14
May
08

Race: Half-orcs

The orcish invasion has been a curse on the majority of the half-orc population. While the orcs kept to their swamps, the humans and elves were inclined to pity half-orcs rather than fear them. While they were rarely accepted, half-orcs were at least allowed to do as they please within human lands. When the orcs began their rampage, however, suspicion fell on all half-orcs, whether they were new immigrants or third-generation citizens.

In these times, a significant number of half-orcs have found it easier to emmigrate to Peninsuul Valley or other lawless areas. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are themselves unlawful, but it does mean that they will be regarded with no more suspicion than any other resident. Those half-orcs that remain in human lands must work very hard if they want to keep up a respectable reputation.

Racial Traits:
• +2 Strength, -2 Charisma. Half-orcs have the strength of their orc relatives, but also the brutish attitude.
• Medium: As Medium creatures, half-orcs have no special bonuses or penalties due to their size.
• Half-orc base land speed is 30 feet.
• Darkvision: Half-orcs can see in the dark up to 60 feet. Darkvision is black and white only, but it is otherwise like normal sight, and half-orcs can function just fine with no light at all.
• +4 racial bonus on Intimidate and Survival checks. Half-orcs know how to get along in both the wild and the dangerous parts of town.
• +2 racial bonus on Hide and Move Silently checks. Unlike their full-blooded kin, half-orcs sometimes find it better to fade into the background than to rely on bluster.
• +1 racial bonus on attack rolls against outsiders. Orcs are innately skilled at fighting extraplanar creatures, and half-orcs retain some of this skill.
• Orc Blood: For all effects related to race, a half-orc is considered an orc.
• Automatic Languages: Common, Orc.
• Favoured Class: Ranger.

DM’s Notes:
Half-orcs are widely accepted as the weakest core race in D&D 3.5. I’ve done what I can to help them out a little.

They now have ability bonuses and penalties that balance out rather than leaving them in the hole, and they have skill and attack bonuses that put them up to par with other core races. Since Urda has full-blooded orcs running around as a core race, I’ve pushed half-orcs away from the barbarian stereotype and a little more towards the ranger. It would be kind of redundant to have orcs as wild, raging warriors and half-orcs as slightly less wild, slightly less raging warriors. Better to point them in a different direction. With their racial attack bonus against outsiders, a half-orc ranger can become very efficient at destroying some of the game’s most powerful creatures.

In an adventuring party, the half-orc will probably be a supportive rather than front-line warrior. In the party as well as in social situations, these crossbreeds prefer to avoid being the centre of attention. This makes them no less effective in combat or in any other role they may attempt. In fact, keeping a low profile can make it easier to surprise a foe when it becomes necessary. Half-orcs aren’t particularly adept at casting spells, but neither are they particularly poor at it.

09
May
08

Mortal: Session 9

At the end of Session 8, I was mostly making everything up on the spot; the entire murder mystery aspect was composed of characters and locations that I cobbled together from loose ideas that had been drifting around in my head. Normally I like to have a much more solid plan of what’s going to happen in an adventure, but I decided to run with it. As such, the greater part of this session was run without any notes. I think it turned out okay, and my players seem to agree. Here’s how it all went down.

————

When last we left our noble heroes (minus one), they had successfully warded off a demonic assault on Kalus Keep. A vrock tore several rooms apart before it could be stopped. After this attack, the party accompanied Lord Sirem on a diplomatic mission to the distant city of Northway, which was holding its annual winter festival. The heroes had the chance to show off their respective abilities in several different contests, and they even managed to win some prizes. The fun in Northway was short-lived, however, as they were soon drawn into a mystery; people were turning up dead. They investigated both a guild of necromancers and a church of St. Cuthbert, but they could find only one definite lead. It seemed that many of the demonic and goblinoid troubles they’ve had have all revolved around a certain book. They resolved to track down the author, but not before the unknown killer claimed another victim: Alàssé.

Alàssé had been torn to pieces, and her head was nowhere to be found. At first Kuu and Farad suspected that Watcher was the killer, but they quickly noticed that he had no blood on him at all. They questioned him, but he said that he had only just arrived and that he hadn’t seen the killer. Momentarily stumped, the male half of the party alerted the authorities and returned to Lord Sirem’s guest palace. All of this in fact happened at the end of Session 8, but I figured it would be more dramatic to leave it out until now.

The next morning, they broke the news in full to Jellybean, Sorcha, and Sirem. Naturally, being PCs, the party wasn’t too broken up about it, which means that five shares of roleplaying XP all went to Lord Sirem the NPC. Sorcha gladly volunteered to look after Alàssé’s cheetah. They then sat down to decide what their next move should be. They didn’t much like the idea of getting killed one by one, so they seriously considered leaving the city and tracking down Turlim Gray and his history book. This would mean a few weeks of travel cross-country to the small town of Woodedge. Given how long it would take to get there, they figured they should spend at least a couple days more working on this murder business since it would either solve itself (without giving them XP) or escalate beyond their control in the month it would take them to make the round trip.

Since they found Watcher at the crime scene and Watcher lived in the temple of St. Cuthbert, they made that their first destination. They also sent their two familiars, Coalfoot the fox and Free Spot Checks the owl, to look around the city on the off-chance that something suspicious was going on in plain sight (it could happen). The critters reported nothing too unusual, except that the Reanimist’s guild was closed for some reason. They made a mental note to look into that afterwards.

They once again greeted the Honourable Shining Cho of the Cudgel and informed him of last night’s murder. He expressed his sympathies and offered to perform the funeral ceremony, but the party agreed that as a chaotic good demon-blood, Alàssé wouldn’t have had Cuthbertites as her first choice for burial rites. Also, they suspected that Cho just wanted to get the demon-blood put into the ground quickly on the off-chance that she might regenerate.

Cho had little else to offer, so the heroes asked to speak with Watcher again. The tiny priest made a few grouchy comments about their suspicions, but he led them down to the tombs again. The gargoyle maintained that he had arrived too late to either stop the crime or identify the killer. He did manage to give them a little bit of new information; he had managed to arrive sooner in the past. All of the crimes took place at night. The victims were always alone in a secluded area, as if lured there. The killer was humanoid and capable of flight due to wings, though he supposed the “wings” could actually be a cloak and the method of flight magical. Further questioning revealed nothing they didn’t already know, so they left and headed for the Reanimist’s guild.

Naturally, they were ambushed by a gang of undead on the way.

Fifteen skeletons suddenly stepped out from dark alleys and corners to surround the party. A shrill voice of indeterminate origin ordered them to attack. The party formed a defensive ring and drew their weapons. Kuu managed to get a few skeletons with a burning hands spell, and the druid and her animals proved quite ferocious when attacking in concert. Farad used a grease spell followed by mirror image to evade his foes until he could find a better place to shoot from. Jellybean sang to help the others and Coalfoot bravely gnawed on some bony ankles. Things looked bleak for awhile, as five more skeletons replaced those that were falling, followed by ten marching rank and file. Thanks to some tactical advice from Farad, Sorcha was able to place a flaming sphere to devastating effect; the mindless undead marched straight through it. Though all bore heavy wounds, the party eventually triumphed.

Shortly after the last skeleton fell, Farad was hit in the face by several small, hurty objects. At first he was a bit worried, but he noticed that they were just some ordinary rings, apparently thrown in frustration. Examining them, he found that all six were made of bone with five small onyx gems embedded in them. Since onyx gems are a common material component in spells that animate the dead, he reasoned that these were the (now expended) rings that controlled the undead. Even without the assigned skeletons, the rings would still be worth some money, so they kept them. They were now more than a little suspicious of the Reanimists, so they hurried on with their investigation.

At the guild headquarters, they found that it was indeed closed, but not locked up. Since the registered a legitimate complaint (being attacked by a mob of undead), the secretary let them in and set them up another meeting with Meron Shik. The party was ready in case a fight broke out, but they weren’t really counting on it. As it turned out, Reanimist Shik was mostly just annoyed at being interrupted, since there had been a robbery earlier. Several newly-forged rings and the undead that they had been keyed to had all been stolen earlier. With the party’s info, they managed to put two and two together and figured that whoever had stolen those rings had done so for the purpose of attacking the party. Investigating the crime scene turned up a single small footprint in an ink spill, suggesting somebody’s familiar might have done the deed, but they still didn’t know who was actually causing all the trouble.

At this point, the party was pretty fed up with mysteries. They had no leads and little evidence, and people were trying to kill them. They figured they should just call it a day and head for Woodedge tomorrow. This murderer, whoever it may have been, was just a small fry compared to the demons apparently running around. Even if this murderer was connected to their current quest (Snive, and Gray’s book), that would just mean that they were technically “solving” the crime by going off and doing something else. Then they noticed that Kuu wasn’t walking behind them anymore.

They found him pretty quickly, but it didn’t look good. He was slumped against the wall in an alley, looking dazed, sick, and maybe a little happy. Too happy, considering he was slumped against the wall in an alley looking dazed and sick. They asked him what happened, but he apparently couldn’t remember. They suspected the worst, so they brought him back to Lord Sirem’s guest palace to check him out for magical control. When they got there, however, they found a broken second-story window and the servants all running about in confusion. They found a very tired-looking Lord Sirem resting in a chair in the room with the broken window. He was holding a bloodied rapier. He told the heroes that a bugbear had smashed through the window and attacked him with its bare hands (several bare/bear puns were made here, but they have been excluded), but he’d managed to scare it off.

And so the party enacted some magic. Kuu detected an enchantment of some kind on himself, and Sorcha’s healing skills revealed that both Kuu and Lord Sirem had had some of their life energy drained. If they didn’t fix that soon, it’d become permanent. This news was enough to give Kuu a chance to overcome the enchantment, and he succeeded. A courtesan had lured him into an alley and said she had information about the murders. He didn’t remember much else, but he woke up with a charm person spell on him. By combining their knowledge and what they already know, the party deduced that everything that had happened to far suggested a succubus as the most likely suspect.

The five of them quickly returned to the church of St. Cuthbert to ask for some healing, though there was a smaller shrine to Pelor nearby as well. They found the church all but deserted. Shining Cho and a low-ranking priest appeared from the armoury, the peke decked out in glowing full-plate armour. He explained that he didn’t have time to answer any more questions for the party, as he was about to join the rest of his priests and paladins at the Reanimists’ guild.

The Cuthbertites had heard that a gang of skeletons, keyed to Reanimist rings, had attacked civilians in public. He considered this the last straw, and he was preparing to shut down the entire guild and arrest all its members. Most of the church was already there, and they awaited only his orders to begin the crusade.

The party hurriedly explained what they knew about the skeletons, that they had been stolen, and also mentioned that a demon was loose somewhere in the city. Cho was properly worried about the demon and provided free restoration spells in return for the information, but he said that unless the party could tell him where the demon was, the Reanimists were still a more pressing matter. After all, he didn’t have any real proof that the “theft” wasn’t just a setup. Cho departed for the guild, leaving only the single priest behind to watch the temple.

For awhile, the party debated, yet again, the merits of abandoning both the Reanimists and the Cuthbertites to their silly rivalry and moving on to Woodedge. In the end their more-or-less good natures won out and the decided to at least tag along and watch the fireworks. Lord Sirem stayed behind at the temple, as he wasn’t a young man anymore and he could only perform so many feats of derring-do in one day.

At the guild, about two-dozen armoured clerics and paladins had surrounded the building on all sides. The Reanimists had apparently barricaded the doors and windows in a panic. Several windows on the upper stories (the building included a four-story tower) were open, and worried-looking wizards were looking at the mob below. Meron Shik could be seen looking particularly frustrated. Cho demanded that they turn themselves in for arrest, but they refused on the grounds that they had done nothing illegal or wrong. Suddenly, a wizard on the top level sent a massive ball of fire screaming down at the clerics. One thing led to another, the Cuthbertites broke the door down and started slapping manacles on people, and the party noticed a winged figure laughing on the roof of the tower.

Jellybean tried one last time to get the priests and the wizards to get along, but gave up and settled for using her bardic music to give the wizards a fighting chance. Meanwhile, the others figured that they should probably be concentrating on that winged figure on the roof. Kuu and Farad tried shooting at it, but from the angle they were at it was more or less impossible. The wizard in the fourth-floor window noticed and started sending down more fireballs. This convinced Sorcha that they should just use the stairs, and the others all saw the wisdom in this and followed. Natually, Laura had left by this point so it was in fact me telling them how to not get killed.

On the way, they were sure to make ample preparations for what they were sure was a demon attack. Farad souped up his and Kuu’s weapons so that they’d actually make a dent, as opposed to just barely overcoming damage reduction. The top of the tower was octogonal, with four pointed spires on four sides. Opposite the stairway, a succubus stood calmly waiting for them, in typical archvillain manner. Kuu and Jellybean immediately charged forward to attack, but even though she took some hits, the succubus remained calm. Apparently she had a plan, and a pretty good one at that. At almost the exact same time, Jellybean felt a sting in the small of her back and the clutch of tiny hands as an imp landed on her shoulder, and a vrock swooped out of the darkening sky and landed in the middle of the tower roof. Then the succubus teleported away, reappearing in the sky across town. This was starting to look depressingly like a trap.

Farad, who usually hung far enough back to avoid situations like this, found himself lifted clear off the ground by the vulture demon. The others gathered around and tried to distract the creature, but it very deliberately stalked to the edge of the tower, spread its wings, and flew away with the gnome in tow. It flapped a few times to get some altitude, then let Farad drop a hundred feet to the ground, ensuring his messy demise.

Except that Watch the gargoyle, with epic dramatic timing, swept in and caught him.

Also he had a ring of feather fall, but I like my dramatic moments.

The rest of the battle was so full of frighteningly close calls that it would cheapen the fear of death itself to recount them all. Highlights include Farad saving Watcher’s life with a well-timed ring swap, Kuu using his greatsword as a projectile weapon, Watcher being ripped apart to save Farad and Kuu, Jellybean swinging heroicly from the tower top on a rope, and Sorcha wildshaping into an ape and using her own body to deal falling damage to the vrock. In the end, both Watcher and the vrock were slain. Somewhere in there they also found time to beat the imp unconscious and take it prisoner.

During the fight, the entire party had managed to migrate from the tower top to the street, so they didn’t have to worry about navigating around a bunch of warring clerics and wizards. As they walked by, they noticed that the city militia had arrived to settle things down, so they were pretty sure nobody would be seriously hurt. They stopped briefly at St. Cuthbert’s temple to let Lord Sirem know that all was more or less well, then returned to their quarters for another interrogation.

This was, indeed, the same imp from before, as Jellybean was once again able to intimidate it with a scalpel. It said, once again, that it was working for Snive. Both it and the succubus had been summoned to do his bidding, which included attacking Xemina and the party, and other targets in the past. Since the imp had been physically summoned to Urda rather than just spiritually, it could actually die there and was quick to bargain for its life. If agreed to tell the party where Snive’s lair was if they let it go. After some barterting, the deal they made was that they would take the imp with them and let it go once Snive had been dealt with, if it indeed proved helpful.

After a very exhausting day, the party took their rest and made preparations to leave in the morning. Snive’s fortress was, apparently, about four days travel to the north. Lord Sirem was needed back in Eastguard, and it was likely that they wouldn’t see him again for a long time. As they went about their preparations, shopping for supplies and so forth, they noticed the town criers were reading off some interesting news. The raid on the Reanimists’ guild was a top story, of course, but apparently the militia had broken it up and nobody was arrested or seriously hurt. The succubus had been seen in the air by many, though the battle on the guild tower had apparently gone largely unnoticed. The demon had made an attempt on Xemina’s life (unsuccessful) before flying out of sight to the north. The party figured that the succubus would be reporting back to Snive.

Their first stop of the day was to visit the Reanimists and make sure for themselves that they were okay. The guild was open for business, but there was a definite uneasiness in the air. The heroes returned four more of the expended rings, and Meron Shik rewarded them with a small bag of gold. Satisfied, the party split up to complete the rest of their tasks. Jellybean dropped by the church of St. Cuthbert to pay her respects to Watcher. All of the clerics were in mourning garb, and Cho led her back down to the crypts to show her Watcher’s sarcophagus, added to the priests and warriors already interred there. After a short prayer, Jellybean told Cho about the demon attack, of which he had not been aware. He admitted that perhaps he had been too hasty to judge, though he still considered the Reanimists to be criminals. Since the party was off to hunt down the succubus, he gifted them with several flasks of holy water and ten holy arrows.

Meanwhile, as Kuu and Sorcha replenished their food and ammo, Farad paid a visit to Xemina. The sorceress was at home in bed, and her injuries were apparent if not life-threatening. The gnome did his best yet again to determine why Xemina was being targetted by Snive and his demons, but no conclusive answer could be found. Their best guess was still that somebody was trying to hurt Captain Welter through his wife, but they just weren’t sure. They reasoned that the only way to find out was to hunt Snive down and question him.

With these things done, the party bid a fond farewell to Lord Sirem and started their march to the north. The last thing they did before leaving Northway was to stop by St. Cuthbert’s temple one last time and extract from the Honourable Shining Cho of the Cudgel his promised apology to Kuu, who had proven himself valourous and just in the battle with the demon.

The trip to the north was uneventful, and took four days, just as the imp had promised. They found that Snive’s fortress was only a short tower, but that it was located atop a small, rocky mountain surrounded by clumps of thick threes. They asked the imp how to get in, and he said that he and his partner (the succubus) always just flew to the top, of course. He knew there were tunnels and hallways starting near the base that would lead up to the tower.

The party at first considered just climbing up the mountain, but in the end they reasoned that it would be better to just use the tunnels. For one thing, they’d be visible climbing the slope. For another, any guards would probably outnumber them and be able to surround them in the open, but not in the tunnels. And finally, there would probably be shiny treasure in the tunnels. There’s always shiny treasure in the tunnels.

And so they made their approach on the caves. Kuu led the way, as he often does. Fortunately, he noticed the house-sized spider hiding in the trees before it could gut him. An alarm was raised, and two worgs came charging out of the woods to attack the party. Kuu was gravely injured by the giant arachnid, but with Jellybean’s help he held his own. Sorcha and Farad concentrated on fighting off the canines. Soon two goblins and an ogre came charging out of the caves, ready for a fight, and each made a beeline for his respective mount.

One worg and rider team was defeated quickly, the worg retreating and the goblin falling from its back with a crossbow bolt jutting from his neck. The spider was quickly terminated by Sorcha’s flaming sphere spell, which also did a number on the ogre. The giant nearly crushed Kuu’s skull, but teamwork won the day in the end.

Being both injured and curious as to how the goblins would react to their attempted break-in, the party retreated for now (to level up). They vowed to finish the job the next day.

And so we ended the game between plots rather than in the thick of them, for a change.

————

In the next session, the party will take on Snive’s minions on his own turf. There are doubtless many unpleasant surprises waiting for them. Will they triumph as they have in the past, or will this be the dungeon that undoes them? Find out in Session 10.

24
Apr
08

Race: Half-elves

Particularly in recent years, interracial breeding between humans and elves is relatively common. The two races are able to find much to admire in one another; humans find elves to be physically beautiful, while elves might admire humans’ adaptability and diversity. Half-elves can also have children with one another, so they have become almost a race unto themselves.

Most half-elves have ectually benefitted from the elven exile. With the majority of the elven population now living among humans, they have found a sense of belonging that they might have missed by living among one race or the other. While humans and elves have always been allies, some half-elves would prefer if the elves never returned to Thu’Latill and instead integrated completely into Godendia. If this were the case, half-elves might very well become the most widespread race in Urda within a few generations.

Racial Traits:
• +1 Dexterity, -1 Constitution. Half-elves have strengths and weaknesses like their full-blooded relatives, though they are less pronounced.
• Medium: As Medium creatures, half-elves have no special bonuses or penalties due to their size.
• Half-elf base land speed is 30 feet.
• Immunity to magic sleep effects, and a +2 racial saving throw bonus against mind-affecting spells or effects. Like elves, half-elves do not sleep and are partially resistant to magical influence.
• Low-Light Vision: A half-elf can see twice as far as a human in starlight, moonlight, torchlight, and similar conditions of poor illumination. She retains the ability to distinguish color and detail under these conditions.
• +1 racial bonus on Listen, Search, and Spot checks. Half-elves have sharper senses than humans, but not as sharp as an elf.
• +4 racial bonus on Bluff, Diplomacy, and Gather Information checks. Half-elves are naturally skilled at interacting with other races. This bonus is increased to +6 when dealing with a human or elf.
• Elven Blood: For all effects related to race, a half-elf is considered an elf.
• Automatic Languages: Common, Elven.
• Favoured Class: Any.

DM’s Notes:
I’ve never had very strong feelings about half-elves either for good or bad, but I recognized that they had sub-par racial traits. I gave them a small boost by adding Bluff to their sklll bonuses and increasing the bonuses overall. They are especially useful when dealing with other humans and elves. Finally, I gave them partial tweaks to their ability scores instead of letting them be Captain Generic. It’s not much, but it’s enough to get you that extra ability bonus if you have an uneven Dex or Con score.

In an adventuring party, half-elves may play nearly any role. They make particularly good representatives when haggling with merchants or asking favours from a local lord. A clever half-elf might even end up being the party leader.

22
Apr
08

Race: Pekes

The pekes are a race of small, canine humanoids that descended from celestials. They are normally peaceful, welcomed by other races and respected despite their stature. However, they can also be fierce warriors when threatened.

The average peke stands about 2 ½ feet tall, and they rarely reach a full 3 feet. They weigh around 30 pounds. They have long, luxurious fur all over their bodies, which is usually gold but occasionally with a red tint. A very small number might have black or white fur.

Pekes may be benevolent creatures, but they are also extremely proud. They feel they are entitled to respect and admiration, though to be fair, they often deserve it as well. They are dedicated and loyal, and will usually fight to the death in defense of their lives, or the lives of those they consider ‘subjects’. These subjects can be friends or followers, or even just neighbours, so long as the peke has always been treated well by that individual.

Racial Traits:
• +2 Wisdom, -2 Strength: Pekes are very knowing, but their small size makes them physically weaker than larger humanoids.
• Small: As a Small creature, a peke gains a +1 size bonus to Armor Class, a +1 size bonus on attack rolls, and a +4 size bonus on Hide checks, but she uses smaller weapons than humans use, and her lifting and carrying limits are three-quarters of those of a Medium character.
• Peke base land speed is 15 feet.
• Low-Light Vision: A peke can see twice as far as a human in starlight, moonlight, torchlight, and similar conditions of poor illumination. He retains the ability to distinguish color and detail under these conditions.
• +1 Dodge bonus to AC when unarmoured. Pekes have very long, fluffy hair that makes it hard to tell just where their vitals are.
• +4 bonus to Move Silently when barefoot. The hair on pekes’ feet muffles their footsteps to near-silence.
• +2 bonus to Diplomacy and Heal checks. In addition, Diplomacy and Heal are always class skills for pekes, as their celestial heritage makes them charming and skilled at healing wounds of all kinds.
• Decadence: Any other creature that spends one full hour cooking for and grooming a peke receives the benefits of a bless spell (self only) for 24 hours. The peke cannot grant this bonus to another ally until the duration of the last bless effect runs out. In order to receive this bonus, the ally must succeed on a DC 20 Craft (cooking) or Profession (chef) check. Pekes most enjoy foods prepared with rare spices and herbs, and anybody attempting to prepare their meal without them takes a -5 penalty on their check. These ingredients cost 10gp per serving, but will keep indefinitely if they remain dry.
• Automatic Languages: Common and Celestial.
• Favoured Class: Paladin.

DM’s Notes:
Why? Because I can.

Pekes make excellent paladins, or other Wisdom-based casters. This goes farther than just that friendly stat bonus. As paladins, they can help keep their allies in the fight each day with their ability to grant a blessing. They may not be as powerful in straight combat due to their low Strength, but the paladin’s many Wisdom-based (rather than Charisma-based; class info coming someday) abilities will make up for it. As other casters, they have a nice little bonus to AC that a priest’s robes won’t interfere with and that stacks with other Dodge bonuses. If there is any combat choice for a peke besides paladin, it’s monk. Boosted speed will help balance out those stubby legs, and monks don’t wear armour either, so their AC will be nice and high. They can also move around quietly, which many monks also like to do.

In an adventuring party, pekes often end up being the leader. Whether they choose to be stalwart warriors or omnipotent spellslingers, a peke will rarely be kept in the shadows.

21
Apr
08

Mortal: Session 8

Sarah missed her third session in a row. And we all remember what happened to the last character that got NPCed three times in a row. The other four players were present, and although Laura again had to leave a bit early, she stayed longer than last time. Hopefully we can eventually get her there for a full game. In any case, we had a fun session which I shall now relate.

————

When last we left our noble heroes (and NPCs), they had returned to the town of Duvik’s Pass to answer a call to help. They learned that Blinkin Tinkerwright’s latest golem creation had gone rogue, and that other constructs had both closed the mines and attacked the town. Investigating further, the party discovered an ancient goblin workshop far below the mines which was overrun with still-operational constructs. On the bottom floor of the workshop they found a forge and mine with Blinkin’s golem acting as foreman. They destroyed the golem, which led to a powerful fire elemental being set free from the machinery. The party escaped while the elemental destroyed the remaining constructs, though they did manage to save a clockwork horse for themselves. Later, they saved a sorceress from rampaging goblins riding worg-back, who turned out to be more minions of the mysterious Snive. Back at Eastguard, they learned a little more about this character from a prisoner after an imp was caught trying to steal Lord Sirem’s book once again. That night, the thunderous crash awoke everyone in the keep; they were under attack.

The party, each of them in a private guestroom of Kalus Keep, spent a few minutes quickly suffling into their armour and collecting their weapons. Running down the hallway, they came to the large glass windows overlooking the keep’s indoor garden; they lay in ruin. The glass roof had been smashed apart and the plants and stone decorations below shredded. Several guards and servants were milling about in confusion. Lord Sirem burst from his room in a night gown and demanded to know what was going on. Ilia, also in bed clothes, soon appeared from her own quarters carrying a heavy mace but no armour.

The lot of them quickly made their way downstairs to the garden. They asked a servant, her leg badly injured, what had happened. Apparently some horrific vulture-like monster had burst through the sunroof and attacked the garden apparently at random. From the description, Ilia was able to identify the creature as a demonic vrock. While the party pondered this development, another resounding crash was heard from the north end of the keep; the ballroom.

Farad, Jellybean, and Ilia ran to the library, suspecting that this demon had come for Lord Sirem’s book. The lord of the keep himself remained in the garden for the moment, organizing his guards and servants to defend against the assault. Kuu, Alàssé, and Sorcha went directly to the ballroom to hopefully stop the threat.

Therein, they found the vrock perched upon the shattered ruins of a crystal chandelier, laughing wildly. Alàssé, being specially trained to combat evil outsiders, started to fire arrows at it while moving about the room. Kuu relied primarily on his axe while also sending his familiar to alert the rest of the party, while Sorcha concentrated on protecting herself and her wolf. The vrock nearly killed Alàssé with its flashing claws and almost crushed Kuu by releasing the second chandelier from the ceiling. The party also found that their weapons weren’t hurting the demon as much as they should.

Farad, Jellybean, Ilia, and two guards arrived shortly. The vrock killed both guards with little effort and injured most of the party members by expelling some sort of parasitic spores. Then, for no apparent reason, the demon teleported away. The party regrouped in the library to heal and explain the situation to Lord Sirem, but before long they heard further sounds of distress coming from the courtyard…

Outside, the demon had ransacked the stables and spooked the horses, which were now running about wildly. A few lay slaughtered. The vrock swept down and engaged the party yet again, letting loose a paralyzing shriek. This time the battle went a bit easier, as Ilia enchanted Kuu’s weapon to overcome the demon’s damage reduction. Another fierce melee ensued, with the vrock having an obvious advantage but the party able to slowly weaken it. Again, without warning, it teleported away.

The next few minutes went by in a confusion. The servants that had been asleep or hiding in their quarters suddenly ran crying into the courtyard, but by the time the party reached their rooms the demon had fled again, leaving behind only a few bodies. The next alarm came from the forge; again, they found a corpse but no demon. Cries of “Fire!” soon began to rise from the keep, and the party returned once again to the library.

They found the room in flames. The vrock had apparently taken a lit brand from the forges and had used it to ignite several of the bookshelves. It was happily swinging the weapon at two wounded guards while Lord Sirem stood back, unable to contibute but too worried about his men and his books to leave. The party surrounded the vulture-like demon while Farad enchanted his crossbow in such a way as to prevent further teleporting on the demon’s part. Sorcha conjured water out of thin air to douse most of the fires. Kuu and Jellybean teamed up to flank the demon, which almost set the gnoll aflame with its pilfered torch. Lord Sirem himself grabbed Alàssé’s sword and prepared to join the fray, but a solid hit from Kuu’s magic greataxe ended the threat at last. The demon collapsed, then promply vanished.

The heroes were now thoroughly exhausted. They helped put out the last of the fires, but they decided to leave the cleanup to the guards and return to their rooms. On the way, however, they found two dead guards in the hallway outside the solitary cells where the imp was being held. A quick inspection confirmed their fears; the tiny fiend had been liberated.

Some quick CSI work revealed that the guards had been killed discreetly rather than torn apart, and the cell unlocked rather then forced open. This likely wasn’t the work of the vrock, but of some other assailant. The vrock was perhaps only a diversion. They reported the bodies and asked Ilia to prepare some speak with dead spells the next day, then retired for some well-earned sleep.

The next morning they wasted no time communing with the spirits of the dead guards. Only being allowed a few questions, they were very careful with what they asked. They learned that both guards had been eviscerated from behind without having seen their attacker. The only people they had seen pass by had been the PCs, Ilia, Lord Sirem, and a few other guards, some of which had checked on the prisoner. Shortly after they had both died. They could provide no other useful information.

Conferring amongst themselves, the party decided that their next move should be to find Snive and see just what he has to do with all these attacks and thefts. Some inquiries in Eastguard revealed no definite location for this goblin mercenary’s base of operations, except that it was somewhere outside of Northway. Since they had made plans to visit that city, they checked again with Lord Sirem. Sirem told them that despite what would probably be the most responsible thing, he would indeed be going ahead with his plan to visit the northern city. His trip was not only to compete in a martial tournement, but also a diplomatic visit to House Quent, the lords of Northway. He assured the party that Ilia was more than competent enough to look after the city for a few weeks without him.

Leaving local affairs in capable hands, Lord Sirem, Xemina the sorceress, and the party (minus Laura, who left at some point around here) set off to the northwest. They travelled along a well-kept road and made good time. After about a week of riding, however, they ran into a problem. As the day drew on, they noticed a black speck on the horizon that appeared to be following them. This wasn’t too worrying until it started to get bigger. When the shape finally drew close enough, they identified it as an ogre riding on the back of an enormous wolf spider… this could not possibly be a good thing.

The ogre blocked the road and demanded that they hand over the sorceress. Xemina ducked behind the party’s wagon and shook her head emphatically. While Farad and Kuu stealthily prepared some destructive magic, Jellybean tried a more diplomatic approach. And by diplomatic I mean mind-affecting spells. She cast a suggestion; “This is not the sorceress you’re looking for. You don’t need to see her identification.” The ogre looked confused for a minute, but seemed to accept the explanation and allowed the party to continue on. The giant peered suspiciously after them, but couldn’t seem to see through the deception.

The rest of the journey was uneventful. As both time and distance passed, it rapidly grew colder. Soon the horses (one of which was mechanical) were trudging through snow. Winter was setting in to stay. After a total of three weeks, Northway finally came into sight in the distance. Unlike with Eastguard, the city’s walls only protected the inner city. Most residents lived outside the walls. They passed another elven tent city, this one located well away from the human dwellings, also unlike Eastguard. Lord Sirem wanred the party ahead of time that Northway was not like his home town; indeed, there were many things about it he agree with. He left them to discover what those things were on their own.

The city was in an obvious state of festivities. Many banners were flapping in the wind and the streets were bustling with farmers enjoying a rare break from their labours. Kuu and Alàssé, being a gnoll and a demon-blood respectively, were both given a bit of a hard time when they tried to enter the inner city. Lord Sirem vouched for both of them, though, and they got through. The party was given official passes which identified them as Lord Sirem’s “bodyguards”, which ensured that such hassles would be kept to a minimum in the future.

Once inside the city walls, Lord Sirem thanked the party for their company and told them that he would be staying in a guest palace near Northway’s keep. He would be heading for said keep presently, and while the party were welcome to join him, he doubted that they would be allowed to do anything more exciting than guard a door or wait in lobby. Xemina also thanked them for the escort and for protecting her from the ogre. She left to find her husband and children. This left the party with nothing better to do than enjoy the winter festival.

Kuu had already heard about the prestigious melee tournament and was eagre to sign up. Farad also considered it, but wanted to know the rules first. They found the registration tables and got the run-down for the games. All contestants would be given a +1 merciful weapon (also their prize if they should win) to fight with and leather armour for protection. No other gear or magic was allowed. They would fight a designated opponent in a direct elimination format, but all rounds would be held at once in what would no doubt look like a confusion of melee. Attacking other competitors would get you disqualified; if you got caught, that is.

Kuu went ahead and paid the steep sign-up fee (500 gp), but the others declined. They did notice some other games being held that they might qualify for, however; archery, long jump, and pie-eating, each of which offered a magic item as grand prize. Alàssé signed up for archery, and Kuu for long jump. The entire party joined in on the pie-eating contest, at last pitting their respective powers against one another in a knock-down drag-out battle of wits and endurance.

The first contest to be held was archery. Alàssé found herself in some surprisingly fierce competition. A fellow adventurer managed to play against her shot for shot, until it came down to their final arrows each. Alàssé won by a hair’s breadth, and the lesser bracers of archery were hers. The long jump proved to be a favourite competition for peasants, and a simple farmer’s son showed Kuu that mere strength is no match for training. For his efforts, the farm boy took home some boots of striding and springing.

Which led to the fabled pie-eating contest of Northway.

The party surveyed the competition; most were just in it for the pie, obviously. Yet one obese man looked intent on taking home the champion’s title. It would be a close match indeed. All sat at a long table, and pies were served, devoured, and enjoyed. Jellybean, Sorcha, and Alàssé all retired after just a single portion. More pies were served. Farad’s tiny gnome stomach performaed admirably, but apparently size did indeed matter, and he was forced to decline another serving. It was now narrowed down to a slavering gnoll and a grotesquely fat human. Though the people of Northway were clearly not racially tolerant, even they were forced to admit that gnolls are, indeed, the best eaters; Kuu won both a ring of sustenance and a stomach ache.

With these entertainments finished, the people congregated around Northway’s arena for the martial tournament. Kuu and Lord Sirem were both led to the rooms below while the rest of the party headed for the balconies above. Before the actual tournament, several preliminary rounds were held to single out the best combatants, and both Kuu and Sirem passed with ease. Once preparations were complete, all sixteen of the qualified warriors were led into the massive arena and ordered to stand in a large ring, each facing their opponent at the far end. The magical equivilent of a jumbotron displayed each contestant’s name, image, and opponents. After a short prayer to the gods, the warning bell sounded and the battle was joined.

Kuu seized the initiative and made sure to put some other competitors between himself and his opponent (an ogre; several savage humanoids were competing with noble houses as sponsors). The lumbering giant managed to give Kuu a single powerful swat with his greataxe, which was fortunately undersized. The gnoll was quicker, however, and two strokes from his greatsword sent the ogre to the ground.

The other small fights also ended rather quickly, with the exception of one; Lord Sirem, looking very smart with his leather tunic and rapier, was locked in melee with a dark-haired shifter wielding a mere dagger. Both of them were clearly relying on speed rather than strength, and both hits and misses were exchanged almost faster than the eye could see. After a few tense minutes, youth prevailed over experience and Sirem collapsed.

With the round over, the unconscious (this is all non-lethal damage, remember) competitors were carried off by clerics to be revived and those still standing were given a few minutes to catch their breath and have a few mouthfuls of water. They were once again organized into a ring, each facing their opponent, and again they met in battle at the sounding of the bell.

Kuu’s opponent this time was a dwarven monk who had opted against using the leather armour. The dwarf was much faster than the ogre had been, and quickly closed to melee with a flying kick. Kuu found himself taking more hits than before both from fist and kama, but he kept his head and countered with his greatsword, again dropping his opponent in just two solid hits.

The shifter had dispatched his own opponent long before.

After another short rest, the semi-final round began. The shifter was pitted against a wily minitaur while Kuu found himself up against a mean-looking bugbear. Of course, he was well used to such things by now. Each was wielding a greatsword and each was nearing exhaustion from their previous bouts, so the entire match came down to a single clash of steel. Kuu’s luck had run out, and he was eliminated from the games.

To nobody’s surprise but everyone’s approval, the bugbear was subsequently defeated by the shifter, who took home the title of champion and the prize of a magical dagger.

Kuu and Sirem both awoke at roughly the same time in the chambers below the arena. They retrieved their gear and Kuu received his runner-up prize of a +1 greatsword. He was happy with the tournament, even if he didn’t come in first. Upon rejoining with this friends, plans were made to find and loot the shifter’s inn room.

Before such a questionable plan could come to fruition, however, the very same shifter approached them with arms open in friendship. He introduced himself as Lewis Welter, head of security for House Quent and husband to Xemina. He congratulated both Kuu and Sirem on a battle well fought. He’d already heard about the party’s generosity towards his wife, and so he offered them the dagger he’d just won as a reward; he already had one from last year (which Lord Sirem had missed), and better weapons besides. Intentions to rob the man were set aside for the moment.

While they had the advantage, the party decided to question Lewis about Snive. The lithe warrior admitted that although he was familiar with the name, he didn’t know anything of the goblin’s whereabouts. House Quent’s security force was dedicated to protecting the castle and the nobility of the House, not the people of Northway. In fact, he explained, Eastguard was unique for having a privately funded police force so dedicated to the citizenry. If the party wanted information on any criminal activity, it would have to come from the militia. Both Lewis and Lord Sirem seemed dubious about the success of that endeavour. Nevertheless, the heroes decided to try. They set out for the militia office while Lewis and Sirem returned to the castle.

They found a long line at the office, but Jellybean used her bardly charisma to get to the front. Kuu and Alàssé, however, were strongly advised to wait outside by armoured men with pointy sticks. Kuu argued briefly that he used to be human, but let it go. Jellybean seemed somewhat frustrated, however, but she decided to just finish their business and then leave.

The person in charge was Colonel Beth Lenfel. She seemed to be very busy with paperwork and only half-listening as the PCs asked their questions. The colonel wearily replied that yes, the milita was aware of Snive, no, they haven’t captured him yet, yes, they intend to, and no, they are not offering a bounty to vigilante groups at this time. “The militia will take care of it, citizen; that’s why we’re here.” The party snappily replied that they are travelers, not citizens. This raised the colonel’s eyebrows. She began to ask them some questions of their own. Where did the come from? When did they arrive? Why were they carrying so many weapons? Long story short, Jellybean, Farad, and Sorcha found themselves politely escorted into a jail cell and asked to remain there for a little while. Jellybean laughed that their comrades would be able to help them out, but once the militia learned that they had comrades, Kuu and Alàssé were thrown in the cell with them.

Minutes turned into hours, which turned into an overnight stay. The next morning, an apologetic Lord Sirem arrived and had the militia release the party. It was explained that an unsolved series of murders had apparently ended several weeks back, then mysteriously begun again the previous day. The arrival of an adventuring party on the same day had naturally raised suspicion, but their alibi was airtight and they were no longer considered suspects.

The party at first decided to just let it go. They spent the day trying to entertain themselves in the city. Jellybean went from tavern to tavern singing and Farad crafted a hat of disguise to help relieve any unnecessary suspicions that might fall upon Kuu for being a gnoll; he could now appear as a very tall human instead. Unfortunately, boredom set in quickly (especially since Jellybean only made one slim silver piece) and they decided to investigate the murders for the hell of it. How ordinary people manage to pass the time they’ll never know.

A few rounds about town pulled up a couple of interesting rumours regarding the murders. There seemed to be two camps of speculators; one group believed that the local Reanimist’s guild was killing people and harvesting bodies, but they’d just slipped up and left a few behind, while another group claimed that the local church of St. Cuthbert was harbouring a winged monster which they periodically released upon the town in order to make it seem like their justice was always needed.

Not even knowing what the Reanimist’s guild was, the party decided to investigate there first. They found the guild hall to be not only openly advertised, but also open to the public. The Reanimists, they learned, were a sect of wizards, sorcerers, and even a few clerics who believed that once the soul had fled the body in death, the corpse left behind should be put to good use as any other valuable material. People who had agreed to be donors would have their bodies reanimated after their death, usually as skeletons (because zombies smell), to act at servants and labourers. The Reanimists could even link the undead to a specific ring and sell it; the wearer of the ring would be able to command the undead as if they had created them. The guild was completely legal within Northway, and they apparently had a champter in the capitol, Fortuga, as well. Their practices were illegal in most other cities, but they were constantly lobbying to change that.

The party was welcomed inside the guild hall and greeted by a pleasant secretary. They asked to speak with the guild leader, and since he wasn’t busy, they soon got their wish. Reanimist Meron Shik turned out to be rather ordinary looking for a necromancer; a bit pale as a side effect of working with so much negative energy, but by no means the fiendish drooling graverobber stereotype. If anything he had more of the politician about him. He very politely answered the party’s questions about the guild, but when they mentioned the murders he turned defensive. He seemed genuinely offended by their seeming accusations, and assured them that all of the bodies they use for experiments are legally donated, and that even if they had accidentally created some horrible monster, it never would have escaped into the streets. Their quick tour earlier made them inclined to believe this as well.

When they asked him if he had any suspicions of his own, he told them what they had already heard; that the Cuthbertites were harbouring a monster of some kind. While he had no proof, he said that the irony would be too perfect to surprise him. The church had always opposed the Reanimists’ activies, even going so far as to “accidentally” turn the undead they sold. Shik admitted that, yes, creating undead brought more negative energy into the world which gave the forces of evil more sway, but since so many adventurers and nobles were extending their lifespans with positive-energy-based healing potions, it balanced out easily. Besides, their undead were never used for evil purposes and they kept perfect and public records of all their activities.

Satisfied with Shik’s innocence, the party instead asked about any other wizards in town who might have set loose a monster. Specifically, they were looking for summoners who might have conjured demons. The attacks of the imp and vrock were still fresh on their minds. The necromancer thought about it for a moment, but could only produce two names, neither of which he had any real suspicions about. Zann Sharnay, head arcanist to House Quent, was certainly the most powerful wizard around. On the other hand, there was a historian who specialized in interplanar dealings; Something Gray, famous author, or some such. Shik confessed that reading for pleasure was not among his favourite pastimes. This reminded the party of the book which had so often been stolen or coveted, and they decided to ask Lord Sirem about it. They bid Shik farewell and headed out to do so.

Sirem was not currently at his guest palace, but apparently still visiting at the castle. The party recalled that they would not easily be getting in themselves, so they resolved to check out the church for now, but to remember to ask Lord Sirem about this Gray character later. They quickly made their way to the church of St. Cuthbert.

The cathedral was not what the party had expected. Rather than a grand testament to power of St. Cuthbert, it looked like nothing more than a large rectangle of granite with few windows and no adornments. The inside wasn’t much better. It seemed a purely functional building, devoid of embellishment. For a god devoted to justice, perhaps decoration just wasn’t a very high priority.

The head of the church, when he was found, turned out to be a peke; a small, canine humanoid with a thick coat of hair distantly related to celestials. The tiny cleric welcomed the party to the temple (though he made his distrust of Kuu plain) and asked their business. At their request, he suspiciously agreed to hold their discussion in a private room.

The priest, who introduced himself as the Honourable Shining Cho of the Cudgel, answered the party’s general questions about the church succinctly, but he soon suggested that they get to whatever it was they wanted to ask that required privacy. As soon as the party mentioned the murders, Cho aggressively denied that he, his church, or any of his followers would commit such a crime. He then adamantly denied that the church was harbouring a “monster”, but that such things were commonly found among the Reanimists. He made it plain that he held little trust for the party, particularly since they had brought a gnoll before him. Most pekes have a hatred of gnolls, as they believe them to be their opposites and nemeses.

Jellybean was all but overwhelmed by all the hostility and racism they’d found in Northway, but she still managed to calm the cleric down with some careful mediation. Apologies were exchanged, but Cho could offer no other advice on the murders. However, he did seem to be acting somewhat suspiciously. Eventually he paused and asked the party just who they were. They produced their passes, tying them to Lord Sirem, and Cho seemed to come to a decision. He led them down a back staircase and down several hundred feet below the temple. As he went he pointed out the discolouration in the stone that marked the level of the streets, then the sewers, then then solid rock. They eventually came to a massive tomb.

This chamber was several dozen times as large as the temple above, with the ceiling rising some thirty feet above into darkness. Unlike the temple, it was also thoroughly decorated. Carvings adorned the massive pillars and sculptures of guardian beasts watched over the dead. Niches with coffins were stacked three high along the walls. The place had an air of solitude and rest.

Cho led the party far down the line, past the coffins and into a section of empty niches awaiting hosts. He pointed out where he himself would one day lie, St. Cuthbert willing. They eventually reached the far end of the chamber, where it was evident that few visited. Strangely, he waved his hand in the air, as if beckoning someone. Stranger still was that one of the sculptures high above began to move. The figure spread its wings and glided down to land several feet away. It was a gargoyle.

Shining Cho explained that the gargoyle, Watcher, was the so-called monster that the local populace was so worried about. No, he was not the murderer, but he had been spotted enough times to raise suspicion. Watcher had apparently been a guardian of the temple for many generations, since before Cho’s grandfather had been anointed. For his part, Watcher seemed shy and reclusive rather than murderous.

In his defense, the gargoyle merely rasped “Didn’t do it”.

The party called a huddle and discussed what they’d learned so far. Jellybean said that she didn’t think anybody they had met so far was the culprit, and Farad and Kuu agreed. They speculated that both the Reanimists and the Cuthbertites were just so opposed to each other that they were pinning blame without checking facts. They decided they should try looking at the problem from a different angle; maybe it was Snive behind the murders? They’d ask around with the savage humanoids in Northway and see what they could find.

They begged leave of Cho and Watcher, but the priest said he had one more thing he wished to show them. He led them back one of the sarcophagi and picked up a dusty book from in front of it. He flipped through a few pages and quoted several tales of the paladin who was buried there. The noble knight had gone far out of his way to rid the streets of criminals, and more than once he had strode into a dark alley that he should not, by all rights, have strode back out of. The people had come to believe that St. Cuthbert himself was watching over the paladin, having sent a guardian angel to protect him in his direst battles. Cho then showed them the carvings on the side of the sarcophagus. There was the knight, brought to one knee yet unyielding, with the forces of darkness gathered around him. And above him, hidden among other designs, was the form of his guardian angel; Watcher.

The party soberly returned to Sirem’s guest palace, and this time they found the lord at home. They mentioned the name “Gray” to him and asked about the book. Now more than ever they believed that the answers to their troubles were in its pages. Lord Sirem slapped himself in the forehead. “The book!” he cried. “I had it in my room after the imp almost got it, but with the vrock attack… I don’t know if it’s still there!”

Aaaaaand cue groans from the party.

They asked what the book was actually about, and Lord Sirem told them. “You see, since the demonic invasion, much knowledge has been lost about the time before; we no longer even know the numbers of the years before the Demon. The thing is, there are creatures that lived during that time still living to this day; the illmerrini and other fey-folk. Of course, since they seceded into their own plane, they have had no real contact with us.

“And yet there is one man, Turlim Gray, who has dedicated his life to studying and befriending the fey. Through this relationship, he was able to write a history book from first-hand accounts that spans centuries; millenia, even! His book, the same which I ordered, is perhaps the most accurate history book ever written.

“I’ve only just begun to look at it myself, but there are so many secrets within those pages! Orcs and elves were allies before the Demon, and a goblinoid empire once spanned from the Peninsuul Valley to what is now the Dry Waste! I can only imagine that something in that book contradicts our current knowledge in some way that somebody finds unacceptable. Somebody wants to keep a secret, and I doubt it can be anything good…”

They party was abuzz with more questions. They couldn’t seek out Turlim Gray himself, at least not immediately, for he was currently staying at his vacation home in Woodedge, near the forests of the fey. It would be at least a week’s travel to get there, and Lord Sirem couldn’t possibly stay away from his duties for so long. It looked like he would soon be parting ways with the PCs. In the meantime, Farad suggested that they seek out the publisher. Sirem agreed and they set out, though it was by now getting dark.

After some walking they came upon the publisher’s office; going out of business (more groans). But, fortunately, not closed yet. A few glum souls were still lurking about. They tracked down the man in charge and asked what was going on. He told them that the company had lost a lot of money on what should have been a sure deal; Gray’s history book. Apparently, almost every single copy had turned up missing or ruined, and with all the refunds they’d had to give out, they couldn’t afford to run their operation any more. If any copies were still out there, the man didn’t know where they’d be, but he was pretty sure that Gray himself still had the original.

It was now quite dark, being a moonless night, and the party decided to pack it in for now. And so Lord Sirem, Kuu, Jellybean, Farad, and Sorcha all retreated to…

Wait, aren’t they missing someone?

When was the last time anyone saw or heard from Alàssé? Seriously, scroll back up the page there.

Jellybean, Sorcha, and Lord Sirem went back to the guest palace to see if she was there, but Farad and Kuu, both having darkvision, decided to retrace their steps and see what they could find. After a half hour of fruitless searching, they were about ready to give up when suddenly a horrific smell assaulted them. They followed it into an alley, and found Alàssé’s mutilated corpse, missing its head, with Watcher perched on a nearby trashcan looking curiously at the remains.

Cliffhangers are good.

————

In the next session, the party will have alot on their plate. Snive. Watcher. Fey. Murders. Secrets from ancient times. Mysterious wizards. Necromancers. Paladins. A dead comrade. How do all the pieces fit together? Who is the murderer? Hopefully the party will find out in Session 9.

15
Apr
08

First Level Feats

Just a little bit of brainstorming here, since I haven’t posted much the past week.

At first level, a PC gets maximum hp for his class, a whole pile of skills, and one feat. A human will get an extra feat. As optional rules, they can also take flaws and traits. Flaws let them accept penalties in exchange for a bonus feat, while traits give them both penalties and bonuses which roughly balance out. I really like this from both a mechanical and a role-playing point of view. They can help to define both a character’s personality and their role in the party.

In the interest of “more character definition”, I’ve been considering creating a sort of not-quite-feat which a character can take at first level only. These would be minor bonuses that wouldn’t be world-shattering in their effect, but nice to have. I’m considering getting rid of feats like Awareness and Athletic and instead turning them into first-level only feats, since they’re not really that good. Well, I guess you could take them later if you really wanted, but you can get one for ‘free’ at first level.

The real impact of these first-level feats (they’re called FLFs now) is that I’m thinking you might have to a certain one to be able to enter a caster class. So, for example, sorcerers would have to take the FLF called Inborn Magic before he could take class levels. Why, you ask? Let me answer your question with another question. Why should the illiterate barbarian be allowed to randomly take a level of sorcerer just to qualify for some obscure prestige class? Where did that random magical talent come from? Well, okay; sorcerer, maybe. I guess Gushmug the orc just didn’t bother to expand upon his magical aptitude right away. But what about wizard? Magic that cost a first-level character decades to master took the orc three days in between dungeons? There should at least be some arbitrary cost to learn spells, especially if you want to multiclass later on.

So, those are my thoughts on that. It’s not much, I realize. I’ll try to post more often this week. The next Mortal session will hopefully be this weekend.

15
Apr
08

Race: Kobolds

Other races don’t know nearly as much about kobolds as they think they do. Many a green adventurer will brag in a tavern about how many kobolds he’s slain. Yes, perhaps he killed a few (not as many as he claimed, though). But they were likely only the rank-and-file soldiers for which the kobolds feel little sense of less; indeed, two more were probably initiated for each one the adventurer killed. If this cocky adventurer of ours should claim to have single-handedly executed a powerful and important kobold warrior, then you know he’s lying. Even if he had managed it, he wouldn’t be bragging; he’d be hiding, because a death squad would never be too far behind him.

The kobolds of Ragdenori are an ancient race, having lived in the Crescent Mountains mountains even longer than the dwarves. They have never been a particularly friendly race. They are secretive and xenophobic, and quite efficiently violent towards those they label as enemies. It isn’t much of a secret that the kobolds are descendants of dragons, but if the small lizards had their way, it probably would be. Very few non-kobolds are allowed beyond the borders of Ragdenori, and they usually don’t make it back out. All things told, adventurers would probably be wise to just leave those kobolds to their own devices.

Racial Traits:
• +4 Dexterity, -2 Strength, -2 Constitution. Kobolds are very quick, but not as strong or tough as larger creatures.
• Small: As a Small creature, a kobold gains a +1 size bonus to Armor Class, a +1 size bonus on attack rolls, and a +4 size bonus on Hide checks, but he uses smaller weapons than humans use, and his lifting and carrying limits are three-quarters of those of a Medium character.
• Humanoid (dragonblood, reptilian): Kobolds are humanoids with the dragonblood and reptilian subtypes. For all effects related to race, kobolds are considered dragons.
• Kobold base land speed is 30 feet.
• +1 natural armour bonus.
• Darkvision: Kobolds can see in the dark up to 60 feet. Darkvision is black and white only, but it is otherwise like normal sight, and kobolds can function just fine with no light at all.
• +2 racial bonus on Craft (trapmaking), Profession (miner), and Search checks. Additionally, kobolds always add Craft (trapmaking) to their list of class skills. Kobolds are well trained in protecting and expanding their tunnels.
• +8 racial bonus on Knowledge (history) checks. Of all races, kobolds have kept the best historical records. They rarely share this knowledge with others, however.
• Light Sensitivity: Kobolds are dazzled in bright sunlight or within the radius of a daylight spell.
• Automatic Languages: Common, Draconic.
• Favoured Class: Sorcerer.

DM’s Notes:
I think kobolds are neat. However, like orcs and goblins, I find them to be underpowered and underappreciated mooks in core D&D. Yes, they have that draconic heritage backing them up, which orcs and goblins just can’t claim. But they still needed a little boost, and I’ve tried to give them that.

Kobolds have a lower Strength penalty, but still suffer from light sensitivity. I let them keep the Dragonblood subtype, which can be really helpful at times (and you can bet there will be prestige classes to go with it). The biggest kick I gave them is a huge bonus to Knowledge (history). Some people might say “who cares”? It’s just a knowledge skill. What can it do? The answer is, I’m not sure yet, but something. I want knowledge skills to actually be useful mechanically as well as in RP terms. Kobolds will also know things about the history of Urda that other races don’t, and that can be a big advantage. At the very least, a kobold player will get a bunch of info from the DM that they don’t have to share with the rest of the party because they’re “state secrets”.

In an adventuring party, kobolds are best as light, mobile warriors or as spellcasters. A natural armour bonus combined with small size makes them good at avoiding damage, but a Strength penalty makes them bad at dealing it. Kobold characters can also provide useful advice to the rest of the party when adventuring underground or dealing with any sorts of ruins or other ancient dangers.




August 2017
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