Monday, December 15, 2014

A Visual Guide to Horek

Horek, looking east

 Horek is the westernmost city of the Monarchy of Kalmath, located near its frontier with the Xanthus River valley. Horekis built upon a finger of high ground, part of the foot-hills of Nightflame Mountain. The city was constructed eons ago by an unknown culture at the site of an artesian spring emerging from the rocks of the Great Wall mountain range to the west. The city is so old that it is built upon a tel, a hill composed of layer upon layer of ancient cities. Some of the ancient buildings were buried over intact, sealed away for centuries. Miles of tunnels run under the streets of Horek, leading to the great cistern that collects the water from the spring, the city's only water supply and the only supply of water for dozens of miles.

The land east of the Great Wall is a flat parched desert called the Wasteland by the Xanthusians and the Desert Waste of Gazh  by the Kalmathi. It is a flat rocky expanse of packed dirt, cactus, thorns, and hardy grass where little to no rain falls. During the height of the mines of Duirn and Flinch, traders would come from across Agartha to do business in the Xanthus River Valley. For two thousand years, Horek was situated as the destination for traders and merchants crossing the Wasteland. Here they could meet representatives of the dwarven mining guilds, the gnome bankers, and the human merchants. Trade could occur with Flinch through the Defile of Castragon twenty miles to the north or with Durinhold via the Stairs leading up the slope of Duirn's Mountain twenty miles to the south.

A hundred years ago, the invasion of the Red Orcs of Zinnober into the valley caused the mines of Flinch to be lost under a collapse of a mountain of rock, its location eventually lost. Forty years ago, the dwarves fled Duirnhold when it was invaded from mysterious powers from below, the entrances sealed with magic keys. Trade continued, however, as merchant caravans traveled through the Defile and down the old Imperial Trade Road to Thither, the closest sea port. However, six years ago even this route became treacherous as the pass became plagued by a force of ogres under the leadership of the unlikely alliance of a magic-using cyclops, a fire giant, and a minotaur. One in six caravans were attacked at random, even when the merchants did their best to keep the timing of their routes a secret.

As a result, trade dwindled to a trickle and merchants stopped coming to Horek in as great of numbers as they once did. Today, merchant caravans travel to Horek from the plains to the north east and the Dragonborn realm of Khunkara Vakti in the far north, from the cities of Kalmath to the south west, and the remnants of the ancient Agarthan empire of Nedula Madhya and the Gulf of Khari beyond.

The city of Horek is ruled by a satrap, a title of Kalmathi nobility roughly equivalent to that of the Agarthan archon or a Myradonian baron. Like the cities of Swallow and Thither in Xanthus, the satrap of Horek holds counsel with the wealthiest merchants of the city as well as the high priests of the temples.

Earlier this year, the Queen Shahmam of Kalmath was assassinated by her own royal guards. The guards, despite the crimes for which they were accused, were still popular with the subjects. The execution would have caused an uprising. Instead, they were arrested and imprisoned within the dungeons of the cult of Adhinatta in Horek. Princess Murti, next in line for the throne, disappeared and hasn't been located, despite a large bounty placed upon her safe capture. In the meantime, the mantri, the chief adviser to the queen, has been reluctantly forced to take the reins of authority for the monarchy as steward.

1. The Outer City (North)
Horek is a city that is built upon its institutions and bureaucracy. One needs a passport to be allowed entrance into Horek. Water is limited and only so many people will be allowed into the city each day. Those waiting and those without proper passports wait outside the city walls in a ramshackle tent city. A few inns and taverns provide rest for weary travelers. Several fenced in animal yards host woolly rhinos, merychips, giant monitors, and aepycamelae, the primary beast of burden in the desert.

Teams of men work around the clock pounding giant pylons into the earth. The vibrations of the pounding keep predatory land-sharks and purple worms at bay.

The North Gate
2. The North Gate
A wide flight of stairs leads to the northern entrance to the city. The top of the stairs are flanked by gargantuan statues of resting griffons. A nearby crane lifts pallets full of cargo from the base of the stairs to the level of the entrance for easy entry.

3. The Traveler's District (North Gate)
Just inside the north gate are shops, taverns, and inns that cater to the weary traveler. Barkers compete to earn the business of new arrivals. Stalls line the way selling water, wine, and fresh fruit. Shops selling travel equipment, rations, weapons and armor also cater to travelers preparing to exit the walls.

4. Residential Tenements (aka the Warrens)
The buildings of the residential blocks are haphazardly stacked atop each other like massive piles of boxes. Lighter brick buildings are built atop ancient multi-story tenements made of dense basaltic stone. Tents and awnings covers the roofs where most residents sleep during the warm summer nights. Some structures reach a hundred feet high or more. Ladders, stairs, rope-bridges, and sky-bridges connect the upper levels of these chaotic buildings. The alleys between the residential tenements become a narrow maze filled with shadow and debris and are dangerous to outsiders or the unwary.

5. Noble District
The noble district is comprised of walled compounds, each compound belonging to a wealthy noble or mercantile family.

6. Temple District
The temple district is dominated by the pyramid temple dedicated to Tzann, greater god of the sun, and the attached compound. Other temples include Thumina, goddess of the moon, Darkun, god of the night and shadow, Nil, goddess of death, and Saprin Pang, god of debauchery, as well as countless smaller shrines devoted to other foreign gods.

7. The Market Bazaar
The center square of Horek is filled with tents and awnings, beneath which can be found the wares of traveling merchants from throughout the wasteland. Spices, gems, dyes, cloth, sugar, salt, flour, and other goods can be bought and sold here.

8. The Gate of Azi Dahaka
The western gate is devoted to a long winding stair that leads up the slope of a ridge that extends from the Great Wall mountain range like a finger. At the top of the stairs, halfway up the mountainside, is the temple of Azi Dahaka, where zealous monks pray day and night to prevent the awakening of the three-headed dragon god Azi Dahaka.

9. The Palace of the Satrap
The hereditary ruler of Horek possesses the title of satrap. The satrap lives in an opulent palace within a walled compound at the western edge of the city. The palace grounds contains exquisitely cultivated gardens and a menagerie of strange and exotic beasts. The satraps palace is a towering structure with verandas that provide stunning views of the western wastelands.
Satrap of Horek
The city guard of Horek, under the leadership of Captain Subhadar, are headquartered within the walls of the palace ground.
Subhadar, Captain of the Guard

10. The Prison of Zothalech
The prison of Zothalech is an ancient fortress that is now used as a prison by the matriarchy of Kalmath. The prison towers a hundred feet and its dungeons extends far below ground. The lowest levels of the dungeon contain the oubliettes, some of which are inhabited by being which were once humans, thrown into the pits and forgotten, who have gone mad, become blind, and turned to cannibalism to survive.

11. The Fortress of Amoth
A legion of the Kalmathi army is garrisoned in the walled fortress of Amoth. The legion is under the command of General Zagt.

12. The Currency Exchange
Like most cities in Agartha, the currency exchange is run by the gnomish banking guild. The Currency Exchange is a massive marble structure with tall columns and statues of the gods of wealth, along with busts of former leaders of the guild. Merchants and traders deposit precious metals and currency within the vaults of the gnomes in exchange for a book of bank notes which can be spent anywhere in the city. The gnomes also offer loans and invest in business opportunities.

13. Slave Tenements
The western portion of the city is also the poorest. Here the residential tenement blocks are devoted to the slaves who work for the wealthy merchants and nobles of Horek. Slaves are branded and are not allowed to exit the city gates unless accompanied by their master. The slave tenements are also home to the various competing thieves' guilds of Horek. The most powerful gangs include the Stalking Tigers, the Scorpions, and the Sand Sharks.

14. Merchants' Compounds
During the height of trade with the dwarven mines of Xanthus, a section of the city was demolished and re-built as compounds for wealthy merchants. These wealthy merchants are awarded the title of Magnate and are considered lesser nobles within the court of the satrap.

15. The Traveler's District (South Gate)
Similar to the district surrounding the north gate, the area just within the south gate is devoted to shops and services that cater to travelers arriving and leavin through the gate.

16. The South Gate
The south gate is a mirror of the north gate. Travelers coming from and departing to realms to the south west, including the heart of Kalmath, the ancient remnants of Nedula Madhya, and the Gulf of Khari beyond. In previous generations, traders would travel to the dwarfish city of Duirnhold via the Stairs of Duirn.

17. The Outer City (South)
Like its twin outside the northern gate, the area outside the southern gate is composed of several taverns, inn, and stables that serve travelers waiting to gain entry through the south gate. Dozens of caravans camp in tents outside the gate.

Teams of men work around the clock pounding giant pylons into the earth. The vibrations of the pounding keep predatory land-sharks and purple worms at bay.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

"The Satrap of Horek", Chapter 1 of The Fates of Kalmath

The team decide to escort Princess Murti to Horek. After sending a bullette packing, they arrive and meet the captain of the guard who invites them to a special dinner with the satrap of Horek. There they become involved in plots and schemes that could threaten the entire valley in a night of high role-play, grand intrigue, deep world-building, campaign back-story, and lots of exposition!

The party:
Ser Valerius, Armiger Errant, Executor of Justicia (Human Level 5 Paladin)
and his Celestial Lion Mount.
Absolom, Justicar (Human Level 4 Cleric/Level 1 Monk)

Gravy, Priest of Thumn (Human Level 4 Cleric)
Balatan of Clan Brocktaw, Bronze Draconic Priest of Bahamut (Dragonborn Level 4 Cleric)
Not Present This Week
Thaddeus, Under-City Scout from Swallow (Human Level 5 Ranger)

Non-Player Characters (So Many!)

Sablius the Bronze Dragon
Knott, Warrior of Questionable Ethics
Jalani, Priestess of Amun-Tor

Babu, a humble businessman from Horek, currently a wizard, formerly a thief 

Princess Murti, Exiled Ruler of Kalmath
Ashlor, Half-Elf Fighter from Horek
Nevra, Wizard from Thither
Willie and Drew, mercenaries from Swallow

Plans are Changed
Valerius planned to split the party, with Team-A, including Knott, Babu, Jalani, Ashlor, Nevra, Willie, and Drew, escorting Princess Murti to Horek and Team-B, including Valerius, Absolom, Balatan, Gravy, and Thaddeus taking Sablius back through the pass to Wince. 

The party spent the evening camping amid the ruins of the great western gate of the Defile of Castragon. They spent the time cataloging their loot and examining their newly acquired magical relics. While examining the two scrolls given to her by Gravy, Nevra accidentally set off a magical trap on one of the scrolls. The explosive runes detonated, catching Nevra with the full force of the blast and Gravy partially. Nevra was killed! Gravy was wounded but recovered. Cursing their luck, they buried what was left of poor Nevra and settled down for the night.

Around the campfire, the party shared their hopes and dreams. Valerius spoke of his dream to build the greatest city in the world, to one day re-take and re-build Duirnhold and return the Xanthus river valley to its former glory. Part of that dream involved restoring the Secret Citadel of Oron and re-establishing law and order over the Defile of Castragon. But he was about to start building a manor home on his property near Wince, and it was there he planned to return with Sablius. Absolom encouraged Valerius to consider building the citadel into his new home instead. 

Valerius was enamored of the idea and they began talking logistics. It could be done. They had a wagon-load of money and jewels. They could hire workers and guards, they could restore the citadel and staff it! Valerius started to make plans to hire workers from the nearest town. At first, he thought he could hire people from Flinch, but Absolom explained that Flinch was over 20 miles away to the east through the Defile and had only 30-50 people in the entire village. Princess Murti, however, suggested that he hire his men from Horek. Horek was 20 miles away to the south over flat terrain and had a large population from which he could draft his required laborers.

A Refresher on Kalmath
Also, while in Horek, if they wished, they could help her free her guard. Valerius, confused, asked her what she meant. Absolom reminded him of the Princess' story. She was the daughter of the queen of Kalmath. Their mantri had the mother assassinated and sold the princess as a slave to a nobleman in Thither. Valerius asked why the mantri had not simply killed her. The princess explained that she was beloved by her people and that killing her would turn them against the mantri. When he had her mother killed, it looked like an accident. To have them both killed would draw too much attention. 

Absolom continued, telling Valerius that the royal guard, who were loyal to the queen and the princess, had been arrested and imprisoned in Horek, an outpost far away from Kalmath. The princess added that the mantri had them arrested on charges of failing to protect the queen. To have them executed would likewise draw suspicion. 

With the queen dead and the rightful heir missing, the mantri had assumed control of the monarchy as steward. However, the princess managed to escape her captivity back in Thither. She had made her way to Swallow where she met Absolom. Her goal is to reach Horek and free her royal guard. Once she does so, she can rally her army and re-take her throne in Kalmath, hundreds of miles to the southwest across the Great Waste.

Knott, ever the uncouth pig, said to Valerius, "Don't worry. I'll keep the princess warm, I mean company, I mean safe. Heh heh."

With that, Valerius had decided. He would take Absolom, Gravy, Balatan, Ashlor, Willie, and Drew south to Horek with Princess Murti and Sablius. Team-A, consisting of Thaddeus, Knott, Babu, and Jalani, would head back to Flinch and Swallow to recruit from that direction. Once in Flinch, Thaddeus would leave Team-A and travel back to Horek to join Team-B in two days.

The next day, "Team-B" packed their things and, with Sablius pulling the wagon filled with treasure, headed south. To the west, the vast dry flat-lands of the great waste. To the east rose the near vertical slopes of the great blue stone edifice known as Nightflame mountain. The rest of the Great Wall mountain range stretched off to the horizon to the south.

Team-B walked for seven or eight hours over flat, rocky, dusty terrain. There were no streams, no lakes, no trees to be seen. The only wildlife were the occasional snake and a single herd of Aepycamelae scrounging for stubby grass. 

A few miles from their destination, they could see the land rise, a finger-like ridge stretching out from the Great Wall. To the west, higher up, they could see the great temple of the monks of Dahaka. Princess Murti explained that the monks appeased Dahaka, the three-headed dragon that prophecy said would one day destroy the world. At the end of the rise was the great walled city of Horek. At the base of the rise, a smaller outer city of tents and small structures could be seen. 

However, only three hundred feet ahead of them, they could see the ruins of a splintered merchant wagon, its meager wares scattered along the ground. The dirt around the wagon had been overturned as if tilled by a giant plow. Gravy and Absolom warily approached to see if anyone needed help.

Once they were within 120 feet of the wagon, the ground began to split in a line coming right at them, something large and just underground was charging them! Absolom and Gravy split up. Whatever it was dove deep underground, only to burst out a mere fifteen feet from Gravy. The massive form of a bullette, the dreaded land-shark of the desert, launched itself into the air, crashing down on him! 

Absolom rushed back to help his friend. Valerius rode to help astride his mighty leonine mount. Balatan ran forward, sending bolts of holy fire at the beast! The creature dove back down, only to re-launch itself into the air and crash down among Valerius, Absolom, and Gravy. 

Balatan urgently prayed to Bahamut, god of dragons, and the armored land-shark found itself within a zone of holy rebuke! The creature suffered great pain and turned to flee, but its feet were heavy and its movement was slowed. The party struck at the creature as it dove underground to escape. They cautiously waited for the monster's return, but the wounded beast had fled. 

The Outer City
The party finally arrived at the outer city of Horek in the mid afternoon. Here there were pens for animals, tents, merchants selling their wares, and a few permanent structures such as inns and a water shops. The men of this region had brown skin and black hair, their eyes were almond-shaped and they wore loose gauzy clothing and covered their legs, arms, and heads in bandage-like wrappings. Dozens of men took turns hammering at massive pilings. Princess Murti explained that the hammering annoyed the land-sharks and kept them at bay. As long as the men pounded on the pilings, the bullette would keep their distance. It was rare for the one they encountered to come this close to the city.

A massive ramp led up the side of the rise to the gates of the city. Massive statues of griffons flanked the gate, watching all who entered. Guards inspected passports and searched all wagons before they allowed entry. Travelers waited in the outer city, some for several days, before they were allowed entrance.

The party drew much attention as they entered the outer city. Few could not notice the bronze dragon pulling a cart filled with sacks and chests, the brass dragon-man walking with the dragon, the paladin of Justica riding a white celestial lion with tiny dove wings growing from its shoulder, and the young man wearing gilded plate armor polished to a blinding finish and carrying a bejeweled sword in a bejeweled hilt. A crowd gathered and stared but kept their distance, 30 feet in all directions. 

Princess Murti covered her face. No doubt the mantri by now knew of her escape and has hired assassins such as those they encountered in Swallow to kill her. She was not prepared to let her return be known to her people. So she needed a false passport to enter the city where she and Ashlor would do some investigating. She needed to find where the royal guard were being kept. She told the team that she would meet them at the Inn of the Drunken Merchant in the Outer City. Willie and Drew, meanwhile, were instructed to cool their heels in the Outer City.

Captain Subhadar
Soon after she left, a small sortie rode of city guards rode down the long ramp from the gate. The leader was a man in his fifties wearing gleaming armor, a long pheasant feather adorned his conical helmet. The crowds parted for his approach. He stopped his guard a few dozen feet away and called out to the strangers in Kalmathi. Sensing their incomprehension, he tried again in Agarthan.

Subhadar, Captain of the Guard of Horek
"Who are you and what business have you in Horek?"

The party introduced themselves, explaining that they were here to hire workers and guards to travel to Xanthus. 

The captain, whose name was Subhadar, said that travelers have told tales of the heroic exploits of a simple ditch digger from Xanthus who became a paladin and his jolly priest friend had reached even Horek. Was Valerius that paladin? Valerius conceded that he was. 

Captain Subhadar was in awe of the dragon that accompanied the party and asked of its origin and intent. Valerius told the captain that the dragon was named Sablius, and that it was friendly and traveled with them. 

Captain Subhadar, who could scarcely hide his interest in the dragon, informed the party that in order to enter Horek, one must possess a passport. Valerius said that they did not have one. The captain said Valerius could apply for one and wait for its approval, but before he would approve such a request, his men would have to search the wagons. Valerius agreed.

Upon seeing the vast wealth contained within the wagon, the savvy captain's demeanor quickly changed from cautious awe to that bordering obsequious reverence. He stammered that he would expedite the processing of the paperwork and that he would personally escort the party, including the dragon, to the palace of the satrap of Horek, who would no doubt wish to meet the members of the party personally! 

The Palace of the Satrap
The party were treated as honored guests of Horek. They were issued temporary passports that allowed them to enter the gates. They were led through the city, down the boulevard to the public forum and marketplace at the center of town. They passed large residential blocks filled with flat-roofed multi-story tenements stacked on top of each other like piles of blocks. Ladders and stairs led to the upper levels, rope bridges and sky-walks connected the penthouses. The occasional palm tree or cyprus grew from cracks in the ancient pavement. Linen and canvas awnings draped across every entrance providing shade.

Everywhere the party went, they were a spectacle for the curious masses. Word spread fast and crowds gathered to see the bronze dragon pulling a cart for the foreign armiger riding a large white lion as a steed.

The party was taken to the palace of the satrap. Through the gates they entered a garden of tall grasses, palm fronds, cyprus trees, pines, and exotic flowers and orchids. Fountains trickled lazily. Birds of paradise flew from perch to perch. A menagerie of strange animals wandered the grounds freely, some stopped to gaze curiously at the new arrivals.

The captain took the group to the north wing of the palace.There they were allowed to bathe with the assistance of beautiful slaves. They were given wardrobes more suited for the local climate. Afterwards, the captain returned and told them that he had informed the satrap of their arrival. The satrap was intrigued by their story and wished to meet his guests. They were invited to a dinner to be held in their honor at sunset.

In the meantime, they had the rest of the late afternoon to spend in Horek as they wished. The captain offered himself as a guide to the city's many sites. He also suggested a visit to the local money exchange where they might deposit their wealth in the safe keeping of the gnomes.

Absolom said he'd like to visit a library. The captain offered the library of the satrap. Valerius and Balatan indicated a desire to oversee the feeding and care of Sablius. Gravy, meanwhile, wished to explore the city alone. He asked if there were areas to avoid. The captain warned against delving too deep into the warrens of the residential blocks. The narrow alleys are labyrinthine and dangerous.

At that, Absolom spent the rest of the afternoon researching bronze dragons. He learned of their diet and life cycle. He learned that a great bronze dragon named Pitala was said to live in a lair deep within Mount Ignoit. He found that interesting and planned a future trip there. Perhaps Sablius could be reunited with his own kind.

Shenanigans with Gravy
Meanwhile, Gravy was exploring the town and seeing the sights. He passed an alley where he happened to see a nefarious looking figure skulking in the shadows. Gravy took up a position of observation across the street where he witnessed the figure set a trip-wire about shin-height across a curtained doorway in the alley. The door appeared to be a back-door to a local tavern. Soon afterwards, the figure emerged from the shadows. The wiry looking man with the bearded face looked around, gave Gravy a stern look, and entered the tavern.

Gravy, sensing an opportunity to thwart shenanigans, went into the alley and removed the trip wire. He then returned to his position across the street and began eating crescent rolls from a nearby vendor.

Twenty minutes later, the vendor was out of crescent rolls and Gravy was about out of patience when suddenly, the curtain was thrown aside and a man came running out, seemingly for fearing for his life. The man escaped into the street without impediment and disappeared into the throng. The wiry bearded man came running out, surprised that his wire did not trip his prey. He looked around in confusion and shouted a curse in Kalmathi. His plan did not work and his quarry got away. He looked at Gravy who innocently ate his last crescent roll and walked away.

Balatan meets with the Princess
Before sunset, Balatan left Valerius and Sablius. He planned to meet Princess Murti and Ashlor at sunset as planned. He returned to the Inn of the Drunken Merchant and found a booth in the back corner. Soon, Princess Murti, her face covered, entered the inn and found Balatan. She told him that Ashlor waited outside. She asked where the others were and was told of their encounter with the captain and the palace of the satrap. She rolled her eyes and sighed.

Princess Murti then explained to Balatan what she had learned. The royal guards were being held in a dungeon beneath the army compound, guarded by soldiers led by the satrap and loyal to the mantri. However, the city of Horek is ancient, built on the ruins of many previous cities, and is riddled with passages, catacombs, and tunnels. There was a secret entrance into the chambers beneath the compound which would ultimately connect to the dungeons.

Balatan asked if there was any need to hurry. Did they need to act tonight for any reason or could they reunite with the rest of the team and formulate a plan? The princess conceded that she could not think of a reason and agreed to be patient.

Dinner with the Satrap
That evening at sundown, Valerius, Absolom, Gravy, and Sablius were taken to the great hall of the satrap for a dinner. The great hall was an arcade of polished marble that overlooked the west wall of Horek. One could see far towards the western horizon. The sky burned with glowing pink clouds against a backdrop of electric blue as the sun set over the flat expanse of the Great Waste.

The Satrap of Horek
The satrap made a powerful entrance before dinner was served and introductions were made. The satrap was a man in his early forties, bald with a dueling scar on his right cheek. He was athletic and healthy with a military bearing. He sported a wide mustache and smiled little, wearing instead a look of steely resolve. He was a man of few words, direct, to the point, with little care for the niceties of diplomacy. He was, however, enamored with Sablius, inspecting the dragon as he would a horse before purchase.

The party was seated at one of two long parallel tables. There were no chairs, only cushions. There were no forks, only napkins, knives, and bowls for dipping your fingers. Dinner was served. Plate after plate of ripe fruits, sweetened meats, unleavened bread, and dips made from lentils and chick peas were brought out and placed in the space between the two tables. Then the main course was served. The captain of the guard clapped his hands in delight as a giant roast sabre-toothed dragon-lion was served - apparently a male due to its wings. One of the courtiers announced that the creature was selected from the menagerie in the palace gardens. Absolom swore under his breath at the honorless death of such a rare and magnificent creature.
Valerius and Absolom shared conversation with the satrap over dinner. Valerius asked the satrap of current events, specifically, how he felt about the mantri's rise in power. The satrap's answer was to the point. He said that the death of Queen Shahmam was the best thing to ever happen to Kalmath. Under the mantri, Kalmath would once more rise to greatness. The mantri has brought wealth to the satraps, he is building roads and fortresses and temples. His agenda had brought wealth and prosperity to the kingdom.

Valerius asked the satrap how the mantri felt about trade and commerce. Surely the wealth of a kingdom comes from exports and a strong economy. The satrap replied that the vizier cared not for such things.

"They are irrelevant! Those were the strategies of the queen. They were too slow, too unpredictable. The mantri has employed a different strategy, one that guarantees wealth for the satrapies. The mantri will simply TAKE what he needs from the neighboring kingdoms by force! Take, for example, the city-states of Xanthus. They are divided and weak. They can be easily conquered! Our spies in Xanthus- Oh yes, we have many agents in Thither, Swallow, and other villages, most in positions of wealth and power- our spies are already making the way easy for us. As we speak, we gather an army here in Horek that will march through the undefended Defile of Castragon and invade the Xanthus River Valley. Once we have taken the valley east of the Great Wall, we can move south unimpeded and attack the Kingdom of Myradonia. Soon all of Agartha will bow down to the Kingdom of Kalmath!"

To be continued in three weeks!
A rare and magnificent Sabre-Toothed Dragon-Tiger

After Thoughts
For an entire week, the players made plans to go west through the Defile of Castragon, back to Flinch, and all the way back to Wince. So I pre-rolled random encounters for the trip, I planned some roleplaying encounters, made contingencies for the various factions that await them, etc.

So OF COURSE they decide at the last minute on Friday night, an hour into gaming, to go south to Horek! It's what players DO! I had no map of Horek. I didn't know who ruled Horek. I had no idea what would await them in Horek, other than that was where the princess' royal guards were imprisoned and that she had a hidden cache of royal gold with which the pay the party for their assistance.

So all you see above was ad-libbed. Some was contributed by the players, for example the idea of pounding a pylon into the ground to ward away the bullette came from the players, and they kept elaborating on the idea. The name of the inn in the Outer City, "the Inn of the Drunken Merchant", was contributed by a player.

The Sabre-toothed dragon-tiger was an accident. I kept trying to say "Sabre-Toothed Tiger", but I kept saying "Dragon-tiger". There was much laughing at my linguistic ineptitude, but the image was implanted, so we went with it.

The little side-encounter with Gravy and the guy with the trip-wire was the result of a random encounter from the old Cities sourcebook by Midkemia press, a book I use a lot.

In other related news, I picked up the new Dungeon Master's Guide about an hour before gaming started on Friday afternoon. It's fantastic! I love it! We updated all the magic items to fifth edition. I used the random tables for NPCs (such as the Satrap).

I did have to downgrade a few of the magic items they got last week from Deception Pass. I took away the Ioun Stones and the Everfull Purse and replaced them with (random roll on challenge-level-appropriate table in new DMG) a few potions. The players weren't too happy about that. I allowed them to keep the crystal ball, however. That will come in handy later as a plot device.

This Friday I'm going to my wife's company's holiday party. Next Friday we're going to my company's holiday party, so no new campaign updates for a few weeks. In the mean-time, I'll write up stats for the Sabre-Toothed Dragon-Tiger and provide a visual guide to Horek.

Plus, I need to come up with a dungeon for the under-city of Horek.