The party emerged from the entrance to Duirnhold with the 9 dead party members from last week's fight with the traps, kobolds, slime monster, and slime zombie. I informed the players of a minor ret-con: the slime was not red, it was in fact black and oily, like tar, and stunk like a self-cleaning oven.
The group now consists of three first level characters:
Valerius the Squire, human warrior
Absalom the Witness, human cleric of Ildavir, goddess of nature
- Detect Magic
- Holy Sanctuary
- Resist Cold or Heat
Gwen the Wanderer, the elfin archer-mage
- Find Familiar
- Patron Bond/Invoke Patron
- Force Manipulation
- Animal Summoning
Absalom, having heard the call of holy orders, provided burial rites for the slain. The town gathered round the standing stones while the ritual was performed. During the ritual, one of the fallen dwarfs began to leak blood from all orifices, as if all his blood was being pushed from his body. The blood was soon followed by a sticky black ichor bubbling greasy oily bubbles. The body rose, queasily, and lurched towards Gwen, bearer of the magic key that opened the gate to Duirnhold, reaching, grasping.
Gwen backed quickly away and loosed an arrow into the creature. Absalom quickly turned it and the loathsome thing fled. As it did so, Valerius hacked it down. As the animated corpse collapsed into various body parts, the sticky tar that controlled the body slopped onto the ground with a splat, then formed into a lumpy mass with writhing ropy tendrils. The mass continued to move away and was quickly slain.
The rest of the ritual proceeded normally. Afterwards, Absalom cast a Detect Magic spell and identified the fancy dwarfish dagger Valerius carried. It is a +1 dagger with 3 INT that communicates in vague impressions. The dagger is lawful and desires to a) build the greatest city in the world, b) build statues to fallen heroes, c) punish the guilty, and d) punish all thieves. The dagger, like most dwarfs, despises and distrusts users of magic. He names the dagger "Duirn's Dream".
He also identified the demon horn which can be used to summon and bond Ssisssuraaaaggg, the immortal demon-snake. He was not able to identify the proper use of the orb, which as far as anyone known emits a dim light and does not fall when let go.
The party decided to rest for a few days.
That night, I decided to roll for random village encounters in my old book: the Midkemia Press' Second Edition of Cities.
This book was AWESOME with random unplanned stuff!
Day 1, Day- a merchant is in town (random name = Kedrith Wynn) looking to hire guards for his "caravan" (a mule with a strong-box, some un-sold bolts of cloth, and items he's traded for so far). He's reached the end of the road and is heading back down the trail to the port city of Thither. He just lost his former guards in the dungeon and needs new help. He'll pay 6 copper a day to each guard, plus cover food (gruel) and lodhing (common room in the inn). Since that's where the PCs were going to go next, they took the job, leaving on the morrow.
Day 1, Evening - nothing happens.
Day 1, Night - Absalom is eating at the local inn/public house when the Cities book encounter indicates an old blind beggar (random name = Jacobus) mistakes Absalom for someone else (Sergeant Killroy). I quickly improved a scene whereby Jacobus thinks Absalom is his old commander, "I haven't seen you since the war!" Jacobus ignores Absalom's protestations. to the contrary, "Oh sergeant, you are having fun with me. What are your orders sir?" Eventually Absalom gives in and orders Jacobus to guard the town. "Of course sir! I have been guarding it ever since you left to fight the Troglodytes at the Caves of Deathspire. You said you'd be back in four days. I followed your orders, sergeant. I stayed right here. I've been guarding this town ever since sergeant! And now you're finally back, and I'm reporting for duty!" Absalom took pity on the poor old man. He orders him to fall in on the morrow for a new mission.
Day 2, Morning - the group gears up. I rolled randomly to see if Jacobus showed up. He did, almost too late. They put Jacobus on Gwen's pony and head off down the trail. No other event indicated.
No wilderness event was indicated on their journey to Choke.
Day 2, Noon - They arrive in Choke, a small walled town where the river narrows into a deep ravine. A bridge crosses the ravine at this location. I rolled an encounter with a town guard who correctly recognizes one of the characters, in this case Gwen. The town guard, Donnan (name supplied by a player), is attracted to Gwen. Gwen tries to hire the guard for the party but he has unfortunately recently taken employment with the baron as a man-at-arms. They have lunch in Choke and continue on.
Throughout the journey, Valerius won't shut up about the city he's going to build. It will be glorious! A testament to the heroes of old! Etc!
No wilderness event was indicated on their journey to Swallow.
Day 2, Evening - They arrive in Swallow, a relatively large town of 2000, a trading center at the top of the waterfall of the Xanthus River as it cascades from the rugged highlands to the flatter lowlands. A switch-back road allows carts and pack animals up and down the cliff face. I rolled an random event: someone dumps their chamber pot on top of (random) Absalom's head! Absalom, the former gong farmer, is incensed and goes to the local bath-house to wash himself and anoint himself in perfumes and oils.
Day 2, Night - No events.
Day 3, Day - Jacobus is still alive. Kedrith informs the group they are stay an extra day in Swallow to conduct some business. Random event: the circus is in town, but people aren't happy with it. So while kicking around town, a wagon being pulled by a baluchitherium emerges from the cliff-side switchbacks. The wagon is carrying caged slaves, bound and chained, covered in filth. The baluchitherium is in poor health, malnourished and near death. The various traveling gypsies accompanying the small circus set up their act in the town square, where they are booed and people loose interest.
The party inquires about the circus act. Another random roll later and they engage a local madman, carrying a sandwich-board declaring the imminent end of the world. The madman tells them it is a circus act, and not a very good one. They were much better last year. In addition, "The world will be ending soon! The Oil will consume us all! Beware the Oil! You have been touched by the Oil! Unclean! Foulness! Begone from my sight!" Foreshadowing? Nahh.. What's that mean?
Valerius is annoyed by the state of the slaves, billed as "wild beast-men from the southern jungles" but obviously captured urchins made to look savage, as well as the beast, which he has dreams of riding as a mount. He inquires with the owner of the act, who informs him that times are hard. Pirates raid the river below and he lost his best performers to an attack. He'd be willing to sell the lot for 1000 gold or just the baluchitherium for 100 gold. Valerius declines and goes on his way for now. He informs Kedrith of the pirates.
Day 3, Evening - No events.
Day 3, Night - No events.
Day 4, Day - Jacobus is still alive. The party loads up and heads down the switchback road. Kedrith hires and boards a river-boat, a wide flat-bottomed barge-skiff manned by 8 oarsmen and a captain. They travel down the wide slow river, surrounded on both sides by a steep gorge and forests.
No wilderness event was indicated on their journey down-river.
As they approach the confluence of the Xanthus and Atrous Rivers, I decide to intervene with a semi-planned event. They see four swift war-canoes bearing a mixture of human and hobgoblin river pirates bearing down on their river boat.They quickly prepare for boarding action!
We left it there on a cliff-hanger. We're going to pick up next week with the river battle!
I'm totally setting up for a plot arc within Duirnhold. Not a rail-road mind you. This is still a sand-box and the characters can go anywhere and do anything they want. But things are happening off-screen and there are bigger stories afoot.
In other news, I am LOVING the random encounters of the city book. They are just amazingly inspiring! I had such a good time ad-libbing all the encounters and events and the players did a great job reacting to them and rolling with them.
I also used some random tables from the Ultimate Toolbox by AEG.
So far, I am having a good time running this game and it seems like my players are enjoying it.