Category Archives: Fenrecz campaign

Nightwing Temple, part the second

Who’s in and Around That Temple

Hrafnsmál will almost always be in his “nest” at the top of the tower, consulting with his ravens or studying from his library. Ásmundur and Ámundur will be below, on the ground floor of the chapel, playing a game of chess. Three to four dozen ravens will be roosting/circling the tower at any given time, with large (10+ ravens) flocks regularly coming and going. A dozen or so animated skeletons stand aimlessly around the main chapel area. There used to be more of them; however, the group guarding the chapel and the tunnels outside of it have gradually gotten harder to control, to the point where the valravns have barred the cellar entrance and left the skeletons outside to their own devices.

The valravns suspect some sort of outside influence and they are correct. At the end of the tunnels, a necromancer named Naha has taken up residence after noticing the valravns out in the city on one of their various missions. Years of research later, he knows what the brothers are and has tracked them to Nightwing Temple (although he is unaware of the presence of Hrafnsmál). Setting up residence in a disguised and repurposed storm drain, Naha has used subtle spells to gradually reduce the control the valravns have over the skeletons with the intention of luring them to investigate. He’s set up a well-hidden alarm rune in one of the access tunnels and has prepared a nasty surprise in the form of a ritual circle created by setting crushed gems into floor carvings, primed with some blood sacrifices, which combined with an icon of Tittivila,  should allow him control over any undead opponents. He’ll then be able to put the valravns into some stasis coffins (AKA the best thing to ever come out of ToEE) and start on some awesome experiments.

The Chapel

Should the players approach the temple with a dead cat on a stick, they will be allowed to gain entrance freely. Inside the chapel, the skeletons will be arrayed to either side of the pews, tracking any visitors with their empty eye sockets. There is a skeleton impaled to the floor here with a Tooth of Vorn (or similarly interesting magical weapon). Ámundur will appear out of the gloom of the rear of the chapel and ask the party’s business with “the master”. He will not reveal Hrafnsmál’s name, although he will give his own and his station of “the master’s herald”. Ámundur will agree to convey a message to his master if asked politely. He will not allow the party to go up the tower unless they know Hrafnsmál’s name — if they do, he and Ásmundur will accompany the group upstairs. If the party asks about the sword, the valravns will offer it to them or if the party just takes it, they will say they are welcome to it; however, either way they will ask the party if they will do them a favor in return, to be named later. If the party refuses, they will be attacked unless they can talk their way out of it. If, at any point, Ámundur is attacked, the skeletons will charge the party and Ásmundur will arrive in the following round. The valravns will target any obvious spellcasters and will use space intelligently. If the encounter starts turning against them (all the skeletons are dead and/both valravns are wounded/one valravn is killed), they will shapechange into giant ravens and escape through holes in the chapel ceiling to the top of the tower.

If the group decides to openly assault the Temple, they will first be met by a swarm of ravens, who will concentrate on attacking the faces of the party, with special attention paid toward the eyes. If they manage to gain entrance to the chapel, they’ll be met by the skeletons and then the valravns in human form should they reduce the skeletons to half-a-dozen or less. Combat will then follow as if the party decided to attack the valravns in the above paragraph.

If the party decides to leave (they have delivered their message, etc.) the valravns will inform them that it will be many hours before the water recedes again and they can leave the way they came in (this is true) and it would be easier to go out through the cellar entrance. They hope that the party will flush out whatever’s been spooking the skeletons without having to do so themselves and will try and ease the party into going that direction.

NEXT TIME: Maps (this time I swear) What’s At the Top of the Tower

How It Went

In our group’s adventure, the party was given a message to take to the “occupant of the temple” and given directions on how to proceed through the Warrens/Lock district, including the advice to have a dead cat on a stick in order to enter peaceably. After a humorous interlude involving getting barstaff to procure a dead cat for them, the party headed straight to the Temple and entered with no fuss, although they were mildly surprised that the guardians were not interested in eating the dead cat. Then followed a comedic interchange with Ámundur (the party asked about the dead cat, with Ámundur telling them that just seeing a dead cat “pleases the ravens”), with the party leaping to the conclusion that the knight was a zombie of above-average intelligence and the valravn amused by the resulting interaction. After providing the party with some old yet decent wine from the chapel cellar, Ámundur took their message to the tower while Ásmundur “checked the waterfall schedule” in the temple foyer (in reality, he closed and barred the front gate, which somewhat agitated the party when they heard this). Ásmundur then said that the next time the waterfall would open was some time in the future and it would be easier for the party to leave via “the back way”. The players did not question why this meant the front entrance should be closed and barred and instead followed the valravns (Ámundur having had returned from the tower with a sealed message in a scroll case) through the chapel cellar to a barred stone door. The two groups parted jovially and the party headed down the dark and dank passage, showing minimal concern at the sound of the door being barred behind them.

Traveling through the catacombs and sewers between the Temple cellar and Naha’s house, the party were ambushed by a group of eight skeletons. Having gone through previous combat encounters like a hot knife through butter, the party were overconfident against what appeared to be a lesser danger as one party member ran for cover in a tunnel while the rest decided to duke it out while surrounded by the undead foes. They quickly realized what a bad idea this was when two party members were dealt near-critical blows. With both the dwarf and the priest 1-2 rounds from death, they broke off combat and bleeding badly, managed to gain safety in the tunnel leading to Naha’s secret chamber, getting lucky with healing spells to prevent any party deaths from their gushing wounds. Only the halfling was in any shape to fight and was having no luck using his rapier against his fleshless opponents. Switching things up, he concentrated on disarming the skeletons and then defending against their bony fists while retreating down the tunnels to keep the conflict on a one-to-one basis.

Reaching the bricked-up end of the tunnel, the dwarf burst through it with a single blow and he and the elf were met by Naha’s domination attempt. The elf reacted quickest to run past Naha, who, surprised by the lack of dominated valravns, attempted to paralyze the dwarf, who resisted and responded with a direct charge, chopping off one of the necromancer’s hands. He was quickly joined by the halfling, leaving the half-orc in the tunnel to hold off the skeletons, a decision based on the priest managing an exceptional success on a strength spell, allowing him to scatter the undead with relative ease (although he was almost killed at one point, saved only by an extremely poor damage roll on the part of the skeletons). Naha pulled out a potion from his belt and was preparing to down it when the dwarf struck again, severing the arm holding the potion and killing the mage in the process. The halfling doubled back to help the half-orc finish off the skeletons, leaving the dwarf to sample the potion, which turned him into a fine mist. This is where the session ended.

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Nightwing Temple, part the first

Fenrecz, lying in a relatively steep box-like canyon, is dominated by a major thoroughfare known as the Serpent Road, hewn from the green stone of the surrounding Viridian Cliffs. The Serpent Road has seven switchbacks, allowing horses and carts to traverse the city. Each switchback is referred to as a “coil”, so a destination could be “on the third coil”. At each point where the road switches back on itself, there is a large square, generally used for open-air markets, public executions and the like. At the North end of the city, the first coil passes over a series of complicated locks controlled by the Duke of Fenrecz, allowing some amount of control over the passage of the Eel River that flows into and under the city.

These locks open and close on a complex schedule, either through massive automated machinery or a cult-like group of operators (there are rumors about both). Moving on the bridges and stairways in the Locks is extremely dangerous if you aren’t aware of the intricate and changing schedule, as massive amounts of cold water can easily sweep anybody in the area off their feet, to be dashed on stone hundreds of feet below, drowned as they are forced through any number of underground channels or worse, flushed alive into the Eel Weirs. There are a large amount of waterfalls that serve as natural barriers to progress until a great grinding is heard, a lock somewhere high above is closed and the water stops flowing, opening up a new, dripping passage. Behind one of these water walls lies access to Nightwing Temple.

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How I Learned to Love Not Making Skill Rolls

I had a thought about a post for today and luck of luck, this post about skill rolls pretty much lined up perfectly with what I was already thinking about

A slight tangent: The quote that doesn’t feel right to me, which is near the end of the article, is “rolling a die and adding a number to it is not inherently pleasurable” (paraphrased slightly). I do have a bone of contention here because not only am I certain that my players find it pleasurable (they have been known to come up with excuses to roll when it was not at all necessary), I think that a certain amount of gambling theory is based on people deriving pleasure from this sort of thing.

HOWEVER

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Hacking a System, the Consensus Method

One thing that I’ve been trying to do lately is talk with the players before each session about how they feel about the system and the various mechanics that I’ve been coming up with. It’s a good time for it because we’re generally just eating some dinner-type food, the kids are getting ready for bed and we’re all getting warmed up for hucking slave-slaads down slime-pits and then lowering the halfling down said pits on a rope.

Anyway, the player who’s playing the arcane spellcaster was talking about how because of the aggravated wound system connected to casting spells, that although it made magic mysterious and dangerous, it also resulted in the party just taking whole weeks off to rest up so that they can get rid of those piled-up wound points because, in a system where death is just one or two swings of an axe away, having those points missing is pretty huge. Although I was initially resistant, I could see his point, we had to take the efficiency of the meta-game into account just as much as verisimilitude, and that doesn’t necessarily mean sacrificing the latter for the former.

So we added a new damage track.

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The Great Southern Swamp, a brief primer

Fenrecz lies directly north of a large delta that eventually turns into a much larger bay. The delta is a mix of swamp and marshland with some large channels/rivers cutting through it. A relatively high treeline and heavy fog impair visibility and the constantly shifting courses and currents of the channels, even the largest ones, make navigating it via boat a tricky endeavor, although one that’s attempted on a regular basis as it is still the best way to transport goods to and from Schelotto and other points south[1].

The most dangerous aspect of the Southern Swamps are the residents, most particularly the warring tribes of lizard men that are the dominant sentient inhabitants. Although many of the tribes have legends of when they fought with strange, demonic-like frog men, those times are well beyond living memory and most of their conflict is with whatever travelers attempt to move through the region or more frequently, with other lizard men.

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In the Land of the Obliviax Eaters

From the desk of Humberto Malladonnina, scholar of Schelotto:

Obliviax, or “memory moss” is one of the most intriguing specimens for scholars of magical flora. For one thing, the most important attribute of the moss, the ability to absorb memories, is the most dangerous aspect of studying it.

There are two facts about obliviax that most people are unaware of:

  1. Those who ingest obiliviax moss in a certain amount gain not only the memories contained in the moss; they also develop a dependence on the moss, becoming consumed with the desire to attain more memories, through the moss if possible; through other means if necessary.
  2. An obliviax colony, having grown to a certain size and having attained a certain amount of memories, achieves sentience of its own, of a sort[1].

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Fenrecz

Fenrecz is the main campaign city for the game that I’m currently running. Geographically, it sits in the middle of the Viridian Cliffs, a long stretch of sheer wall caused by some unknown seismic shift or magical disaster far in the world’s past. Here, a mighty river has carved a box canyon and a small settlement on the river banks has become a huge and complex city that takes up the whole of the box canyon, from wall to wall and from top to bottom. It’s loosely intended to be evocative of Vienna/Budapest of Early Modern times and is ruled by a mysterious Duke and his imposing copper-masked guards. The land to the north is scattered duchys and small holdings, southward is a great swamp delta where lizardmen and human bandits prey on merchant shipping.

As you may have guessed, Fenrecz is heavily influenced by Vornheim, as I bought Zak S’s supplement prior to designing it. As such, it’s chaotic and heavily vertical — not only are most of the buildings towers like you see in Vornheim, the entire city is build on top of older versions of itself, creating The Warrens, a labyrinth of causeways, aqueducts, old buildings and foundations that sits underneath the city proper, where the Duke’s men dare not trespass and where the lawless of the city reside, although there are pockets of relative safety. There are also giant cisterns carved beneath the city, used mainly for eel-breeding (and, it is rumored, for the ready disposal of unwanted corpses). The main architectural feature of Fenrecz is a snake-like switchback road that criss-crosses the whole of the city, allowing trade goods to be transported to and from the docks that serve as the city’s north and south borders (the southern docks are well outside the city walls and essentially serve as a second, smaller and far more dangerous hamlet).

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