TSM Update: The Long Night

IN OUR LAST SESSION…

…our heroes took a few moments to catch their breath, while the enemy outside did the same.  The heroes made some preparations, reinforcing the western door and eastern gate, building a flammable trap using oil, coal and wood at the front passage.

Reinforcements added to the threat facing the heroes.  It seemed to include several large, fierce creatures who, after getting the foes in line, took charge of the operation.  Construction began outside on what proved to be a covered platform on wheels.  Threats began to be issued by one of the new bosses, hurled at the heroes.

An odd bird seemed to grow in the eastern sky and ultimately revealed itself as a flying mechanical shape which landed rather heavily on the aerie at the top of the keep.  Inside was Carly.  She indicated that Rankford knew of the danger that the heroes were in.  They (she mentioned Marg and Gleamsilver) were trying to ascertain how they might help.  Thad mentioned that he knew that Dirac, the Sage was hiding out in the basement of the long-abandoned brothel.  A group, apparently, stormed over, confronted Dirac and demanded that he help out.  Presumably with great reluctance, he provided the vehicle that Carly had just arrived in (a Greater Apparatus of Kwalish) and also an item he called a Wand of Wondrous Might.  Carly turned the Wand over, as well as 4 healing potions provided by Pearl.  She encouraged the heroes to hold out until morning.  That the Purple Dragons were on the way!  She then took off once again in the strange Apparatus, harried almost immediately by a giant bird, similar to the one that Tia had driven off on Pearl’s arrival.

A mysterious low fog slowly swept through the fortress.  As it cleared, the heroes discovered that the bodies of the foes slain in the first wave of attacks had disappeared.

After a brief period of respite, the battle reignited.  Literally!  The front gate burst into a shower of flames and debris.  Whatever force had tried to hammer through the entrance had apparently set off the waiting tinder keg the heroes had put in their way.  Simultaneous with that dramatic show, smaller groups began trying to slip through the side entrances.  An extended running battle then began, with the heroes falling back into the keep, holding the stairs as they had done successfully at the Southeast Tower, and mostly firing from above.  The ballista was employed against the enemy, very successfully at two occasions: first against the wooden platform, destroying it and killing several inside; secondly against a great wingless wyrm the new captains tried to deploy, slaying it as it blasted its cold breath toward the still-flaming gate.

The Wand of Wondrous Might, wielded by Norm was… unpredictable.  It was as likely to impose a negative circumstance on the wielder as it was to turn him invisible or to… fire a stream of gems uselessly.

The mage from the first wave showed up on the rampart.  He held aloft an item on a gold chain and with a gesture and a word, the unliving corpses of those claimed by the creeping fog emerged from the earth and began to assault the keep.  His Magic Missiles also struck grievously at the heroes.

More and more of the enemy swept into the fortress and assaulted the heroes, who were now steadfastly defending the last bastion: the keep.  The ballista proved a great weapon, but of little utility against individuals.  Dain Skullcrusher managed to hold the stairs against many foes, demonstrating over and over again how he came by his surname. Eventually, though, a raging Northman struck Dain a mighty blow and bravely pushed on past him.  His allies, emboldened, did the same.

The fight then moved to the second floor of the Keep, and the greater numbers of the foes began to take a toll.  Dain was able to drive away some of the summoned undead, but the heroes began to fall, one after the other.  Norm’s invisibility, and the arrival of a new force into the melee were the only routes to salvation.

A horde of chitinous, spider-like creatures of unusual size swept into the Fort from the north.  They attacked in groups and quickly mowed down the enemy that the heroes could see.  The party, each rejuvenated by healing potions were able to slip away in the midst of chaos to the roof of the keep, and secure the lone hatch.  From above, they watched the route of the forces arrayed against the heroes by these crab-like beings.  Huddling in silence, they witnessed the new creatures feed on the corpses of those who had sought to take the heroes down.  Those survivors outside the gates seemingly fled before this unexpected menace.

The heroes are concealed on the roof of the keep, crossing their fingers and catching their breath, while the crab-things feed and a single persistent crab scratches from below at the hatch.

Dawn is at least an hour away.

TSM Detail: The Militia Watchtower

This structure, known simply as “The Watchtower” by locals, is one of the ten buildings circling the great pond and fountain in Rankford Mitte.  It sits between the Temple of Gond and XXX.  The Watchtower is a three-storey building, made of dense stone cut by Silas Stonebreaker himself.

The roof of the tower is crenelated and features a trapdoor leading to the 3rd floor, where the militiamen reside.  The second floor holds the Sheriff’s chambers plus some storage.  On the ground floor is the front desk area and the Sheriff’s office.

There basement is made up of two storage areas and the 2-cell gaol.

TSM Update: Knock Knock

IN OUR LAST SESSION….

…just as our heroes were settling into the Purple Dragon’s fortress in the forest, albeit after poor Garl had an unfortunate stumble off the roof of a two story building, some new friends showed up.

The fortress is mostly made up of a high stone wall with a “front door” facing the road and a large main gate facing east, anchored by towers in each cardinal corner, and a single large keep in the center of the enclosed court. There’s also a stable, a small office building, an outhouse, a small door in the western wall, and various storage areas. A heavy hoist is mounted to the wall on the northern end. The northern wall overlooks a great pit or something hundreds of feet below. The ground along the western and (especially) the eastern walls has eroded over time and is precarious and unpredictable. There is little to no walkway left outside the northern wall.

The main keep inside the fortifications seems to serve as a garrison, mess hall and defense-of-last-resort for some previous soldiery. Atop the keep’s roof, a great ballista was found, alongside a stack of huge wooden bolts topped with hammered steel bolt heads. As is the case with each of the 4 towers, large barrels of oil stand here, next to an iron cauldron, and small barrels of arrows are deployed across the surface.

A catwalk ties the four towers together at the top of the crenelated fortress wall. Each tower is made up of a 2-story circular staircase, with barrels of spears and arrows at the intermediate landing and a trap door at each level, secured from above. A trap door and staircase inside a bulge in the wall separates the inner and outer doors in the western wall and allows access to the catwalk.

The office building in the northwest corner of the fortress is comprised of a single windowless room featuring a desk scattered with papers and a few books, and a single bed and footlocker.

Along the back (northern wall) are an outhouse privy, the hoist, and a pile of coal and firewood. From atop the northern wall, Tovlakov spotted a ledge a hundred or so feet below, and the remnants of a rope ladder descending from it. There was no obvious way to reach the ledge short of a dismayingly difficult climb. The privy at the back of the fortress is literally just three walls, a door and a large hole in the ground with a great drop beneath it.

As the morning wore on, two groups seemed to be converging on the road. One made mostly of elves, dressed in leathers and carrying axes from the west, another, mostly dwarves with hammers and heavy axes from the east. Here and there were individuals in armor, and the occasional torch-bearing Man. Keeping the peace and seemingly in charge of these two mobs was a human, bald-headed and robed. He brazenly approached the front gate and began to bang on it and call within. He was not welcomed inside. As the two mobs gathered together to form a single fighting force, the bald man revealed himself to be a wizard of some stripe, and caused the front door to be unbarred and opened. The heroes inside set about defending the fortress, mostly working from the battlements, casting spells, firing arrows and holding the southwest tower from those who made it inside and attempted to storm upwards. A ladder was employed, mostly unsuccessfully. Small groups attacked the eastern and western doors, those on the east quite unsuccessfully, given the pit trap uncovered there. Those doors though, were shattered under axe blows. One attacker made it through the western gate and pounded the trap door open leading to the catwalk there.

At one point the rival wizard instantiated a green glowing hound which assaulted Norm, but which eventually disapparated.

By the end of the session, the initial attack had been smashed. The rival wizard had faded back to his mob, which had been diminished by approximately one-third. The enemy was still encamped outside the fortress, seemingly gathering their collective breath and considering the next assault.

Morning is still a few hours away.

TSM Update: A Thieve’s Guild? In Rankford?

IN OUR LAST SESSION…

…it appears that the Purple Dragons are coming to town, which news seemed to have stirred Eeger, finally, from his perch.

Garl is pretty tough, it turns out, and fights dirty.  And his cell sits atop the entrance to a subterranean training area for local thieves, with it’s own tunnel exit leading north of town, and perhaps somewhere south as well.

After borrowing Hugo’s wagon under the ruse of taking supplies out to the ‘Dragons outpost west of town, our heroes stashed Garl, in chains, aboard it and headed to the outpost as a remote location for his interrogation.  Along the way, they passed the wood mill, sawing away in the middle of the night and arrived at the fortress outpost.  And just across the Road , so the heroes were told, slumped Count Segur’s residence, a mansion in the woods, though one perhaps not up to the standards — viewed from a distance, that one might expect from the Lord Regent of an ancient empire.

After falling and nearly falling off the cliff atop which squats the fortress, our heroes made their way inside the outpost, bringing with them the horse and Garl, and barred the entrance behind them, secure in the knowledge (?) that the Purple Dragons are due in 2 days.

Along the way, they heard from Garl, not at all reluctant, at least initially, to spill what he knew of the conspiracy.  It involves Eeger, the head of the thieves guild, Count Segur who seems to have some unknown sway over Ruddiger the Druid, and Marver the Warden.  They have some associates according to Garl: Mons Millmaster of the mill, and some “ogre,” supposedly.  Skank, he claims, worked for Eeger as a member of the thieves until he made some misstep.  Garl suggested that the Taledos must have likewise acted against the conspirators’ wishes in some way.

Garl said that the conspirators are simply involved in an effort to smuggle mithral from “a hole in the ground” through Rankford and ultimately to Immersea for sale.  It’s about money.  He said that he works for Eeger now, though he used to work for Millmaster until Eeger arrived on the scene.

Garl, perhaps bluffing, seemed very little concerned with his own death, but was enthusiastic in describing how the heroes were now certain to meet theirs, once the conspirators got a hold of them.  Towards the end of the session, though, Garl seemed more withdrawn.

TSM Update: Tunnel of Love

IN OUR LAST SESSION…

… our heroes (Tovlakov and Tia, anyway) explored the mysterious, previously hidden,  basement of the Taledo Transport shipping house.  The basement contained a series of now empty boxes, all bearing the mysterious symbol that we now associate with Count Segur.  And a tunnel heading north.  There was also a knot of rats fleeing the approaching heroes, as well as one dog-sized rat with red eyes.

T&T headed north, and after creeping along for a few hours, and discovering latent tracks of a heavy wagon previously pushed along the passage, they found that the tunnel met up with a much larger, smoother subterranean avenue heading generally east-west.  The uniformity of this larger tunnel led the heroes to believe that it had been bored by an ankheg.  The fact that there was wagon tread leading up to the ankheg tunnel and reappearing on the far side, but no such tracks of a wagon in the larger, smoother passage, seemed to indicate that the ankheg tunnel was newer than the last use of the wagon.

Eventually, after growing generally more damp, the passage from the Taledo shipping house led to a stairway that let out into a closet with a concealed door inside the Taledo office and residence.  T&T managed to slip out, unnoticed.

The entire group of heroes met up an their new hideout, an abandoned structure that Tia seemed to recall was some sort of ill-fated, low-reputation business from her youth.  The party members hid a number of the mithril ingot here.  There was a general planning session then, due to the extremely late hour, the heroes retreated to the Watchtower.

The following morning, Dain and Tovlakov headed to the House of Gond and met up with Pearl.  They convinced her that there might be memories, perhaps involving prominent individuals that she had lost due to the involvement of the satyr Lytus and that it might be important to regain.  She eventually committed to taking the memory restorative tea herself.

Dain had previously drawn a card from the Deck of Many Wondrous Things. He drew the Star card, and as a result became more wise.

Tovlakov confirmed, while Garl was sleeping, that his boots were muddied and covered with recent ash.

As the session began to wrap up, the heroes plotting what to do next, with Lord Segur presumably returning to town on the morning, an oddly-rapt rat, redolent with rare rationality, realizing the role-players recognition, fled, following the facility’s fragments to freedom.  Tia attempted an arrow assault and attained anticlimax.

There seemed to be some concern that the rat might be a servant of Ruddiger.

TSM Update: How long has this been going on?

IN OUR LAST SESSION…

… Tia and Tovlakov made their way, without incident, to gather more flowers for Pearl to use in preparing the memory restoration elixir.  They both eventually drank it, and relived some uncomfortable memories.

Dain spent some time talking to Marg about Count Segur’s schedule.  According to his typical practice, Segur should be in town in less than 48 hours.

The party visited the Oakstrong Brewery.  Hugo has brewed an oaked brown ale as a celebration of the life of his lost brother.

The party identified most of the items that the Mephit “Mike” had put in their goody bag: arrows of Troll and Wyvern Slaying, a Potion of Heroism and a Deck of Many Things, whatever that is.  There are still a few items (a potion, an oil, a few crystal spheres and books) yet to be identified.

There was a particular jay that the party felt was spying on them.  Tia felled it with a single arrow.

There was a late night fire at the Taledo dock, and it was fully burnt to the ground.  Amongst the ashes, the party found an intact shipping container, marked with a familiar, vaguely triangular symbol.  Having retrieved it, the party found it contained six ingots of what they believe to be mithril.

There is a basement space at Taledo’s, apparently still intact.

Tia is considering pulling one of the cards from the Deck.

It’s the militia versus the mithril conspiracy.

Isn’t it?

TSM Update: Let the Memory live again

IN OUR LAST SESSION…

… our heroes escaped from the War Wizards Tower, with the help of a mephit named Mike.  He offered a nice gift bag as consolation.

We learned a bit more about Lord Segur. Apparently he’s been around more than you realized.

Walter, supposedly, was encouraged to give himself in.  His regret at acceding, at least, was not long-lived.

The elixir mixed up by Pearl for the Taledos worked great.  So Norm tried it.  And recalled a meeting between Segur and Eeger that had been wiped out by the satyr’s magical pipes.  Also, that the druid Ruddiger had magically halted the group after the battle with the Ankheg and torn a page from Norm’s notebook containing a particular symbol, drawn from a blackened and burnt book found at the site of the first murder ritual.

Eeger and Segur?  The Warden Marver?  Ruddiger the druid?

Also, what about Skank?  Garl Gleamsilver?

Who can be trusted?

TSM Update

Last week, our heroes ventured out to the SmokeWorks, with the intention of filling in some of the gaps in their memories from Longshanks.  Tia also hoped to see if they could do something with the ankheg armor plates.  Longshanks promised to get started on the ankheg bits, and provided some forgotten information, in particular as it related to the slain ratcatcher Wolfshead.  While visiting with Longshanks, a stir at the SmokeWorks arose.  An elven lumberjack had collapsed, exhausted, after having fled an attack by strange light-skinned, hooved creatures who, he believed, had murdered everyone in his logging camp.

The heroes decided to try to deal with these monsters, presumably kor.  Dain set out with one of Longshank’s ponies to fetch Norm.  Along the way, he ran into a group of wild, enormous wolves who pursued and at various times stood like a man an hurled a javelin at him and the elf who Dain hoped to bring to safety in Rankford Mitte.  One of Longshank’s horses was slain by the wolves, but Dain and the elf managed to escape.

Having fetched Norm, dropped off the elf and returned to SmokeWorks, the party set out where they understood the logging camp that the kor had attacked was located.  They made their way into the wood, along a logging trail, through an abandoned logging camp site, and came to the bloody ruins of the objective.  As we stopped, the kor had noticed the heroes and were preparing for battle.

 

The Forgotten Realms and 5e

It’s been a bit since I ran a D&D game.  I’ve been playing in games DM’ed by my friends (most recently we press-ganged the Other Paul into running Curse of Strahd).  I ran a brief attempt at an OSR game with 0-level PCs for 7 or 8 sessions, which was a lot of fun for me.  I put together a survey of our group to ask about game systems and how they rank them (D&D 5E was far and away the winner) and asked about several possible games I’d be willing to run.  The winner was a game set in the Forgotten Realms where they are members of a local militia.

I’ve been running games on and off in the Forgotten Realms since 1986.  Those first games were set in Sembia, as that was one of the areas that was, according to the original Realms boxed set, set aside for DMs to flesh out.  This time around, because I wanted to have a monarch as an (off-stage) central figure, I put our game in nearby Cormyr.  I’ve set so many games in Waterdeep, I felt it was time for a change.

I based my Forgotten Realms campaign on the Time of Troubles-era, though with my own loose interpretation.  While all of the ToT craziness is going on, it’s a distant rumor to the denizens of tiny Rankford, where the PCs are headquartered.  Rankford has its own troubles.

I really want the PCs to care about Rankford, about the town, the people and their responsibilities to both.

There are a few key things going on, and one general problem: the Lords Wood, within which is nestled Rankford is a dangerous place and growing more so.

5e feels more to me like the 2nd Edition that I began DMing the Forgotten Realms with.  I’ve always loved running low-level play, where even a short trip between town and the small farming commune to the east could be a perilous journey.  This setting, where the PCs are often split up into small groups, feels exactly the way I want it to.  5e is a great vehicle for that sort of old-school-ish feeling.

I’m intentionally using some throwback monsters: ankhegs, centaurs, (others I won’t mention yet).  In a way, this game is almost a continuation of the OSR game I ran recently.  More structured, more… “official“, but I’m still striving for that rules-light, story-first feeling.

Our current game: The Shining Mantle

We are currently playing AD&D 5E, in a modified Forgotten Realms Cormyr.  The PCs are members of the local militia in village called Rankford which is perched on the edge of the Lord’s Wood, in a time of growing darkness.  They are faced with the often difficult choices of watching after their little community and pursuing glory.  Every session is a test of their values and priorities.