reward. Oh, speaking of rewards, by the way, didn’t you come here with this one?” He scoots to one side showing figure laid on the floor, covered with frost. It’s apparently nude, but wrapped partially in a dirty sheet. It’s a dwarf: Jorn! Farallax continued, “This little stilted dwarf came zipping through here on a ridiculous glowing disc. He was in such a hurry his beard was in a twist. He asked for some components for his stupid Pelor cult magic. To get rid of him I said take whatever you want.” Farr grins, showing very sharp, frosty teeth. “He quickly gathered up some things from my shelves. One he popped open, sniffed, and stuck his finger into. By the time I realised what it was, it was too late. He had infected himself with Inviolation Ichor, which carried a very potent disease— contagious by contact. It rapidly takes effect unless the subject remains very, very cold. So I did him a great favour and froze him. And you town-dwellers say dragons are not kind.” He chortles deep in his throat. “He’s not dead, or at least I don’t think so. In any case, the healer you need to bring him to—his name is Immil— could raise him from the dead anyway. Would you like to know where you should bring him? Or don’t you care? I could eat him instead.”

When the party did ask for such advice, the dragon continued, “What is it… worth to you for this information? I hate to send any more worshippers to Immil. So how can you make this worth my while?” As the party stammered, Farallax continued, “Ha ha ha! The look on your faces. You so called heroes are so righteous. I was just having you on. And they say dragons have no sense of humour. No, I will give you this advice for free. You have nothing of much value to one as rich as I. I’ll tell you where to find Immil. There is no hurry by the way. As long as your frozen friend is here in my terrifyingly icy presence, he is in no danger. So do whatever you like. Let me know when you want to know more about Immil. Do it before I get too hungry, of course.”

As long as Jorn is here lying on the dragon’s ice, it is not urgent to take him, he says, and they can talk to him a while, or they are welcome to come back anytime. But once taken off the ice, they must go with all speed to the cleric, before Jorn thaws out.

The party took advantage of the dragon’s good mood (as he was playing with Malareth’s head rather like a cat with a new toy) and asked for a few favours. {This was a skill challenge, awarding 125XP, split 4 ways.} They were:

  • They learned that the Red Mirror allows one to see at a distance something happening in real time, and that one of the scrolls Farallax has will cast a ritual to activate it.
  • They got the dragon to promise not eat Jorn while they got the body of the fighter in the pit. This promise seemed necessary, as once in a while Farallax called out to them from his lair, “shall I eat this dwarf then? I’m rather hungry.”
  • Farallax told them all of Jorn’s possessions are frozen away safe: the disease is very dangerous, so he had the kobolds take all the frozen things off his frozen body and put them into his treasure hoard, where he iced it over. They can come back and get his things once Jorn is well, and carefully clean them off. Asked about the Tenser’s, he says naturally it disappeared when Jorn was made unconscious by the freezing.
  • They got permission to play with Sigil Door.

Farallax gave them the promised armor. Later, the party added the Dark Leaf Theren found in the stirge cave to the darkleaf armor. It now thrums with energy, seeming to pull light into it. It now grants +2 stealth when you are in a natural environment amidst leafy foliage. Zepher detected that it seemed hungry for shadow energy, and if it were fed a large source of same, it might become even more powerful and special.

Bastian and Amos work together to go back to the pit trap in which Bastian Gale discovered his fallen companion Askad. They took his hand, still in its gauntlet.

The party hurries with Jorn to find Concorde. Unfortunately Amos and Kat did not do a crash hot job of hiding him {failing a Stealth roll} but with their natural tracking skills {good Nature rolls} they find the horse. They notice that some of the horse’s “medallions” are actually polished bits of bone, and the straps they are on are sutured into him; they can’t be removed without an unknowable amount of damage.

They worked hard to make it to Immil. {They passed Endurance and Nature checks to help this along, plus Arcana to keep the ice cold.} Immil is in a village to the east. It is about an hour through forest, then an overgrown road which leads south for another two hours.

Found Cavendor Town. {As usual I leave it to players to add colour and more info; this is just a sketch of the high points.} They, er, entered a house inhabited by Vaughn, a middle aged human who was hiding from them. He told them to go see Immil.

Found Immil and talked to him, convincing him over time that at least a few of them are of good character. {That is, which ones were of Good alignment. This minor quest and skill challenge awarded 200XP, divided 4 ways.} They told the story of the Twisting Halls truthfully and though Immil was wary of a dragon helping anyone, he accepted Jorn, Bastian, and Stek into the mansion.

In there, Immil examined Jorn while the party tried to look around without looking obvious. Bastian noticed that Immil was not examining Jorn’s finger but rather the back of his neck. Immil said that the Inviolation Ichor had been applied to the back of the neck, not the finger, of Jorn.

Immil said that Jorn needed to stay there for a couple days, and would be weak afterward. He could be picked up then. He blessed the two of them, and gave them healing potions, warning that they would burn the guts if used by any not of good heart… like their companions outside.

Back they went to the Twisting Halls.

They opened the Sigil Door by using the sequence found on the chessboard. After some puzzling, Zepher got the Chain of the Virtuous Minotaur. Clearly an intelligent item. It bid him worship, and he did so, to Pelor. It gives valuable advice, and a +2 to mental skill actions which clearly uphold Pelor’s ideals. {Granted 200XP, split 6 ways for solving this quest to open the door.}

When they went back to Farallax, the dragon’s eyes lit up with blazing greed when looking at Zepher’s new necklace. Fortunately Zepher thought fast and lied {with Bluff natural 20}, saying not that it was from the Halls but that an enemy of his had caught him and forced it on him, and it was cursed: that if removed it would destroy him and itself, and the curse would only be removed by destroying an altar to an evil god. Farallax followed them to the room with the statue to Baphomet and tried to destroy it, but it did not work. Then the dragon noticed the eyes of the statue missing and demanded that everyone look for them. He could tell Bastian was lying about not having one, and slashed the bard severely as punishment.

Farallax wanted Zepher to be within sight as they figured out how to remove the curse and therefore he could get this treasure. He made Zepher sleep in his lair while the rest of the party rested in the nearby altar rooms. {The party took an extended rest.} They woke up on the morning of 24 Patchwall 598 CY.

The party wished to clear out the last room in the Halls and perhaps find another of Bastian’s companions. Farallax deigned to let them go. They went to the last room, joined by a rogue who called herself Alixre {Aurore}, who has recently entered the Halls after noticing the traffic of goblins in and out had dropped off recently and saw this as a chance to pilfer some treasure. In the room was a final redoubt of goblins, including Gorg, the soldier of Moosook who survived the fight back at the village. Leading them was a hobgoblin named Kurrash. {Awarded 600XP, split 6 ways.}

Looting the room they found the body of Sara, another of Bastian’s fallen companions. They took the body, with Gentle Repose cast on it to preserve it.

Though spied on and escorted by kobolds working for him, the party decided not to go back to Farallax, and took a sharp turn left to get to a more defensible spot. They holed up in the room with the tippable brazier, nailing shut the southern door with a Nail of Sealing, disabling the fire-resistance rune, and Zepher hiding behind the brazier. The roars of the dragon came closer as they waited for the final battle.

Meanwhile, Jorn and Theren had arrived from their side trek (see Incensed Idiots & Intimidating Incidents for their account) and, seeing the sigil made by Zepher, hid in the shadows of the entry door. They came to the aid of their friends once combat started.

Farallax called through the door to them: “Are you really sure you want to betray my kindness? After all, I have powerful friends whom I’ve recently done a tremendous favour. If you fight me, and somehow survive, these friends will count you as their enemy. Send Zepher out here with his pretty necklace, and I’ll consider not eating the rest of you. 5… 4… 3… 2… 1!” Then he charged through the door, breaking it and the wall next to it. He breathed icily on the party, the kobolds started throwing javelins, and the battle was on. See other journals for more details.

Lured closer by Zepher, the party could tell Farallax knew about the brazier and the sigil, but pride goaded him onward anyway. He evaded the resulting blast, but the party’s many other attacks were taking their toll.

Then a new force burst into the room: Trabek. He was recognised as a duergar, a kind of dwarf who lives in the Underdark, with pale grey skin, glowing eyes, and light gray spines instead of hair on his head and beard. He has a tattoo on his left cheek which Bastian later recognized as a Torog worshipper’s sign meaning “Traitor”. He had no armor, but a blood-red leather belt and same colour fabric wound around the pommel of a very fine greatsword. With him are two silent, efficient human guards, well armoured in scale mail and longswords.

Trabek says, with mocking politenes, “Farallax! You seem to be in a bind. Are we catching you at a bad time?” Farallax: “Trabek! Aid me in killing these feeble clowns. Not that I need the help, but I want to enjoy my reward.” Trabek: “I think you’re getting your reward right now, dragon. Fresh meat for you. Unless you’ve taken on more than you can handle, have ya?” Farallax: “Gah, I don’t need your help!” Combat resumes.

As the kobolds continue to swarm in, they are quickly dispatched by Trabek’s guards.

After many strong attacks, Zepher again made the brazier blast infernal flame, and this one hit Farallax soundly. His scales melting and burning, he was dead on his feet and just about to fall. Then Trabek says, disgusted: “Time to end this.” He draws his sword, and fine hide armor appears on his body. He heads toward Farallax. As he strides over, Farallax says, “It’s about time you repaid my loyalty, Trabek.” Trabek, with a rising fury that by the end is unsettling: “Loyalty? From a dragon born to your father? You must think I’m as stupid as you are! You’ll get repaid all right!!” And attacks Farallax with great rage, cutting off his head with one blow.

Trabek: “One less scheming, low, bastard of a dragon in the world, eh? Let’s head back to his lair and discuss your reward—it won’t be as violent as the reward I gave to Farallax, ho ho ho!” He walks confidently toward the lair, throwing an arm around Jorn.

Trabek mutters to Jorn aside as they walk, “Where is the skull?” (As Jorn is puzzled, thinking he means the skull of Farallax, or Malareth) “I understand, you have to play the role of the clueless little cleric. No need to say any more here. You know that there is only one place that knows true worth of that skull. When you are ready, bring it to the Tower.”

Trabek, in full command of the lair with his guards, welcomes the party with: “So, ‘heroes’, let’s get to know each other. I can tell you are made from special stone. I should know, I have mined many a gem. Most of them turned out to be turds. Ho ho ho! So tell me about yourselves.”

The party and Trabek conversed. Trabek kept winking knowingly at Jorn, as if wanting to share a joke with him. He seemed impressed by Theren’s ethic of taking what one can, and supported this viewpoint as Theren and Zepher argued about who had what loot. He mostly laughed at the others, finding nearly everything they said privately amusing.

Trabek gave to Amos a note he wrote out saying: Give him the Lucky. He told Amos to bring that to the Arcane Tower in Fallcrest to get a fine scimitar which will change his bad luck.

After a while, Trabek says, “I represent powerful men who like to get to know other powerful men. So tell me about your visit to Immil and how you and Farallax were… connected.” In return the party puts pretty much all their cards on the table. The party remains puzzled as to why Jorn and Theren’s story of what they did after leaving Malareth’s lab is so different from what they saw of Jorn’s frozen body. Trabek seems convinced it must have actually been Jorn, since he knows of no such magic to make a fake body, especially in a way that would have fooled Immil. Mostly Trabek continues to be amused at the story they are all telling. He continued: “I have a question, then. I’m only going to present this question because if you leave here and wander to the south you’ll surely hear this yourselves, and within a few days word will have carried to Fallcrest. So I’ll be the first to ask you. Why do you think the residents of Cavendor Town are calling for revenge? Why do they say that you lot, appearing as upstanding heroes—that is, they say, at least a few of you seemed upstanding—tricked their mighty benefactor Immil? Why do you think they are now spreading the news that THIS dwarf (pointing to Jorn) infiltrated Immil’s house with your help, then attacked the old man, slitting his throat to leave him gasping on the floor of his sanctum, that no enemy has ever been able to penetrate? Immil lies dead in Cavendor Town, the white hair of his aged wisdom caked with his own stinking, cold blood. Tragic! Outrageous! Though Immil was suspected—hated—by many, and many of his enemies say they have proof of his corruption—many also loved him and hoped he would someday return to glory. But no, he has supposedly been cut down by THIS dwarven assassin. Surely only the most cunning agents of our age could get past such defenses. But there you have it. The rumors are swirling now, and swimming up the Nentir river to flood the entire Vale. This is a very interesting story, isn’t it?”

The party was naturally puzzled by this. Though neither they or Trabek know of a magic that can make a convincing facsimile of a body, at least not magic of a power that Farallax could possibly use it, the party has concluded that Jorn and Theren really did take their fantastic side adventure as recounted in Theren’s log, and that Jorn and Theren really do sincerely believe that’s what they were doing. So they suspect an impostor of some sort, but how this could be, remains a mystery. A trip to Cavendor Town may reveal more.

Trabek concluded: “This is obviously a terrible misunderstanding. The poor people of Cavendor Town have undergone such misery, I am sure they have quite lost their reason. I can tell that you are a quite… diverse party of ‘adventurers’, and rising fast in the world (winking at Jorn). I must say that you are in some danger as this rumor spreads. I’m sure we have much more to talk about in more civilised quarters. Come to Fallcrest. Go to the Arcane Tower there and give this card to the guards. (He gives an ornate calling card with red inked runes.) You are invited to enter a circle of power that few enter even after a lifetime of aspiration. I trust you are cunning enough to know how to seize this opportunity.”

The party then plies Trabek for a few favours. The man is impatient, though, saying, “This is an area of great importance to those whom I serve. Though I appreciate your part in getting rid of the dragon, this domain is no longer yours. I have a few minutes to talk, and then I must get to work.” {This becomes a skill challenge. Each success gets one bit of information or a bit of loot that Trabek is willing to part with.}

The contents of the lair include:

  • Barrels oozing blood.
    • Bastian convinces Trabek to give them up, indicating they must contain his dead friends that he had to bury. Trabek nearly falls over laughing. Once the barrels are rolled out, the frost comes off, allowing them to read the writing on them: “Vlekstaad Elk”. In it is, indeed, a lot of yummy raw elk carcasses. Good dragon food.
  • Teleportation circle.
  • 3 portal scrolls that open up to Keep on Chaos Scar.
    • Trabek says these are off limits, that those and the circle were the whole reason he is here.
  • 5 scrolls with the ritual that activates the Red Mirror to view the woman in the mirror.
    • Trabek was not willing to part with these, but offered to use one so they could take a closer look. They saw the woman again, this time seeing her face, and this time she had company: a human male with leather armor and daggers. He was conducting a cruel initiation, teaching her not to grab for the bowl of hot soup placed before her shivering body. He called her Lilliana. When they look over, they see Trabek is visibly upset and shaking with rage.
    • Also by looking at the reflection in the mirror, the mirror was pointing at a section of the icy wall of interest: a scratched message in the ice in Common. The underlying layer of it is frosted over and impossible to read. The topmost layer says: “Because I have stunning powers of manipulation. You forget who you are dealing with. I compelled Jorn to infiltrate Immil’s house in CT, pretending to need help with ichor. Jorn’s party took him, but I’m not sure yet if they are just dupes or on the right side of history. Jorn will kill Immil and take the skull. Check for yourself. Then reward me. It’s time for me to move up.”
  • A gem worth 100gp.
  • The moonstone.
  • A sack with 400 gold.
    • They get this by using streetwise logic, convincing Trabek that, like he said, good things go to those who seize them, so they deserve the dragon loot. The sack has 400 gold, and on the sack is the sigil of Morgana.
  • Frozen under the ice, many coins gleaming with splendour.
  • Gnawed bones from many goblins and adventurers, which can be researched.
  • Several books.
  • Various reagents.
  • 2 Sending scrolls.

They also convinced Trabek, with knowledge of dragon history, to learn more about Farallax and his family. Trabek said that Farallax is the younger brother of Szartharax, both the children of Axvol. All of them are, Trabek says, famous double dealers, always pretending to work for one side while secretly aiding the opposite side in a conflict, and the other way around as well. Farallax was doing things which were of an advantage to the powerful men Trabek works for, but the suspicion that the dragon was actually dealing with the other side were suspected. Trabek says that he decided the party was a better investment than Farallax was, and he trusts them to recognize the opportunity and come to the Arcane Tower to learn more.

The party left, wanting more, but knowing that Trabek’s patience was at an end, and he was far too powerful a foe (as Zepher had discovered with a sporting exchange of blows).

Options for the next adventure

{Here is a summary of the hooks you have come across so far which you could pursue next. Let me know on Facebook which one you decide upon so I can prepare it.}

  • Figure out how to go to the fortified portal destination first seen by scrutinising the teleportation circle in Farallax‘s lair. This presumably leads to the Keep on the Chaos Scar. Going through portals is usually a one-way trip and it’s not clear how to get past the fortification there. {This ties into the pursuit of Morgana, will lead to a far-away land with questionable means of return, and feeds into Bastian’s revenge scenario.} Also not clear how to convince Trabek to let you through…
  • Rush to Harkenwold to see what Fenstrom means by his threat to try out the newly acquired shard on Ercullum. In any case, if Ercullum is still there, he could be taken to Fallcrest to raise him. {This keeps you on the trail of Big Bad Fenstrom.}
  • Skip Harkenwold, and figure out where Daggerburg Keep is, going straight there. {This keeps you on the trail of Big Bad Fenstrom.}
  • The freezing woman seen in the Red Mirror was in obvious distress and danger of a sinister nature. Research, perhaps including going to the Arcane Tower, could tell you more. {This would introduce you to an especially dark and disturbing subculture, with as much intrigue as combat, with a good dose of gothic horror.}
  • A trip to Fallcrest would certainly turn up adventure. You could just cast about for odd jobs or pursue the following which may lead to new discoveries. {These might lead you to short jobs of a well-paying nature that get you acquainted with Fallcrest.}
    • See if anyone recognises the Twisting Halls rug {This might turn up a new little story.}
    • Investigate the Pelor medallion liberated by Theren and united with Jorn’s implement {This would get into some religious themes.}
    • Return to The Basement from where Jorn hails {This would be full of fun colour}
    • Go to the Arcane Tower to follow up on the connections to “powerful men” who Trabek referred to {This would involve intrigue, politics, and diplomacy}
  • You could find out more about the Dark Leaf and its associated armor, as well as the idenity of Bony. {This would make the armor considerably more useful and interesting.}
  • You could return to Vilma’s Cellar to plumb the putative trap-filled depths there. {This would be heavy on traps and treasure.}
  • You could try to find Fool’s Grove, following the map found in Vilma’s hut. {This would be a minor, quirky adventure with strong nature themes and a dose of silliness.}
  • Try to find the Blanche-Nef ship that Theren and Jorn rode from the treetops. {This would likely have nautical and ghostly themes.}
  • Go to Cavendor Town to figure out what really happened with the death of Immil and the skull that Trabek thinks Jorn got as a result of killing Immil. {This would be an investigative mystery puzzle.}

{If all that is not enough variety, I’m also open for suggestions! Start figuring this out in the comment stream underneath the Facebook post that points to this log, and let me know when you agree which way you will go. Have fun!}

First Impressions

For Mikal, the fledgeling priest
Askad with scales of blue
Sara full of charming guile
And Gethur whose blade was true

Here a humble testament
A last fond memory
What happened once, never again
The legend was not to be

Struck down in dank and twisting halls
Never more to see the sun
Faced with overwhelming odds
Yet not one tried to run

Thus here is to your bravery
Your courage, and your heart
I wish you glory in the beyond
Now that we must part

The world lost four vibrant souls today. Who knows, if not for the events of today, what they may have become? What would they have been capable of, had they been allowed to realise their full potential? But alas, it was not to be, their earthly bodies beset by goblins when we had hardly taken a step into that dank ruin. What twist of fate was it that spared me, when my companions bled and died upon goblin spears? It is oft a pitter potion, to outlive one’s friends, and yet I am not ungrateful. There are deaths that go unavenged, and I will not accept death until Karj bleeds for the lives he has destroyed!

I know not for how long after we were set upon I remained unconscious. I awoke to a great smothering weight upon me, but it was not merely that which hampered my breathing. The stench, by Sehanine! I had been tumbled into a pile of corpses. Through slitted eyes I spied a blood-spattered human stitching bodies together, surrounded by skeletons and a large goblin. No matter how quick I thought, however, I could not imagine a way to escape.

It was at that moment when the door burst open with a crash! Never had I been so relieved to see a stranger’s face, and that of kin, no less! Four adventurers rushed in to do battle with the undead, thus I eagerly joined the fray. Perhaps too eagerly, it is to be said. So used was I to manoeuvres with ’Bastian and the guard I attempted to command them without thinking. The swordsman rushed in to strike, but alas even with my guidance his strikes were largely ineffectual.

It was then that the human’s grisly work bore fruit, for a writhing abomination abomination heaved itself off the slab and joined battle. Such was its massive strength that I was near killed with a single blow. No matter what onslaught we threw at it, it arose time and time again to wreak havoc upon us. Of course, the necromancer himself contributed to that with dark magic he called from a mystical orb.

Then, in the midst of the battle, another appeared, leaping from the shadows to spit steel at every foe! This crossbowman had immense skill, sorely wounding one foe after another. I feel that he bears watching, for I should not like to face such a formiddable foe. Moreover, I get the impression that he has some quarrel with me, though I know not why. I had only just met him, and could have done nothing to arouse his enmity but exist. He did not accept healing from me, but I understand mistrust of a stranger. Or, perhaps I have not thought this through. Though I hesitate to call such creatures by such a name, my ‘kin’ in Fallcrest were arrogant in the extreme. I shall have to investigate further.

In due course, the swordsman fell dazed to the floor, but the battle was soon concluded with the undead destroyed and the necromancer slain by crossbowman’s hand.

Before continuing, I feel I should record my thoughts on the group of adventurers who (even inadvertently) came to my rescue.

The Swordsman: This human looked dangerous at first, with his two scimitars, and was eager enough to fight. Perhaps I mistook his ability, however.

The Crossbowman: I think I have made my thoughts clear on this one. I shall have to find out what quarrel he has with me if I hope to be welcomed here.

Sister-elf: This one, at least, has welcomed me. A competent combatant, as well as being just and kind. She healed the crossbowman, and moreover has knowledge of the Chaos Scar, which I will need if I am ever to find Karj. I think she is the only one to notice my… skin… I should have hid it better, but in the heat of battle such worries are far from the mind. Let her not ask, for even thinking about it brings all-too-painful memories to the fore. A detailed interrogation must surely be more than I could bear.

The Mage: I feel an affinity for this mage. For one, he is kin, and his magical heritage is plain to see. I feel that he has also lost loved-ones to goblins, and yet in spite of this he prolonged his vengeance in aid of my own. Perhaps I have found one who may in time help me in my own quest? Yet I must be wary to trusting again so quickly and so soon. No blade cuts as deep as that of one thought of as a friend.

And finally we come to the dwarf. This one seemed atypical of its kind, standing tall on strange portable pedestals. Nevertheless, who can tell what cruel smile is hidden by its beard? And its magic! I could feel it crawling over me and as it washed the room the tang of blood filled my nostrils and ’Bastian’s screams rang in my ears once again. I managed to resist the dwarf’s magic, but it seemed all too eager to practice upon everything in sight, even going so far as to run from the party when denied the goblin.

But I am getting ahead of myself. During the battle the necromancer instructed the goblin to protect ‘the source’, a crystal in an alcove at the back of the room that was quickly sealed with a magical barrier. I had my suspicions, could it have been the chaos shard that Morgana sought? After the battle my hunch was confirmed, but by that time another wizard had already stolen it. I will admit, I am confused by all this interplay. I must really ask someone to fill the blanks in my knowledge.

The shard was stolen, but it had already sucked near all the life out of the goblin. I saw Zepher (for that is how he has since introduced himself) pass through the barrier, where the others could not. He seemed intent on ending the miserable creature’s life, but allowed me to interrogate it first, commendably holding his rage in check. I tried to threaten the beast, but it knew… Godess, somehow it knew I was not- not strong enough… to…
It seems, seems I am still… broken.

But where my strength failed, Zepher’s carried the day. My meager witchery staved off death for the goblin, long enough that Zepher’s rage cowed it, long enough to question it. At the last, when I had all I needed, I relinquished it to whom had done me such a great aid. Better a quick death than being given over to a dwarf. That is all the mercy I am capable of for one such as him. But for a difference of geography, it may have been his boots that tread upon the tumbled stones of Rökholm, his hand that fired the keep, his sword that spilled the blood of my father.

Karj is out of my reach. I fear were I to travel alone to the Chaos Scar I would not survive. It galls me to say it, but my vengeance must be stayed. For now.

Father… ’Bastian… please have patience.

Here’s the encounter from Bastian’s point of view. (Using the name ‘Bastian is intentional, and is distinct from Bastian himself.) Sorry about that (it should make sense in time) and any inaccuracies or sloppy work in this one. I’ll be more meticulous next time and hopefully will get better. — Skewed.

DM log-- fighting Malareth

As always, this is a bare-bones log. Theren’s far more colourful description of this session is here. And of course I’ve updated several wiki pages, nearly all of it in the “DM only” section you can’t see, muhuahaha! But edit those pages yourselves to put in all the info I am deliberately neglecting to insert.

At the end of this log I will have a list of things to consider for your next adventure; use comments under the Facebook post of this log to decide as a group which way to go so I can prepare.

As we left off in the last log, Malareth had just ordered Moosook back to “the source” and cut the straps holding down what quickly was revealed to be a hulking zombie made of stitched-together dead goblins. When Moosook made it back into the alcove, he activated a sigil carved into the wall, creating a wall of force that closed him in. The dim blue glow revealed that the alcove contained a chunk of rock on a broken-off pedastal, and embedded in the rock, a blue crystal which soon began to glow. Intestines led from the rock to the table where the zombie was being made, giving it unlife and circulating a purple-black ichor. None in the party recognised what it was until later, when Kat heard Moosook mention the Chaos Scar. This crystal was known as a chaos shard, and a source of malevolent power. {Details may be remembered and recorded by the players.} Dark tendrils attached themselves to Moosook and he started to panic as it drained his life. He could not escape the alcove. He called: “Malareth! It’s hurting me!” Malareth replied: “Shut up, you goon, and guard the source!”

When the fight broke out the party met Bastian Gale, who apparently had been feigning death and waiting for his chance to escape. He popped out from a pile of bodies in the corner and joined the fight. Because he was an eladrin, a race generally distrusted and despised in the Nentir Vale due to their association with the very rich and corrupt elite of Fallcrest, the party was none too keen to accept him on faith. Bastian showed a strong aversion and fear toward Jorn, and resisted Jorn’s healing magic, furthering the party’s hesitation. As Bastian cast his spells, Kat suddenly gasped in recognition. Something about his accent made her look more closely at his arms, and she saw there a symbol of Torog. She recoiled in horror, though she had no time to tell the party of her concern. But later, she realised that the symbol was not a tattoo of proud declaration but a scar from torture, carved into Bastian by a minister of Torog’s torture rituals, and her heart filled with pity. Bastian has so far revealed little, but he seems more authentically an enemy of Torog than an adherent.

After a few rounds of battle, the party saw a very odd thing: a thin figure, like a person’s image painted onto a sheet of parchment, slipping through the cracks in the temple wall and allowing access to the alcove behind the field of force. It was Fenstrom! Malareth saw him and said: “Fenstrom! So this is your doing!” Fenstrom replied: “I’m taking an opportunity, Mal—just as you saw fit to tempt my goblins to betray me. Maybe with this shard, I can become as influential as your great self.” Fenstrom grabbed the chaos shard and its dire effects magnified, further withering both Fenstrom and Moosook. Malareth ordered Moosook to stop the theft, but Moosook, near death, kept calling out: “Malareth, let me out of here, it’s killing me! Or Fenstrom, take it away from me, I don’t care which!” Fenstrom cruelly told Moosook: “You chose your side in this battle, Moosook, and you will die a traitor to me.” Soon, with some arcane movements, Fenstrom stopped the ill effects of the shard, but it was too late for Moosook, who fell to the floor as withered as an old corpse. Then, just as the battle was near its end, Fenstrom started to make ihis escape, again turning thin as he squeezed into the cracks in the wall. He crowed to the party: “I know just the person to try this on first: that dumb cleric in your dumb little Harkenwold. Zepher, I hope you ditch these losers and join me—your father would be grateful, heh heh heh. Have fun!” And with that, he and the shard were gone.

Soon Malareth and his minions were all still and scattered across the floor in pieces. Moosook was rapidly dying. Zepher was first to find the amulet around Malareth’s neck that allowed passage through the field, and did so, leaving the rest of his party on the outside. With rage he tried to deliver a coup de grace to Moosook, but did not penetrate the hobgoblin’s bony sternum. The others tried to enter, but only Bastian could convince Zepher, being intent on asking Malareth questions before he died, but not to save him. He did enough to prolong Bastian’s life for a few questions.

In this way Moosook told the party more about Morgana, saying she came to the Twisting Halls to seek the chaos shard, but her madness and paranoia soon sowed disunity in her band of mercenaries, and all but she and her most loyal bodyguard, Karj, survived against the goblins and Malareth’s guards. Moosook said that having given up on her goal here, she must have gone next to the Chaos Scar, a place well recognised by Kat, who pieced together that this is where the portal in Farallax’s lair probably led. Moosook also revealed that Malareth was paying him and other goblin leaders very handsomely for bringing goblin bodies here so Malareth could stitch them into the hulking zombie that was the core of his coming attack against Farallax. This seemed to explain the contents of Malareth’s chest, which contained hundreds of gold pieces, some of which had been carefully counted out into slots in a counting board, like those used by merchants to track their debts. The slots were adorned with bits of parchment on which were various goblinoid names. By this point, Moosook was near expiry, the creeping necrosis having done too much damage to recover, and Bastian coldly said he was done with this one, and no longer tried to keep him alive. Zepher raised his dagger for the final blow, but then relented, pricked by his conscience and the memory of his mother and father, and the Pelor they worshipped. He instead screamed in rage and threw the dagger down. With his last breaths Moosook told Zepher, “Zepher, you think me evil for doing what is best for my clan. Truly, my people and your people cannot coexist. Maglubiyet promises that we are destined to wipe your weak, so-called civilised races from the face of this world. Call that evil if you wish. But what Fenstrom intends to do with that crystal—that is what I call evil. Do not trust him…” And with that, Moosook breathed his last.

Meanwhile, after fruitlessly demanding that Zepher spare Moosook, Jorn had a fit of pique. He grabbed the Orb of Imposition {+1} that Malareth had been using and zipped away with it on his Tenser’s. Soon Theren followed, to make sure Jorn could not steal this valuable item. {Scott and Rachael will be away for a couple sessions, so they are on a side adventure for a while. Have a good trip!}

Options for the next adventure

{Here is a summary of the hooks you have come across so far which you could pursue next. Let me know on Facebook which one you decide upon so I can prepare it. By default, I will assume you will mop up the rest of the Twisting Halls next, but that won’t take long, so start deciding what comes after that.}

  • Mop up Twisting Halls. {This would be just some minor encounters to tie up loose ends.} This includes:
    • Going to Farallax to present the head of Malareth, call him on his promise to hand over the armor associated with the Dark Leaf, and see what else is revealed by talking to him post-Malareth.
    • Exploring rooms not yet seen, cleansing out the plague of goblins and finding treasure.
    • Figuring out what to do with the Sigil Door.
  • Go to the fortified portal destination first seen by scrutinising the teleportation circle in Farallax‘s lair. This presumably leads to the Keep on the Chaos Scar. Going through portals is usually a one-way trip and it’s not clear how to get past the fortification there. {This ties into the pursuit of Morgana, will lead to a far-away land with questionable means of return, and feeds into Bastian’s revenge scenario.}
  • Rush to Harkenwold to see what Fenstrom means by his threat to try out the newly acquired shard on Ercullum. In any case, if Ercullum is still there, he could be taken to Fallcrest to raise him. {This keeps you on the trail of Big Bad Fenstrom.}
  • Skip Harkenwold, and figure out where Daggerburg Keep is, going straight there in anticipation of beating Fenstrom there, Fenstrom being delayed by a side trip to Harkenwold. {This keeps you on the trail of Big Bad Fenstrom.}
  • The freezing woman seen in the Red Mirror was in obvious distress and danger of a sinister nature. Research, perhaps including conversation with Farallax and closer examination of the mirror, may reveal how to rescue her. {This would introduce you to an especially dark and disturbing subculture, with as much intrigue as combat, with a good dose of gothic horror.}
  • A trip to Fallcrest would certainly turn up adventure. You could just cast about for odd jobs or pursue the following which may lead to new discoveries. {These might lead you to short jobs of a well-paying nature that get you acquainted with Fallcrest.}
  • You could find out more about the Dark Leaf and its associated armor, as well as the idenity of Bony. {This would make the armor considerably more useful and interesting.}
  • You could return to Vilma’s Cellar to plumb the putative trap-filled depths there. {This would be heavy on traps and treasure.}
  • You could try to find Fool’s Grove, following the map found in Vilma’s hut. {This would be a minor, quirky adventure with strong nature themes and a dose of silliness.}

{If all that is not enough variety, I’m also open for suggestions! Start figuring this out in the comment stream underneath the Facebook post that points to this log, and let me know when you agree which way you will go. Have fun!}

Harming the Helpless
Theren's Log

This is a long entry, as there has been a great deal of action, adventure, and drama. I hope you will bear with me!

We entered Malareth’s lair. The first thing I noticed was the smell – an foetid, cloying stench that filled the nostrils and left me wishing I could immediately expel everything I had just breathed in. When I was hit by the sight in the laboratory itself (for that is what it was) the smell only seemed that much worse. I identified a number of dismembered bodies, along with a pile of decaying off-casts that had been thrown into a nearby corner. In the middle was a workbench, where Malareth stood, his arms planted firmly on the table, and his shoulders hunched with a kind of irritated impatience. His hair was long, dark and oily, and hung limply over his shoulders. In the left side of his head he had a shiny metal plate. His eyes were sunken, and brooding – cast into shadow so that his face seemed lopsided and empty. His clothes were simple – some sort of one piece garment used by butchers I think. It was covered in gore and grime, and Malareth seemed to care little about the state he was in.

On the bench in front of him was a huge pile of dead goblin bodies. I knew as soon as I saw them that Malareth’s reputation as one who dabbles in necromancy was well deserved. The living skeletons that stood around the table might have also been a good indication… but all I am saying is that I would have been able to tell even without them, because of my great intuition. On top of the pile was Moosook! He was wrestling with one of the bodies. Malareth seemed eminently unimpressed with Moosook’s performance, shouting in a shrill voice for the hobgoblin to pin down the corpse. It was only then that I realised the body was moving of its own volition. When our party had finally gathered, Malareth had already finished stitching on the body. He seemed not to be overly threatened by our group – a mistake he would not live to regret.

Malareth ordered Moosook to protect ‘The Source’ and indicated it would be worth stealing. Before Moosook had a chance to do his master’s bidding, I stepped forward and shot Moosook in the chest. The bolt found a gap in his armour and it struck home solidly. Spurts of blood sprayed across the already bloodied table. I would have taken the time to savour the moment – how far I have come since the first time I shot Moosook – but my examination and introspection was rudely interrupted.

Almost before I had an opportunity to even take in whether I had struck Moosook, a hand holding a lute burst forth from a pile of refuse body parts. For a moment I thought that another undead was joining the fight, and I was about to curse my luck, when a cowled being stepped forward. They may have smelled like rotting flesh, but who wouldn’t when keeping the close company of decaying body parts? Initially, his cowl was somewhat askew, and I got a reasonable look – enough to judge the person a ‘him’ and an eladrin at that.

I was shocked to say the least. My only encounter with an eladrin was when I was quite young. I recall it vividly to this day. She too was a bard of sorts, and carried a set of pan-pipes. I was young, and naive, and I thought I had found a kindred spirit – another elf. I was quickly put back in my place. I merely tried to approach the eladrin and that was enough for her to give off a torrent of abuse such that my young ears were set to ringing for the rest of the day. She hurt me deeply with her scorn and barbed insults, and I shall not quickly forget my encounter. To make matters worse it was in the centre of town, and I was unable to show my face there for several months. I have since learned that the eladrin are arrogant, distant, and proud, and that it is best to stay away from them because they have their own inscrutable motivations.

I was immediately distrustful of this new person, and did not want to talk to him. I feel as though I cannot mention my elf-hood around him because I doubt he would understand or approve, and I don’t want to be assaulted like I was in my youth. I must protect my innermost nature from this eladrin. Thankfully I do not think he saw my fright surprise. He hurried into battle, attacking one of the skeletons and calling out ‘Adventurers STRIKE HERE’ as though he were the leader of our party. Surely this eladrin was cast in the same mould as the rest of his brethren.

As the fight continued, we all proved our mettle. The new eladrin had a tongue as sharp as I believed it would be – abusing the enemies so thoroughly that they were tripping over themselves in an effort to get away, leaving themselves open to all kinds of attacks. Amos was a flurry of blades, leaping fearlessly into battle, while Zephyr cast spells from afar, blasting the foe with his magic. Even Yawn was doing his part, striking the enemy down with shafts of light. Before we could really get into the swing of things, however, there was a surge of life. The pile of corpses on Malareth’s table squirmed and shuddered grotesquely. For a moment I wondered if we were to be joined by a second eladrin, but it wasn’t to be.

A hulking monster made of patched together bodies of goblins rose unsteadily from the slab. It was huge – twice the size of an elf at the least. With its long reach, the zombie struck out at anyone close enough to hit. Malareth also joined in the fray, throwing dark magic at us that sucked away at our life, and strengthened our foes. For a moment things looked dire, so I decided to pull out the stops. I had realised the fight may be difficult but I hadn’t bargained on calling up my full elven strength. With a flip and a tumble I landed directly in the centre of our foes, laying about with my crossbow. They hardly even knew what hit them – leaving them reeling and blinded by gouts of their own blood. I quickly slipped away again while they were still flailing about, and could only hope that this might somehow turn the tide.

Feeling pumped up by my success, our group renewed our attacks. I dived for cover, sweeping a pot of something I thought was water off a table so that I might use it for cover. It smashed on the ground and I had myself another case of the stinky pot, but I don’t want to go into it in too much detail. Let’s just say I paid dearly for my cover, and I will be seeking something to plug my nose in future battles if this trend continues. In any case, I had a good view of everything going on. I saw Yawn blasting back the undead, and Zephyr being flown out of direct battle on that stupid floating disk. He didn’t look happy. I also saw that when Yawn began to heal people, the eladrin stranger paled with fear. His unease was obvious to all (except perhaps to Yawn who seemed to take no notice of the fellow’s discomfit).

I don’t like this fellow trying to dissuade Yawn from healing with his glares – healing is a good and necessary thing. I mean… this eladrin hasn’t even seen the potential irritation Yawn can cause yet, he has no right to look at our dwarf that way! Luckily Yawn was as blithely clueless as he always is, and continued healing never-the-less. At one point Yawn came near to heal me, and the eladrin butted in again with his own offer of help. I had to decline, for I know not his powers, and nor has he earned my trust. I think this he took as a slight, but I find it more offensive that he thinks me such a simpleton as to trust any stranger who pops up in the middle of a pile of rotting corpses. It was at that point that Amos accepted the offer of healing.

In the midst of battle Moosook made his way to the alcove in the back of the room. He must have been playing around with something in there, for with a shimmer an unearthly barrier was erected, effectively sealing the hapless hobgoblin in. A crystal embedded in a stone began to glow blue – such a blueness that I could hardly bear to look at it without getting a throbbing headache. Oily black tendrils of power slid from the rock, slowly but surely latching onto Moosook like so many leeches. He screamed in terror and I could not help but pity him. Privately I hoped that we might save him if we ended Malareth.

From out of nowhere it seemed came Fenstrom. He oozed into the closed off alcove – through cracks that (presumably) he had created, snatching the crystal up. I was so surprised that I almost failed to note the conversation he had with Malareth. It sounded as though Fenstrom was in the midst of winning the latest victory in a long-standing and bitter rivalry. He had words for our group as well, taunting Zephyr about his father, and promising to test the crystal’s power on Ercullum. I fear now for the cleric’s safety, even as I realise that this means I must face the power of the crystal a second time in the name of protecting my lands and people.

Fenstrom left, taking the crystal with him while we were busily engaged in battle. The black tendrils left Moosook, but it was clear that we were too late. He looked fragile, and on the verge of death, as though one puff of wind would be enough to bring about his demise. I mourned my inability to do anything to save Moosook, even though he was a villain, he was certainly played for a fool and forced into a position where any fool would do. In this drama, he was a lesser evil that was swept up in the tides of events, and little deserved what fate had befallen him.

I bent my will to the task of finishing the battle. Ignoring the skirmishes going on around me – the eladrin battling the zombie monster, Amos being knocked out by Malareth and his henchmen, Kat looking startled about something, Zephyr trying to send the enemies to sleep – I shot the wicked Malareth, aiming to kill the necromancer. He had erected an aura of evil around him that seemed to sap the strength of my party, and I was one of the only fighters capable of sending a ranged attack at him from outside the malevolent influence.

In the end it was everyone who brought the battle to a close. Malareth went down, and so did the zombie. I hurried over to Malareth and began to cut his head off. I wanted the grisly business done with. So eager was I that I hardly even noticed as the zombie began to rise again. What we had thought was dead, was yet undead. Luckily it didn’t take too much finishing.

Unfortunately killing Malareth did not extinguish the barrier. Looking in I could see that Moosook was weak. His withered, skeletal frame was curled up pathetically in a corner of the alcove, almost as though he’d been dead for a month or more. His hair was fragile and grey, and his skin was dry and drawn tightly over his bones. Each breath seemed to cost him dearly, rattling in his throat. I could tell that Yawn was just itching to heal the hobgoblin, and I could see that Zephyr was equally determined to kill Moosook himself. Although I dislike Moosook and all of his evil kind, I felt sorry for him. He was a proud warrior, and being forced into submission through magic that cannot be fought off does not seem a fitting end. He had no chance to make a stand or defend himself – truly his death was Malareth’s doing.

I found Zephyr’s continued blood lust distasteful. To kill someone who has already been brought so low; to take pleasure in killing something near dead and too weak to pose a threat, was to pick over the corpse of victory like a vulture. At the same time, Yawn’s desire to heal the hobgoblin was misguided. Moosook freely admits that it was his fault that he was in such a mess, and healing the hobgoblin would only cause friction within our group. Unable to decide who to side with, I turned my mind to looting and let events play out as they would.

Zephyr, being of a wizardly bent, quickly won his way through the forcefield, leaving the dwarven cleric Yawn on the outside. Yawn was beating at the force field, shouting that he would never heal Zephyr again, and Zephyr was stabbing Moosook enthusiastically, if inexpertly, in the chest. While I was still searching for loot, the bard decided that he also wanted a piece of Moosook. He was screaming something or other about needing to question Moosook. To be honest, I think Zephyr saw in him the same spark of insanity or rage that he shared, and so he pulled the bard in with him to torment the hobgoblin before he died properly. I had heard from Kat that the bard was a torture victim, and I thought he would find such activities unseemly, but perhaps not. He freely boasted that he would torture Moosook if he was not answered. I think it was a lie – I hope it was a lie.

Seeing that Yawn was standing on a large treasure chest, making life difficult yet again, I asked him to go and fetch something. Something trivial. It happened to be that orb I had seen Zephyr eyeing off. Well if I had been thinking clearly at the time I would never have done such a thing, but what is done is done. Yawn was so angry at Zephyr that he snatched up the orb and left the room, shouting back over his shoulder,
“Know that your actions have consequences!” As soon as I had gathered my treasure senses I rushed out, but Yawn was long gone – boy he can fetch up a turn of speed on those stilts, I tell you. Leaving the dwarf for a moment I went back to the room to see the drama play out.

That bard was almost as demented as Zephyr in his questioning of Moosook. I don’t know what he expected to get out of the poor creature – that dwarf body we passed in the other room looked quite fresh, but Moosook didn’t have such a head start on our adventuring party that he could know too much more than us about the mysterious Morgana. We learned that she had betrayed her dwarven group and left them for dead. She was last seen heading to the Chaos Scar – which Kat tells us is an evil place. It is a crater where an ancient deep space object crashed, breaking into chaos shards. These shards are said to spread madness and paranoia – and then we realised that the very thing Malareth had been keeping in the alcove was a chaos shard. He had called it ‘the source’ and Kat confirmed that these shards can be a source of great, and terrible power. Kat also posed the theory that the portal in Farallax’s den would lead to a room deep in the keep on the Chaos Scar.

Eventually, getting little from Moosook to make him pleased (in deed he discovered unpleasant news that one of his enemies (presumably) was alive and with Morgana), the bard quit his questioning, and said to Zephyr ‘I am finished with this one ’. His contempt for Moosook, who had given him information with his dying breath, was not commendable. Zephyr took out his dagger once again, and stood poised to kill Moosook. I watched in with no small amount of horror. Surely if he committed himself to this craven, despicable deed, then he was not the person I believed him to be. It would be the final damning proof for me that we could not trust him to reject Fenstrom’s promised offer of employment, and that his dark blood lust outweighed his honour, and human compassion.

With the frustrated shout of a man torn, Zephyr bulked at the last moment. He turned his back on vengeance and allowed Moosook what little dignity and grace the hobgoblin had left to him. I admit that I was relieved. I feel that my estimation of Zephyr’s character is correct. He may be seeking revenge – and indeed revenge for just reasons, which only serves to show his good nature – but he is able to realise the difference between taking his rightful revenge, and committing an evil deed in the name of revenge. I am proud of him, and today I think he has shown that he is both trustworthy, and deserving of the title ‘elf’. I am no longer in doubt that when it comes to the moment of truth, Zephyr will reject Fenstrom and his evil offer. Moosook was also impressed in some way. He offered Zephyr a word of advice – not to trust Fenstrom – hinting that although Fenstrom’s offer was bound to be enticing, the wizard should not let the offer sway him.

I feel that I must go to Yawn, and take the news of what has occurred with me. It is not that I worry about the dwarf, or that I do not want him to leave our party, it is just that I don’t trust him, and that powerful orb would do better in Zephyr’s hands than anywhere else. I left strict instructions with Zephyr to take the lead of our group, recalling how well he did at leading when we had been drugged by Vilma‘s tea, and gave him Malareth’s head to bargain for that armour. Damn Yawn and his terrible timing, I wanted to take that armour for myself! It was hard to part with my dark leaf. I have kept it for so long in the hopes that one day I would find out more about Bony… and now that I am that much closer I find the opportunity snatched away. I wish I had questioned Farallax about Boney when I had the chance, but now it seems I will have to wait, perhaps a very long time indeed. I hope Zephyr keeps my armour safe until Yawn and I return. I hope he remembers to get that second moonstone! I hope the party will be safe without me there to guard them!

A Gaggle of Goons and Galling Goading
Theren's Log

As always Theren is talking out of his posterior. Read Matt’s post, DM log— a surrendered guard, a pile of dead goblins for a thrillingly unbiased account of events, along with a handy explanation of in-battle skill challenges.

Theren’s Notes: The next room seemed to have a miasma of evil about it. The ill will towards our group was palpable in its severity. Some might say that the forbidding appearance of the room, with its dim, guttering torches, and deep shadows merely had me unnerved, but in truth I have a sort of sixth sense for evil, although I know not all folk are so sensitive. Four brawny looking guards stood about the room. They seemed a base sort; the kind of man who would cut your throat and take your treasure as soon as look at you. Beside those, there were two statues. One was a Minotaur rendered in Baphomet’s likeness, complete with swooping, devilish horns, and a slavering maw filled with teeth like glass shards. The other was a female Minotaur, no less evil in appearance, but certainly more cunning and equally cold-hearted.

Our group, however, had no time to look at the architecture, as we were set upon by the four men. I suppose I could have snapped them like twigs, but I do not want to make my team feel bad by showing them all up, so I allowed them to fight, and tried to fake ineptitude. It was difficult for me to do this, as I am naturally such a talented fellow, but luckily I am also an excellent actor. For the most part I contented myself with guarding the party’s back so that we could not be ambushed from behind.

The guards seemed quite skilled in battle, and they had one or two tactics that worked well for them. Not only that, but it seemed whenever one of us got close to the devilish statue of the Minotaur, we became quite ill, and dizzy. At one point during the battle, Zephyr laid down some powerful magic, coating the paved stones around the feet of the Minotaur statue with a vicious frost that crept into the very bones of our enemies, freezing them from inside. I am ever glad that Zephyr is on our side, although thinking back on what Fenstrom said – that Zephyr would one day work for him – I get a little anxious. The comment had the ring of prophecy about it.

One of the four ruffians seemed unwilling to fight, stepping back and even forsaking easy opportunities to attack our party in favour of not earning our ire. It seemed he must have caught a glimpse of me, and understood he was up against impossible odds. In any case, and after our inevitable victory, we were able to address him, and discovered his name was ‘Jacko’. An intelligent man, Jacko had recognised our battle prowess, and refused to be killed for the cause of his master. It was fortunate for us perhaps, that this cowardly human scum was so free with his words. My imposing presence was enough to get him to answer a few questions, but he can hardly be blamed for his loose tongue. Many a greater man has been awed into submission by my mere presence. Jacko confirmed our suspicions that Malareth works with the undead, and claimed that the wicked man was gathering dead goblins – an unusual activity for him, and one that seems not to sit too well with Jacko.

Jacko proved quite useful, although he clearly knows little about traps. When he asked me about the pitfall trap I had disarmed, he seemed sceptical when I told him it was all about the trigger-winching-gasket-lever (I reckon) all looping down through the bolt-fences (gateways all clogged up you know?), and flooded up through the dolphin points… well he plain called me out and said I didn’t know a thing. What a fool! The only thing he did seem to respond to was the threat of violence, and I tell you by the end of the conversation I was considering a little bit of violence – but because I am such a patient, calm sort of fellow, I didn’t punish him for his ignorance.

We decided to let Jacko free, as he had shown that he was wise enough to avoid our wrath (although he had a sharp tongue), and he quickly left, but not before Yawn could embarrass us all by forcing a stupid candle on the poor man. I swear that if any of our party did not have an aversion to Pelor before now, they will soon. I don’t know what Yawn’s clan could have been thinking, sending him out to spread the word, for as far as I can see he does more harm than good to Pelor‘s reputation (perhaps he will be smited? :D ). Anyhow Jacko didn’t seem genuinely pleased. He advised Yawn to play with some dangerous looking red candles.

Having discovered that Malareth was in the next room with a handful of servants, and feeling somewhat wretched, most of our group begged a long rest before confronting the no good necromancer. We set up a watch, but nothing happened all night. I knew it would not, because I have strong powers of perception. Although the others were doubtful my strong and charismatic leadership convinced them to stay with me. Perhaps this will go some way to improve their trust in my impeccable judgement. During my vigil, Yawn refused to let me use one of his sun rods. I do believe this is the first time he has opted not to illuminate the darkness, and I wonder if he knows that I held that stupid Pelor icon away from him (unknowingly of course!)… I hope he isn’t reading my diary.

After a long sleep I was anxious to get away – even more anxious when I discovered Yawn planned to muck around with those terrible candles. I had drawn near to them before our rest, and felt the sting of my life’s force being drained away. Luckily sleep had restored me, but I was not keen on getting close to them again. Yawn foolishly picked up a candle, and wandered too close tot he group. He panicked as soon as he realised it was doing him harm, flinging it away from him with a girlish scream and towards someone else. Due to his thoughtlessness he, and two others were given the chills. I hope they will shake them off before we face Malareth. I was extremely keen to leave before Yawn could do anything even more stupid, but an inviting glint alerted me to the fact that the evil statue had precious stones for eyes.

Before Amos the wet blanket could stop me I scrambled up the statue. Seeing what I was about to do, the entire party (bar Yawn) dived for cover with shouts of dismay, getting as far away from me as they could. With my sword I easily prised the stones away, in-tact. They look very very valuable, and I am not likely to share the loot with my fellows, considering their lack of faith. They all looked rather sheepish when no wrathful vengeance struck me dead where I stood, and I must say they looked very foolish from my lofty perch. I hope their courage comes back before we enter the fight with Malareth, but I am perfectly fine if they are afraid of treasure. I am happy to take care of that kind of scary stuff whenever they feel overwhelmed by riches!

We must now away – to Malareth, and to victory!

DM log-- a surrendered guard, a pile of dead goblins

Here is a quick no-frills DM log. Thanks for a great session!

{This was Phillip and Aerro’s first session. I had them use a pre-rolled fighter character, sharing the control of it. I did not bother to explain the story entry— when they make permanent characters I will introduce them to the story properly. For now, they basically took the place of the missing Kat. We decided to play out this whole battle in order to warm up the newcomers and delay the climactic battle for when Kat is here, and just before Rachael and Scott leave for two sessions on holiday.}

The battle against Malareth’s guards was fully joined. The fighter locked up a couple of the guards, while the other two fell back to the horned statue. When Amos went there, he felt nauseated from an aura of evil, taking a minus to attacks. The guards there chopped Amos up efficiently and he soon fell. The the battle then moved to a better tactical state for our heroes as the fighter kept the attention of the foes while the newly risen Amos came around the far side. Theren fired from hiding, getting in some major damage with a sneak attack. Jorn came around the back way and startled the guard with the shortsword, who seemed reluctant to fight. On faith, Jorn eschewed attacking him, which seemed to convince him to let his ally guards fall in battle. This they soon did, boxed in between Zepher’s freezing cloud and the angry fighter, who got the fallen Jorn back up with a second wind.

The remaining guard surrendered, muttering that though Malareth paid him well, he was not willing to die for him. This guard’s name is Jacko. The group interrogated him {in a small skill challenge}, with Zepher’s diplomatic skills playing well off Theren’s intimidation. The latter was especially terrifying to Jacko {with a natural 20 on the roll}, who was especially leery of Theren’s crossbow, having seen its bolt go through the neck of his companion. Theren’s attempt to talk shop with him {using a Thievery roll} failed to impress, however. Over the course of this they discovered:

  • Malareth has undead guards, and does not look like much of a fighter himself.
  • Malareth has lately been collecting dead goblins, and working especially intently in his lab, just to the north.
  • It seems unlikely that any new guards or Malareth will come to this room anytime soon.
  • There are no traps that he knows of in the rest of the Twisting Halls.
  • He does not know much about the altar and statue, but suggested that the goody-goodies in the party go check it out. (In fact Theren had already come close to the altar and suffered necrotic damage).

The party set him free, and Jacko slinked off to the door in the room’s northwest.

After trying to destroy the statue, to no effect, the party took an extended rest in the room, with no unfortunate events. They awoke on 23 Patchwall 598 CY.

The group played around a bit with the candles on that altar, but only got more necrotic damage for their trouble.

{The party now was second level!}

They formed up and went up the hallway to Malareth’s room. They quietly opened the door and saw several disturbing things. First a smell of death and decay, and strong chemicals. Several tables were in the large room, strewn with chemicals and surgical instruments. They saw Malareth: a very thin, young adult, pale human with long, oily black hair and a shiny metal plate set into the upper left side of his head. He wore a surgical robe smeared with dried blood, and stared intently at large lab table and its contents: pile of dead bodies.. dead goblins. Malareth held a metal spike trailing wire. A large figure was lying on top of pile, apparently wrestling with one of the dead bodies. It’s Moosook! The pile of bodies shook as Moosook struggled with it. Then the perceptive ones in the party realised the pile of bodies was moving on its own. The body Moosook wrestled was moving a lot more, and Moosook was not winning the fight. Then they realised— the body Moosook was wrestling was Ang, the goblin guard killed in the Harkenwold battle.

Malareth said: “Pin it down, you fool! It will pop the stitches again!”

Moosook: “I am doing my best, sir, but he—ugh—IT is very strong. Ang was never this strong before. Your spell has given him—ugh—IT great strength.”

Malareth: “Of course my spell is great! Did someone tell you my spells are NOT great? Who has been talking about me? Was it Farallax?”

Moosook: “No, sir, I did not hear anything… ugh! I think Ang—I mean it—is pinned down now…”

Malareth quickly speared the spike and wire through the body of Ang and one of the dead goblins underneath, roughly suturing them together with a horrid wet puncturing sound.

The party readied to fight. Unfortunately most were not very stealthy, so their enemies were not surprised.

Moosook: "By Torog’s toenails— It’s those damned adventurers from Harkenwold!”

Malareth: “Bleah, that backwater. Are they a threat?”

Moosook: “Hm, no, but they could do SOME damage.”

Malareth cut the straps holding down the pile of bodies and commanded Moosook: “Protect the source! They look like filthy thieves!” He gestured to an alcove in the back of the room, into which a few intestinal tubes led from the pile of bodies into a miasma of dark mist.

And the final battle is about to begin…

I forgot to give you XP for that little skill challenge with the surrendered guard Jack. You each get 100XP to split 5 ways, so 20 XP each.

Some reminders for future play:

  • As you have done, keep having fun between combat rounds, exploring the area, talking with NPCs, and so on. It breaks up the combats, and you never know what you will discover!
  • For any skill check you can get a + 1 or + 2 by doing especially good RP, using world knowledge in some way, or being especially clever. In fact, I tend to add 1 to the DC of all challenges in the expectation that you will find a way to get a + 1.
  • I ran that little interrogation skill challenge a bit wrong— I should have looked it up in my handy compendium. The way it should have gone was:
    • Each skill can only contribute to one success
    • 4 successes maximum

A note for all the players: I pretty much let people reinvent themselves between level 1 and 2 if they feel they need to after learning more about playing. So you can change more about your character than the usual retraining rules dictate. Swap out feats and powers freely, tweak your stats, tweak your skills, and so on. After this, you’ll need to use the standard retraining rules, so choose carefully!

And as always, please only use legal materials. The old character builder is OK to use, since I have it myself, paid for fair and square, so when you use it for my campaign it’s like I am lending a book to you. However, it’s perfectly fine to just use what’s in the Player’s Handbook that Callum has. Note that when I print out your character, the powers and feats may differ a tiny bit from what is written in the PHB, since there have been several updates, which the tool incorporates.

In general I encourage you all to pick things that are useful, but also fit your character’s personality and goals. Don’t worry about picking something that is not the most uberest thing you can get… I tend to adjust the adventure to match the power of the party, so you won’t be in for a lifetime of lost battles if you fail to max out your power. Think of what would be fun to play with, and useful in many situations.

See you all next time!

Formulaic Fighting
Theren's Log

Theren is the Imperatore of Impartiality, the Earl of Honesty, and the Master of Modesty (as always) but for a basic outline of events see Matt’s DM log— checkmate, then grisly guards

Theren’s Notes: Not much to report this time I am afraid. It seems as though we near our destination. Things are a little tense, and everybody looks as though they could do with a good rest. Not me though (of course) because I have the strength of a score of elephants, being an elf. I simply worry that with one thing and another, and with the surprises that have been thrown at our party so far, we may be a little strained in taking on further adversaries.

When we passed through to the next room we were confronted by a sparsely staffed chess board. It was illuminated by a diffused light that seemed to have no definite source. Facing us were a handful of minotaur chess pieces – a queen, a rook, a knight, and two or three pawns. The did not appear immediately threatening, so Amos walked into the room first. He was promptly stuck to the board. Finding himself in the thew of some powerful magics, he told us to tarry a while, as he explored the area. As soon as he made a wrong move, however, he seemed to clutch his head in a terrible agony, half falling, half leaping back to his original square. At that point the stone game pieces at the other end of the board came alive, and the rest of the party was forced to take places on the board to meet our foes. We would have to act like chess pieces if we wished to remain whole and in control of our faculties, as was proved when – leaping across one square in an attempt to start off as a more fortuitous piece – I was struck by a psychic force of some kind that made me feel as though my lunch was going to make a reappearance.

The rook managed to take Amos down, while the rest of our group was busy fending off the other pieces. The queen was especially potent, rushing in and batting at us with a hefty mace. I knew that the rook would be free to flank the group if someone did not confront it and so I did, moving as swiftly as I was able to block its path (for the pieces were forced to move as though they were playing the game). I knew that I would be little able to defend myself against the piece, as it had already displayed its unnatural power. I could only hope to hold it off until Kat could come and assist, with her metal armour, and strong arm.

My memories here are slightly confused, and I think it may be due in part to a battering around the head I sustained during my stand against the rook. I recall being struck hard across the head and the next thing I knew, I was on the ground. Kat had joined at some point while I was senseless, I think, and from there the fight seemed to go more our way. It was still a slog by any man’s (or elf’s) estimation. Kat’s divine challenge was a powerful force in the outcome of the battle. Once she had the queen challenged, that fearsome piece near broke itself apart trying to attack the group. In the end, though, the queen clearly showed her metle as she struck out at the body of our party a second time with a fierce dignity, even at her last, and knowing that it would be her down fall.

I can’t help but admire the queen, who was brave in battle to the last. I wish that she could have been a friend, as she made a fearsome enemy – although we may not have seen the last of her yet! As I have already pointed out to my companions, much of the dust and rubble from the chess pieces has been slowly but surely moving towards the ‘starting’ end of the board, where we first encountered them. I feel sure that given enough time they would reform into the pieces again, but I cannot believe that they would be half as sturdy as before they were broke apart. Yawn is using a candle to gather some of this mysterious dust, much good may it do him. I have been using the time to finish an etching of Zephyr. He is a tricky sort, prone to flamboyant acts of magic that never fail to delight and amuse, but as I have already mentioned I fear his anger is as quick to flare as his flame burst. I think once you see it, you will understand why he is so poor when it comes to sneaking.

The others are all gathering around and examining the floor, saying there is a hidden mural. I had better go and examine it! After all I doubt anyone else would be able to fathom the meaning of an ancient pictogram without my help.

Original colour Zeph
Off Topic Sketch in margin of notes.

DM log-- checkmate, then grisly guards

This time my bare-bones update is a pretty simple one. I am looking forward to extending the sessions to three hours— these combats are getting tougher, hey?

Kat Rosie came running into the chessboard fray, a bit out of breath from trying to keep up with swift Amos in her plate armour. A hard battle ensued, and Kat’s damage and aggro absorption came in handy. All the same, a few of the party went down, then were brought back up by Jorn‘s healing ways. The Queen was especially vindictive. Despite having Kat’s divine challenge on her, she defiantly attacked everyone with another sweeping move. She cackled haughtily as the divine light consumed her.

As the party rested, Theren’s keen eyes noticed that the sand and rock fragments from the shattered pieces were very, very slowly moving towards the east side of the room. They decided not to take an extended rest here, though they are feeling quite worn down by this point.

At their leisure, they all were able to see the entire mural on the floor of the room. In a sequence of eight engravings, each with a sigil matching those on the Sigil Door, they saw a kind of morality tale being told: Minotaurs discovered this valley. They laid out the lines for the temple, and built it. They gathered worshippers, then prayed at the altars seen in the worship areas near Farallax. A head priest minotaur confronted an altar to Baphomet, then shattered it with his staff, casting out demonic spirits. In the last engraving, the minotaurs exit an earthly labyrinth into an open land of grassy hills and sunshine. Amos had the insight to understand this was a cautionary tale: worship the gods, face the temptation of Baphomet’s power, rebuke him, and be rewarded with paradise. Of course, the true history reveals the minotaurs here did not follow this advice, and brought ruin upon themselves.

In the next room the heroes encountered some disturbing things: a statue of Baphomet, facing an as-yet-unseen source of red light, and a cadre of four humans, outfitted like town guards with armour and halberds, who seem very intent on stopping any further progress. The battle was quickly joined.

The adventurers sense they are close to Malareth. Those who know this dungeon map well recall that there is a large room just to the northeast of this one, and from that direction the more perceptive ones detect a faint note of death and decay.

The party is considering if one of them should take up the DM’s standing offer for most battles: sidestep the fray and engage in a skill challenge to find a way to speed up the fight. See that link for details. Hm, that red light and statue is interesting… maybe someone with good Arcana or Religion can figure out how to use it to advantage…

Executing Excitable Enemies
Theren's Log

As always Theren’s view of events tends to revolve around his own interactions, and so a more reliable version can be found in the DM log— A tricky rug and chess game

Theren’s Notes: I am writing in the brief interlude between skirmishes to tell you (my dear readers) of what happened after the meeting with Farallax. Yawn is being very distracting so if this entry is confused it is because he has careened into me on his stupid flying disk which he has yet to master. In my opinion he is a dwarf and should never be too far from the dirt, but clearly his hubris knows no bounds.

In any case almost as soon as we went in search of Malareth we stumbled upon a room with a giant rat that smelled like it had climbed out of Farallax’s toilet, and a goblin sniper of dubious ability. There was also a trap which I noticed with my eagle eyes. The fight was on, and it didn’t look good. Sooner than expected the rat had bitten a huge chunk out of the dwarf. Yawn wasn’t looking too well, and while we were preoccupied with the rodent, the goblin ran for a door and called in a bunch of his buddies to help him out. For a while it was looking bad, almost as bad as that rat’s dental hygiene. Soon there were more rats and more goblins, and Amos decided to show up (finally). He got bitten by another of the rats, which was unfortunate because as I said the rats aren’t exactly the cleanest of creatures.

Two of the goblin snipers slipped away, but it was more of a blessing than anything, because I don’t think we could have dealt with much more battle. We took the time to do some healing and I disarmed the trap. The others claim I just set it off (it was a drop trap of some sort) but of course they don’t know about these things like I do.

Sensing that the goblin snipers were still in the area, I decided to lure them out by pretending I couldn’t see them, so I took the initiative to investigate a nearby statue. Well the sword of the statue (and the hands – still attached to the sword) just sort of… came off when I touched them. It’s not like I was trying to desecrate the Twisting Halls, and I didn’t bring any strong glue or whatever with me so I decided to hang onto them. I thought they might come in handy… in fact I should thank that statue for lending a hand and being so disarming. Well you know what they say? A sword in the hand is worth two on a statue. I guess you could say I got a five finger discount. It’s a shame I didn’t get an army as well as a handy. Anyway, enough of this wit! I do not want to baffle you with my brilliant turn of phrase after-all. Where was I? Oh yes! My inspection of the statue proved to be all that was required to draw the snipers out of hiding, as I knew it would be, and they were shortly dispatched by my team mates (I didn’t bother with them myself because goblins are so insignificant).

Well since then Kat still hasn’t turned up and I am worried that Amos left her with Vilma, even though she is an elf and can therefore take care of herself. Yawn remembered some stupid spell and now everyone is so impressed because he’s hovering a foot off the ground. PAH. They will soon grow tired of his parlour tricks. For the time being, however, it is convenient to let him carry my new stone sword (+hands) for it is mighty heavy. In a moment we will carry on without Kat, but I think this may be unwise. He also read out some strange message that was hidden behind the statue, but claimed there was no end to it. I think he just couldn’t read the end, but it hardly sounded important – just some mad woman or some such.

DM log-- A tricky rug and chess game

{Kat was away for this session.}

The fight against the goblin snipers and the dire rat continued, and Amos ran in, breathlessly explaining that Kat Rosie was not long behind him— presumably he got tired of her slower plate-mail-freighted pace. He joined the fight. Amos, and, I believe, Jorn caught a case of Filth Fever from the dire rats, but soon killed them off, and the remaining snipers ran and hid. The party searched to flush them out, they ran, and were cut down with attacks of opportunity.

Free from immediate trouble, the party found that behind the statue of a minotaur was a scratched message in a dwarven tongue, which Jorn deciphered. It mentioned a Morgana driven mad, and the writer wanted to bring word of this to his clan. {This is an adventure hook; see Morgana for more}.

Jorn summoned a Tenser’s Floating Disc and piled onto it the rug (worth about 5 gp, and will be called the Twisting Halls rug if you want to try to find its origin) and a broken-off sword (with hands attached) from the statue— called the Twisting Halls statue salvage.

In the next room to the east they found a room that looked like an enormous chessboard, complete with pieces on the other side. Once Amos got on it, his feet seemed to slide into the center of the tile he was in. Though some thought was given to moving like a legal chess piece, he forged ahead. As soon as he set foot in the next square (being an illegal move for the bishop piece he represented), he took damage, was slid back to his last legal square, and the enemy pieces sprang to life. The others joined in. Now the pieces are hitting hard and the party is assessing their losses. Perhaps there is a way to avoid this violence…

Some of the party saw that across the middle band of squares, from west to east, appears to be a mural. The details of each board-rank of the mural can only be seen when standing on it, due to a trick of how the inlaid metal of the engraving is hidden by the grooves unless seen from directly above. The first rank showed a few minotaurs surveying the land and placing markers for this temple in a field. Below this engraving was a sigil that matched one seen on the Sigil Door.


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