TSM Update: Some new friends, and one old one


… Our heroes “fell” into the brigands’ trap, striding forthrightly into the old farmhouse to confront these highwaymen. Only to discover that they were waiting for the heroes, yes, but with the intention of making an arrangement. They met with Seamus Finney and his merry band. Seamus invited them to drinks and to discuss their proposal.

Finney suggested that he and his men would leave Rankford completely alone (his men would not enter the Warden’s jurisdiction) if they would likewise leave the north-south road (Calantar’s Way) to the brigands. Finney said that they required that rich merchants who travel on that road to pay a “tax” which he claimed that they then shared with the underrepresented people of his community.

Finney also said that he had information of interest to the heroes: the current whereabouts of Dementia Lancaster, the notorious Midwife. In return, he wanted help from the militia in that the new sage, Kazuo, was sending a number of official messages via courier, but they were somehow written in a script that the brigands could not decode. Could the heroes help? They agreed to try.

The evening proceeded with good food and a good deal of wine. The heroes were put up in a room in the old farmhouse for the night. In the morning there was coffee and bread and bacon, then they met up with their guide, the elf Eskin who had “warned” them at the Flailing Chicken of the dangers of the highwaymen ahead.

After traveling some 5 hours north of the farmhouse, the group came to the predicted intersection of a logging road and the Way. Eskin told the party to continue up the road and he would travel a ways north to see if anyone was following them. As the heroes turned west onto the logging road, they quickly ran into a horse-drawn wagon bearing down on them, driven by the dwarf Midwife herself.

The heroes scattered and attempted to attack Lancaster as she rushed past. Only Norm had any real success — his Sleep spell affected one of the horses, causing the wagon to careen out of control and smash into the trees lining the road, fully overturning.

The battle then ensued between the heroes and Lancaster, who immediately emerged from the dust roiled into a cloud around the site of the crash in the form of a stone giant. With one great plow of her massive club, she killed Dain, sending him (or at least some of his parts) thudding into a tree trunk 30 feet away.

Tovlakov, Norm and Tia then went toe-to-huge-toe with Dementia. Well, Norm never got that close, actually. Dementia rained a surprising number of those devastating club attacks on the heroes, dropping Tovlakov before long. After a bit, Eskin arrived, firing at Dementia with his longbow. Eventually, the significant damage that the Midwife incurred resulting from the crash, as well as blow and blast raining down on her from the heroes terminated her life.

Next session:

What’s in the wagon? What awaits our heroes in Dementia’s Hideout?

TSM Update: Polite Conversations


…our heroes decided to split up.  Tia and Dain headed east to meet the rumored “new” sage at the War Wizards tower.  Tovlakov and Norm remained in Rankford Mitte to keep an eye on things.
Tia and Dain, passing the newly-erected Wolf Fence at the Collective decided to drop by.  Making their way through the gate, the met up with Carly.  She is still walking with the assistance of a cane, but otherwise seemed to have emerged from her exploits with Greater Apparatus of Kwalish and Marver’s forces intact.  She shared that there had been reports of a band of individuals (adventurers?  brigands?) seemingly encamped further east, past the tower.

Norm received a cagey invitation from Marg that Captain Teena and a never-specifically-identified guest wanted to speak to the militia.  Tovlakov was located by Norm and the two proceed to the Grey Wolf Inn to meet with these two worthies.

Arriving at the War Wizards Tower, Dain and Tia were greeted by a mephit, who allowed them to enter.  They were introduced to the new Sage, a young human man named Kashuo.  Kashuo seemed inexperienced, but polite.  He seemed to know some of what had occurred with the old Warden and Sheriff, and knew that his predecessor had been “reassigned” to Immersea.  He revealed that portals all over the kingdom had failed, perhaps due to sabotage.  He agreed to take on some research on behalf of the heroes.  He also revealed that the Tower, the Warden’s Office, and the Watchtower all contained magical communication devices that allowed any location to locate with any location.  Also, each location, by triggering a “button” visibile only to the duly appointed individual(s), could listen in to ambient noise from the other locations.  Once they had the opportunity, Dain and Tia made for the Warden’s Office and tried this technology out for themselves.  They also searched the Map Room for incriminating information related to Marver/Eeger/Lord Segur’s activities, but did not find anything of import.
While speaking with Kashuo, Dain felt that the new Sage was generally sincere in his pronouncements, but seemed to be carefully tracking what the heroes said for future inclusion in reports to… someone.

At the Grey Wolf, the heroes were lead to the Fireside Room where the Purple Dragons Captain and… Lord Segur waited.  Clearly, the Count had set up this meeting.  He refused to state clearly whether his satyr minion was nearby.

Segur claimed that he was interested in having the heroes assist with an issue related to the lost dwarven mine and village of Dol Seguria.  He claimed that Marver, with Eeger’s assistance, had been kidnapping individuals, mostly innocents passing through Rankford, and enslaved them in the recently-discovered lost mine. Segur said that his interest was in seeing these slaves freed. If the heroes would commit to this task, he said that he would provide a map that might be of assistance. Norm an Tovlakov seemed dubious but said they would consider it.

Dain and Tia returned to Mitte and shared what they had learned. Tia showed Norm how the communication between the three key sites worked and they tested it out. There was discussion about what to do next. Investigate the brigands? Commit, at least in word, to Lord Segur’s request?

TSM Update: Goblins, Hobgoblins, Orcs and a little Sage


…Our heroes continued their march into the long-unexplored (?) depths of Dol Seguria. The defenses at the first, great intersection of passages were determined to be stout, indeed. As the heroes took out a second hobgoblin guard, he was able to send a general alarm. More alarms and organizing horn calls rained down on the militia.

The heroes began to descend the stairs. Norm threw a Sleep spell towards the gathered force of goblins and hobgoblins at the lower level, just as a hail of javelins came from that unit. A force of orcs (?) stomped forward, and in perfect unison slammed their interconnected shield to the stones; forming an impassable wall before the heroes.

Far more quickly than the militia could account, additional hobgoblin and goblin foes swarmed like blackbirds to the scene. Determining that a frontal assault on this joint force would not be successful, the heroes retreated. A gauntlet of zombies awaited them as they made for the great door. Dain attempted to scatter them, backed by the power of Ilmater, but the zombies seemed unaffected. The heroes, however, still managed to escape.

Upon arriving back in Rankford (escorted safely out of the King’s Wood to the Old Mill by the rangers of Azan), the heroes were told that the elves watching the town in their absence had been a bit… strict.

After a night’s rest, it was reported that a new sage had arrived at the War Wizards tower. Dain and Tia started off to meet this new individual while Tovlakov and Norm remained on duty.

TSM Update: Feed My Dog!


… Our heroes delved further into the lost dwarven kingdom of Dol Seguria. Tovlakov sought to confirm that the elven ranger Jacoba “Jake” Marius was still waiting outside the entrance to the dwarven site. He was. After informing Jake that the fugitive (“Diedrich”) that Azan and his rangers had chased into the dwarven underground was dead, he agreed to leave the body somewhere that they could fetch it. Tovlakov returned to the inner sanctum of the dwarven complex, and the heroes searched the fugitive Diedrich. On him, they discovered that he had, among his weapons, a shiny metal ring and a leather item on a chain around his neck that Norm was able to determine had a faint Evocation magic about it. The heroes dragged Diedrich’s body through the entrance to the dwarven complex and closed the door.

The heroes then moved forward, deeper into the dwarven complex. The already wide, high-ceilinged passage widened further and the ceiling stretched even higher away. Stairs carved into the bare rock led up. The heroes climbed the stairs. They searched the first “apartment.” Dain smashed the door open. Inside he heard a weeping sound. He moved further in, down a short hallway to a front room, leading to a hallway which continued into a bedroom. Two balconies extended into the main hallway. Dain followed the sound of the weeping into the hallway leading to the bedroom.

A dwarven woman, glowing like an apparition, sat in a wooden chair, weeping about her “Baby,” her “pet.” When Dain approached, she complained that there was nothing to feed her dog. The dwarven woman looked up at Dain and he could see that half of her face had been gnawed away. A rumbling growl had been growing in the back room. Now the creature, an enormous, horse-sized dog with two heads charged. It was emaciated. Some of its flesh was missing from its limbs and belly. The dwarven ghost faded and disappeared.

The heroes fought the giant “dog.” Dain was able to block the hallway and absorb bite after slavering bite, while the rest of the party was able to attack with missile weapons and spells. Eventually, the party wore the creature down, and with one final blow from his war hammer, Dain dispatched the beast. It began to quickly decompose.

Searching the house, the party found a few items. Most interesting were mithril coins.

The heroes decided to rest in the house. During the rest, Tovlakov noticed a small mob of undead of various races shambling down the main corridor in the direction of the entrance used by the party.

After some recovery time, the heroes decided to continue to climb the stairs. Two more tiers of homes perched above the home they had stayed in. Above the third tier, a 10 foot wide catwalk hugged the wall, the ceiling still high above; painted to resemble some long lost night sky.

The heroes proceeded along the catwalk. After a few hundred feet, the long corridor emerged into an even wider space. The catwalk seemed to end at the point that, it seemed, a perpendicular corridor interjected the passage the heroes had so-far pursued. Stairs led down to the corridor, stairs guarded by a human-like beast — a hobgoblin. The hobgoblin fired at Tovlakov as he approached. As the heroes rushed up to engage the guardian, he continued to fire his bow. The party was able to take down the hobgoblin before he could alert others: Tia’s arrow entered the bell of the guardian’s signal horn and emerged from the back side of the hobgoblin’s skull. Perhaps he could now play a nice tune in Hell.

Other creatures seemed to be on duty at the intersection of passages. Where to go from here?

The Shining Mantle: Book Two

This evening is the Spring Equinox, Ches 19. Over 60 days have passed since the siege of Fort Midway.

The remnants of the gang of Mons Millmaster have been crushed by the militia of Rankford. Millmaster himself stood trial, with only the Druid of the Lords Wood, Ruddiger, absent and thus abstaining. Millmaster was found guilty of murder, coercion, burglary, theft, blackmail and imprisonment. He was publicly hanged. From him, you the militia have taken possession of a mysterious map.

This map has lead you to investigate unlabeled locations, including this abandoned farmhouse where you believe the notorious midwife Damentia Lancaster has holed up.

The criminal Latimer Eeger and his gang of thugs have taken up covert residence in the Wood where they harass those on the Starwater Road. The King’s Dragons, their numbers grown to ten or a dozen, try to keep the Road open and safe. They are lead by the recent arrival Gitta Lansik (hf).

The necromancer, known as Eyebite (also called Van Xeffan by Mons), is still at large. The druid Ruddiger has faded quietly into his wood.

Lord Segur, known as “The Count” by Gitta no longer routinely visits Rankford. However, the Dragons have made it clear that he is under their protection.

The great Wolf Fence now protects almost the entirety of the Collective. Ning Stagg (1/2m) is the Watchmaster in that region. Regular communication passes between the Collective and the Mitte via the Signal Tower.

In the Northern Heartland, the Signal Tower atop the Old Mill has been rekindled. Regular patrols control the road toward Mitte, captained by Watchmaster Gleamsilver.

The Ranger Azan and his wood elf clan have ruthlessly hunted and slain the elven allies of Marver.

The lumber mill has resumed business, under the leadership of Ilona Gleamsilver, Skank’s older sister.

The former Quarrymaster Mikis Lazaris (hm) has returned from retirement, now that the giant crab creatures have disappeared. The quarry once again produces tons of stone every week.

Shand’s baby was delivered safely, a health baby boy named Progress. He is known and celebrated by all of Rankford as the first child of the new era, “Prog”.

The population of the county of Seguria has swollen. The Taledo’s shipping business is non-stop. Many pass along the Starwater Road, east and west. A tall new inn is under construction. Venturer’s Vanguard is more prosperous than it has been in decades. A new bakery, The Hearthflower, purchased by Tulu Savimbi (1/2f) produces breads and baked goods unlike anything seen locally. Amos Boyce (hm) runs a moneylending shop of sudden prosperity built on the ruins of the old Ulric Scroll Foundry.

Dirac has returned to the War Wizards tower, but attends Rankford functions.

The former Temple of Gond is being rebuilt as a house of Ilmater. When Dain Skullcrusher is not available, it is staffed by a young priest freed from being held by Mons at the Saw Mill, Fujio Izumi.

The militia has uncovered and partially explored a tunnel network that criss-crosses the county. It extends in a ring around Mitte, with exits beneath the Watchtower, the former Madame Rolland’s brothel, Taledo’s and an incomplete tunnel connecting the ring to the Grey Wolf Inn. It is caved-in at various points, or incomplete, or made all but impassable due to the underground extent of Froggy Brook which feeds the fountain. It extends to the holding cells beneath the Warden’s Office to the east, to north of the Smokeworks and west to the quarry. A northwestern leg of the ankheg-dug tunnel stretches to unexplored reaches beneath the King’s Wood.

TSM Update: New Foes, Old Threats


… our heroes, pursuing a clue from a crude map taken from Mons Millmaster, prior to his trial and execution, had arrived at an old abandoned farmstead, thinking that perhaps the runaway midwife Damentia Lancaster was holed up inside. The house and detached barn most recently belonged to the Albarado family, who once raised wheat and corn and ran a small distillery. The structures have fallen into significant disrepair. However, the heroes found that a twist of smoke rose from the chimney of the supposedly deserted house.

Having left Dain to stand watch, Norm, Tia and Tovlakov had arrived via horse. They dismounted and surrounded the house. Tia took the direct approach and pounded on the front door. There was the sound of movement inside, but not response. She shouldered the door open and found the dwarven midwife inside a room of decay and squalor. Dementia wore a long leather apron, splashed with fresh blood. Blood covered much of the floor. With a shriek, Dementia fled down the hallway, away from Tia, and, presumably towards Norm and Tovlakov perched outside the rear door.

However, the midwife turned right at the end of the hallway, eschewing the door. When Tia rounded the same corner in hot pursuit, she was met by a blow from an almost comically oversized wooden club wielded by Dementia. The fight, then was on.

Tovlakov battered down the back door. He and Tia faced the midwife head-on, while Norm kept a careful distance.

The midwife let out a great roar and grew until her head scraped the shabby ceiling. She had transformed into a giantess. The once oversized club was now wielded with great power. She moved nimbly as to be able to reach all three combatants. Dementia took repeated blows from Tia, from Tovlakov and enchanted missile attacks from Norm, but kept up the fight. Her great power was too much for Tovlakov, and even eventually took down Tia.

Faced with this seemingly unstoppable foe, Norm deployed his kruthik familiar, Fluffy, to try to draw her away while he used invisibility to avoid detection. Norm was able to drag his allies to safety and, meeting up with Fluffy on the road, they made their way back to Rankford Mitte.

Dain was able to restore the fallen camerades. The heroes discovered that they had returned with a somewhat cryptic log from the midwife’s lair. It listed familiar surnames, with dates, some followed by “boy”, some by “girl”, some by both words. Some of these were crossed out. Over drinks at Hugo Brewer’s place, they deduced that perhaps these were dates of baby deliveries, which indicated that some of the children, perhaps, had not survived. But maybe some of those declared dead… lived still?

A representative of Azan’s rangers arrived and reported that Azan hoped to meet with the heroes at the Old Mill in the Heartland. They assented.

Traveling to the Old Mill the following day, the heroes reflected on how relatively safe the roads around Rankford had become.

At the Old Mill, Azan informed the heroes that in their efforts to hunt down any surviving elven allies of Marver and Eeger, they had chased their quarry into an underground passage that led to what Azan believed to be an ancient entrance to the fabled lost dwarven kingdom

Azan agreed to provide some security in Rankford if the heroes would hunt down this escaped elven traitor. He asked that the elf be brought back alive.

The heroes were led to the wood’s edge and given instructions on how to proceed. They eventually met up with Azan’s sentry at the site of the recently discovered tunnel. A door was concealed in the earth behind a huge boulder.

The heroes made their way down the passage, beyond the disarmed traps about which they had been warned. And at the end of it, they discovered a seemingly ancient, ornate dwarven door. It contained runes of an ancient dwarven script, but the phrase “Dol Segur” was prominent.

Beyond the door, which opened easily with the Warden’s key in Tia’s possession, were a group of a half dozen shambling undead. The heroes were able to make fairly quick work of the zombies. In the dimness beyond the great door, they discovered the partially consumed body of an elf. Likely Azan’s quarry.

TSM Update: Hey, let’s leave town, what say?


… our heroes headed to the Warden’s Office, presumably so that the recently-minted Warden, Tia Berenger could examine her holdings. The trip out of town was uneventful. When the heroes arrived at the Warden’s building, a tall, single-story structure with exterior doors, north and south and south-facing windows, hewed from the native pine, they first established that there were no obvious traps within.

Having tied the horses up at the bridge just 100′ away, they ventured inside. The large brass key that they had taken from Marver, in fact opened the door (and every other locked door that they encountered), but clearly operated in a magical way. These locks, and the key, are not simply mechanical devices.

The ground floor contained Marver’s office space, a small waiting room, a kitchen, a map (?) room and stairs leading down. It seemed clear that the space had been recently ransacked, but presumably by someone or someones who knew where to look and what to grab. It did not appear that the place had been randomly sacked, more likely it had been carefully separated from its most valuable contents.

The basement contained the Warden’s bedroom, a privy, a stoutly-fortified armory, and stairs leading further down. After having searched these rooms and mostly discovered that the likely most valuable items had already been removed, including identifying the residue of magical items (weapons?) that had been, until recently, housed in the armory, the party considered the stairs leading down. Two things served to dissuade them from further investigation: Norm began to seem unfit in some way, and an odd skritching sound seemed to emerge from below. The party felt that the noise perhaps indicated that kruthiks might be found there. Norm was experiencing a splitting headache, and one eye turned red with blood.

Also on the basement level was a moldering pile of clothing and odd items. They seemed to be decaying clothes and artifacts of children, including those of very young children.

Returning to the first floor, the heroes effected a more thorough search, which turned up several letters between Cormyrean officials and Marver over recent months and years. Marver was, it seems, not held in high regard, and the area around Rankford (County Seguria, apparently) seemed notable mostly for suspicious happenings: high rates of infant death, disappearances of those on the Starwater Road and reports of burglary.

While combing through the disarray of the Warden’s Office, Norm wavered then collapsed. His head split open and an…. armored slug emerged. It slithered under his clothes, and when the heroes sought to capture or kill it, it pushed back into Norm via his navel.

Combining the pile of children’s belongings and the notes about infant mortality seemed to indicate that… something bad had been happening in the Rankford area for some years.

Avoiding the noises from the sub-basement, our heroes felt it was perhaps time to head back to town. As they approached, a concerning pillar of smoke was discovered to be emerging from the Mitte.

Arriving in town, the heroes found near-panic. Mons Millmaster and his minions had, it seems, waited for the heroes to leave town, then had started a fire at the Grey Wolf Inn, perhaps as a distraction, then emerged from within the Watchtower. The fought and killed Pearl and Stem, hanging their bodies, by way of threat, from the upper windows of the Watchtower. Lex Walters was injured but not killed. The Temple of Gond was burned down its bare structure. No hint of what may have happened to Fatbeak.

The fires were extinguished. Eventually, the heroes secured the entrances to the subterranean passes they were aware of in Mitte, at the Watchtower and at the Taledo’s.

Asking around, Carly was aware that there had been a number of infant deaths. She seemed to think that was normal. That the frontier was a dangerous place, and there had always been a high percentage of infant deaths. She named a half-dozen or so families who had lost infant children over the past 24 months.

Norm, after a full rest awakened. He reported that he understood that there was this creature inside him, and that was just fine. The creature was a hatchling kruthik, and would serve as his new familiar. And that, perhaps, he now might be able to communicate with other kruthiks, based on his bond with this one, which had presumably been implanted in him by the large adult kruthik that had confronted the party at Fort Midway.

The heroes seemed angered by the actions of Millmaster, and wanted revenge. However, they sought to shore up local defenses, and realized that there had been traditionally a method for the northern reaches of the Rankford environs, the Commune and Mitte all to communicate: via signal towers. They helped to refurbish the tower atop the Grey Wolf Inn. Two party members were sent to the Collective, to check-in and to re-establish the signal tower there. A protocol of watching and responding to “keep alive” messages was determined; at sunup, midday and sundown an “All OK” message would be sent. A few basic types of messages were agreed upon, including “Are you OK?”, “We need help,” “All OK,” and “Stay Away.”

The next step would be to reinstate the signal tower that used to exist atop the Old Mill. And perhaps, simultaneously, signal Azan the ranger to see what help he might provide.

TSM Update: We’ve got to stop meeting like this


…. umm, how about a quick recap before we revisit this week’s game?

Our heroes had gone to Fort Midway as a remote spot where Garl Morningmoon could be interrogated, after Eeger had unexpectedly left town, presumably to meet with Marver, the Warden. However, at Fort Midway they were very quickly besieged by two — no three — forces. Mons Millmaster’s mill workers met up with a force of lumberjacks, organized initially by a bald human necromancer, and over the course of several hours assaulted the Fort, intending to capture or kill the heroes.

After the first assault failed, the two groups were joined by a third group of mostly orcs, seemingly led by ogres. The next assault was more coordinated, and grew to include zombies raised by the necromancer. Zombies who had been warriors slain by the heroes in the previous assault.

The heroes fought valiantly, destroying a makeshift siege wagon and slaying an ice dragon, along with many, many foes. Just as the forces of evil began to finally prevail, yet another force arrived on the scene: the dog-to-horse-sized kruthiks, who swept through the battlefield, making short order of those who did not flee.

A tense standoff then took place between the heroes and the kruthiks, who swarmed around the heroes, but seemed, under the mental direction of the largest of them, to be … waiting for something? Trying to communicate something? The standoff seemed poised on a knife’s edge, when someone at the base of the hill began to shout, attracting the kruthik’s attention. As they rushed to eat(?) this new party, the heroes were lured down to an escape hatch in the keep’s kitchen, which led via a muddy tunnel to a ledge halfway between the walls of the Fort and the basin of an old abandoned quarry. Lieber Longshanks, Farley Gleamsilver, Stem Followill and Lex Walters helped the heroes escape via a wagon in the quarry. The distracting figure that had taunted the kruthiks was presumably an illusion created by the sage Dirac, at the insistence of Marg and Lieber.

Our heroes learned, though, that Carly, who had provided them some initial support, had not returned. They were approached by a sullen elven lumberjack who claimed that Marver had Carly, but would free her if “they could work out a deal.” A meeting with Marver and the heroes was scheduled.


…. (for real) our heroes met with Marver at the crossroads. Marver was accompanied by Mons Millmaster and two dwarven millmen, two elven lumberjacks and two ogres. They produced Carly, bound, gagged and clearly not well-treated. Marver offered a chest full of thousands of gold that, with the promised release of Carly, was to be given to the heroes if they agreed to leave town and never return. The heroes declined. A fight ensued.

Norm magicked one of the elves, after being hit with a spear. Tia took out the other elf holding Carly. Norm moved in, grabbed Carly and took off, thinking that the plan was focused primarily on freeing her. The other heroes seemed more intent on defeating Marver. Unfortunately, with a mighty blow, one of the ogres took down Tovlakov. Marver, wielding a gleaming scimitar and his allies fell on Tia and Dain in numbers.

Tia used all of her warrior-wise to smash Marver again and again. The foes struggled to penetrate Dain’s armor, but he likewise struggled to make much of an impact on them.

So the fight went. After a few back-and-forth rounds, Norm returned and began to focus his attacks on Marver. Dain eventually fell. Tia and Norm continued to pound on Marver who moved from supremely confident to concerned to frightened to dead.

One of the ogres offered an exchange: “You keep girl, we keep gold!” Mons, realizing that suddenly he and his millmen were now facing the heroes alone, decided to retreat.

The heroes gathered up a wagon and five horses left by Marver, snatched up his corpse and items, and made their way to the Temple of Gond, where Pearl saw to Tovlakov, Dain and Carly.

The citizens of Rankford once again celebrated the heroes’ success. Dirac was brought forward and, reluctantly, conferred upon Tia the title of Warden, and on Norm the title of Sheriff.

Among Marver’s possessions was the magic scimitar (a weapon that Pearl insisted not be brought into her church), and a quite powerful Spellguard Shield. Also, he possessed a ruby ring of office (now worn by Tia) and a large key, presumably to the Warden’s office. As the session ended, the party, having borrowed a pony to go with the three riding horses they’d liberated from Marver, were traveling east on the Starwater Road toward the former demesne of the Warden.

TSM Detail: The Old Fountain

The centerpiece of Rankford Mitte is a large freshwater pond fed by an underground tributary of the old Ranqor River (“Rankford” is a corruption of “the Ford of the Ranqor”) which runs along the northwest side of town before meandering east and heading underground. The pond is encircled by a low stone wall of ancient make, but is well-maintained by the Gnomish families who settled north of town centuries ago, and who also built the Watchtower. Arching stone walkways pierce the wall in three places and converge roughly in the center of the pond in a wide stone platform. A hand-cranked well, circular and weather-worn extends three feet above the platform and disappears into the pond.

The extent of the pond varies seasonally. In wetter years, it has been known to overspill its rock wall. In dry years, the pond has shriveled to a damp shadow of itself, but the well has never failed to meet the demands of the citizens of Rankford.

Families will often queue up shortly after dawn to fill their buckets and water sacks from the well. While many will dip a cup into the pond on occasion, especially the senior members of the community, or those wishing to adopt the mantle of a town elder, by custom the pond is off-limits for other uses, including bathing or play. Drunken miners and adventurer passers-by are promptly rousted by the town militia if they breach this custom, if they aren’t met with a hail of rocks from concealed slingers first.

The Mayor, when Rankford has one, is expected to sip water from the pond, either via the ancient and battered silver Cup of Office that adheres to that office, or by hand, before deliberating on serious issues facing the town. The water, it is believed, contains the wisdom of the ancients. “In Well Water is Wisdom,” it’s said. It is more said that truly believed.

In more recent decades, the Mayor’s office has been vacant and major issues are settled by the Tribunal, who eschew the traditional sipping of the waters.

Items are not permitted to be tossed into the pond or (especially) the fountain, with this exception: when a family produces a new offspring, a small wooden boat with a red (for a boy) or green (for a girl) sail is pushed into the pond water by a senior member of the family. The Mayor or other senior official is expected to receive the boat when it reaches the far “shore” and reads a note attached to the tiny mast, revealing the name of the newest citizen in a ceremony going back a hundred years.

Old-timers claim that the pond is of relatively recent vintage, but that the fountain has survived from an earlier age, perhaps from the time of the ancient Netherese. There are many local claims of Rankfordian artifacts that date back to the Netherese; the antiquity of the fountain is probably the item in least dispute.

Those that live near the Ranqor or the StarWater rivers take their water from those sources, or from other ponds in the greater Rankford area, such as Bentbeak Hole. However, when in the Mitte, most will fill a water skin if they have time. Hugo Brewer is the latest in a long tradition of ale crafters who extoll the virtues of Rankford’s water, his brewery having been built atop the same aquifer.

DM Diary: Pulling out the Rug

This last week, a couple of things happened about which the players were clearly unhappy.  I think that one of those situations involved something that I did that I shouldn’t have done (or at least not have done the way that I actually did); and one involved something that I arguably did OK, but that, had I to do it again, would do differently.

In last week’s session (link here), the PCs were facing another wave of attacks as they attempted to, literally, “hold the fort” versus an enemy encamped at the gates.  They made certain preparations, most of which I respected in how they worked against the marauding foes.  However, I put an item, the Wand of Wonder (which I called “The Wand of Wondrous Might”; just as I have called the Deck of Many Things they have “The Deck of Many Wondrous Things,” into the hands of the party.

The party’s magic user, Norm, tried to use it several times.  Two of the five times he tried, it randomly turned him invisible.  Fine.  One time, it useless spat gems out of the end.  That is meant to be an actual attack, presumably, but the enemy that he was attacking was well beyond the range of the cascading gems.  It was the two other abortive uses that caused the consternation.

On the first use, the die roll to determine the “Wondrous” effect was in the range 21-25.  According to D20.net: “You cast Detect Thoughts on the target you chose. If you didn’t target a creature, you instead take 1d6 psychic damage.”  I clarified when the player attempted to use the item (this was the first actual attempt to use the WoW) that he was targeting an area, not an individual creature.  “You’re not targeting a specific creature?” “No, I’m targeting this area.”  Therefore he took 1d6 psychic damage.  I have no problem with how that played out.

Later, when the player was clearly targeting an area again (I didn’t ask this time, I was wary that repeatedly asking the same question would raise a flag), he rolled a result in the range 98-00.  That result, if not targeting a specific creature results in the wielder having to make a certain saving throw.  As written, if one fails, they are restrained and are beginning to turn to stone.  If they fail by 5 or more, they are instantly petrified.  The player made their save.  However, I still imposed a Slowed condition and they were clearly starting to turn to stone.

This result does not match the rules as written.  And it imposes a penalty, even though the player made their save.  That’s harsh, I’ll warrant.  My plan was to allow them to attempt a saving throw on each turn.  On a failed save, they’d move first to Restrained, then to Petrified.  Each positive save would move them in the opposite direction: Restrained ->Slowed -> Normal.  The players were upset that the individual had made a saving throw but still suffered a negative outcome.  I should have given some flavor text when the got the initial result that made it clear that something bad had happened, and that the save was only to determine how bad it would be.  Having things like the WoW and the DomWT require that the DM be flexible and think quickly on his/her feet.  An example:

On a roll of 63-65 the following result is produced: “An object of the DM ‘s choice disappears into the Ethereal Plane. The object must be neither worn nor carried, within 120 feet of the target, and no larger than 10 feet in any dimension.”  What?  What kind of object would I choose, on the fly?  I guess it would be good to familiarize myself with each of the options and make a note or two on what I might want to do if that object is selected.  Next time.

The other issue was one of tactics.  The players had learned from the previous session that one PC could effectively hold a staircase in the fortress against an unlimited number of foes by blocking their path.  As long as the PC could hold out, the bad guys couldn’t move past that character.  They (not surprisingly) deployed that tactic again in the most recent session.

The bad guys sent a stream of combatants against the stairs, and the PC cleric, AC 18 was easily able to hold them off, since the bad guys, buy and large, couldn’t hit him.  Eventually, with a lot going on, I had a raging berzerker hit the cleric successfully (on a fair roll, not that that matters), do a decent amount of damage, then move past him.  His allies followed on the same turn.  The players objected (not right away, but before much time had passed).  How had they managed to get by the cleric?  Just because he had been hit, he hadn’t been moved or knocked down.

The truth was, in the excitement of the moment, I had considered the hit on the cleric such a success that I had simply discounted the blocking maneuver.  I hadn’t consciously  decided that now the situation had changed.  It just seemed like such a watershed that the cleric had been hit at all, that naturally the bad guys could now move forward.  When called on it, I offered a lame justification.

Much better would have been, between sessions, to have given some thought to how the bad guys might have adapted to the tactics that had failed in the first assault and have them developed a new approach to the problem of the stair-block, given that it was almost certain to occur again.

The bad guys, for instance, could have started “shoving” the person on the stairs.  I had to just search for what that action was even called.  There used to be an “bull rush attack option in previous D&D iterations.  Now you “shove.”  I think “bull rush” or “overbear” sound better.  They could have shoved and probably would have been at least as successful.

But simply letting the bad guys get past the blocking maneuver, when I had previously established that it wasn’t possible to get past it, was not the way to go.


  1. before handing out an item like the WoW: print out a list of all the options and have a note on the sheet of any special results and any special rules you want to implement.
  2. Have some narrative fluff prepared for the outcomes of a new item like the WoW.
  3. If the PCs have implemented a successful tactic in one session, and it’s likely to recur in the next, have a plan that the bad guys would try as a countermeasure.  But live with the outcome if it doesn’t work.