Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Guide to the Crying Swamp

Thither lies near the mouth of the Xanthus river, situated on a plain between a dense tropical jungle and a wide swamp called the Crying Marsh.

The Crying Swamp is a network of meandering waterways forming dozens of large islands. The waterways flood at high tide, creating wide shallow swamps.

On the map above, the light green areas are forested with moss-draped Cyprus and mangrove but rarely flood. The ground is spongy, black, and soft. The dark green areas are covered in tall grasses and mangrove trees and are flooded by one to three feet of salt water at every high tide and are muddy bogs at low tide. The water channels, lakes, and ponds vary from five to ten feet deep.

The Crying Swamp is filled with danger, including: leeches both normal and giant; oozes, blobs and jellies; crocodiles and their dire cousins; man-eating gar; deadly eels; giant wasps and beetles; shambling mounds, blights, and ents; giant man-eating frogs and lizards; and various species of dinosaur! 

The Crying Swamp is also home to a tribe of lizard-men, a tribe of bullywugs, and a tribe of reclusive lemur-men known as tasloi. Hunters have also reported isolated sightings of strange malformed sub-men lurking in the trees.

The Crying Swamp gets its name from the strange sounds that emanate from the deep swamp at night. The sounds resemble hundreds of children crying in the far distance. Few stay in the swamp after sun-down because it is haunted by the spirits of the dead inhabitants of ancient Sinopia.

Sinopia was a major port city of the Erian empire known as Nedula Madhya. Sinopia was destroyed overnight by the Aslak in a global cataclysm known as the Wrath, wherein the gods known as the Aslak overthrew and imprisoned their predecessors, the Uuani.

Sinopia was struck by a massive ball of divine fire from the heavens which stripped the city clean of all live but left most of the structures intact.

Explorers and hunters report spotting a mile-wide wall of obsidian, 300 feet high, surrounding the old city center. No one has ever entered the crater, but it is believed that it is where the lizard-men, bullywugs, and tasloi make their home. It is also believed to be the home of Anuran, the frog-god of the swamp-dwellers.

Anuran is a minor god of the Uuani who makes his home in the ancient ruins of the city center. He hibernates every winter, rising from his slumber each spring at the equinox. Every year, the city of Thither provides him a virgin female sacrifice to prevent him from destroying the city.

Random Encounters

Roll Result
1 - 101 Swarm of Insects
102 - 177  Giant Leeches (Stirges)
178 - 253 Vine Blights
254 - 304  Lizardfolk
305 - 355 Ghost (night only)
356 - 406 Swarm of Quippers
407 - 442 3d6 Bullywugs
443 - 473  1d2 Giant Crocodiles
474 - 504  Giant Constrictor Snake
505 - 535 1d3 Shambling Mounds
536 - 561  1d4 Giant Frogs
562 - 587  1d4 Giant Lizards
588 - 613  1d6 Giant Toads
614 - 639  Crocodile
640 - 665 Treant
666 - 686  Constrictor Snake
687 - 707  Water Elemental
708 - 728 Black Pudding
729 - 749 Needle Blights
750 - 765  1d4 Giant Poisonous Snakes
766 - 781  1d6 Giant Rats
782 - 797  3d6 Poisonous Snakes
798 - 813 2d6 Giant Spiders
814 - 829 Behemoth (Plesiosaurus)
830 - 845 Ochre Jelly
846 - 861 Twig Blights
862 - 877 Water Weird
878 - 888  3d4 Stirges
889 - 899  Flock of Ravens
900 - 910  Swarm of Rats
911 - 921 1d4 Trolls
922 - 932 3d4 Ghouls (night only)
933 - 943 3d4 Green Jungle Orcs
944 - 954 Grey Ooze
955 - 965 Pteranodon
966 - 971  1d4 Druids
972 - 977  Hunter
978 - 983  Hydra
984 - 989  Young Black Dragon
990 - 995 Giant Eagle
996 - 1000 Wraith (night only)

Monday, April 27, 2015

"The Crying Swamp" - Chapter 2 of Dwellers of the Forbidden City

The party escapes and hides in the jungle. After returning the rescued virgin to her family, they decide to track the lizard-men to their home deep within the Crying Swamp. There they must find shelter from the rising tide and fend off an attack from shambling mounds of lianic matter. The night is haunted by crying ghosts.

The Group:
  • Aline, a Thaumaturge of half-Human/half-Sylvan* parentage (Wizard 7)
  • Gravy, Human Priest of Thumina (Cleric 7)
  • Lodar, Prairiefolk** Barbarian (Barbarian 7)
  • Inza, aka "The Shadow", Human Shadow-Warrior (Thief 6/Sorcerer 1)
  • Randalf Azul, Human Abjurer (Wizard 7)

A Thrilling Escape!
When we left our party, they had just interrupted the city Thither's annual sacrifice of a virgin to Anuran, the toad-demon of the Crying Swamp.

It was the spring equinox. The sun was setting over the mountains to the west. The sky was streaked with orange and red. The tide was out and the normally flooded mangrove forest of the Crying Swamp was now a muddy mess. The Temple of Anuran was a walled compound built on an island at the edge of the swamp. Within the compound was a tall signal tower used to summon the giant toad-god each year during the spring equinox. It was on this day that the toad-god rose from his winter hibernation. Tradition states that in ancient times, the god would raze the newly built city of Thither each year on this day.

The Sacrificial Compound

An ancient pact made with the toad god protected the city from destruction so long as the city provided a single virgin sacrifice. For the last seven hundred years, a virgin sacrifice has been chosen by lottery and given to Anuran atop the gatehouse of the temple built across the river from the city. So has it been for generations. The day has become a celebration of the death of winter and the rebirth of spring. The giving of the sacrifice has become an annual institution and has taken on the trappings of a carnival and party, attended by the elite members of Thither society and ending with drunken bacchanals and orgies.

Standing on a platform at the base of the signal tower, 120 feet from the gate-house were:
  • Archon Kepha, his three wives, and his adult children.
  • Six armored knights to serve as the Archon's bodyguards.
  • The high priest of the cult of Anuran.

  • Four guards carrying spears in the tower 90 feet to the left of the gatehouse.
  • Four guards carrying spears in the tower 90 feet to the right of the gatehouse.
  • Seven guards, including the armored captain and two veterans, in the courtyard within 30 feet of the gatehouse.

  • Twelve cultists stood in a double column within 30-60 feet of the gatehouse swinging censers of incense and singing an eerie chant.

  • Sitting on stone bleachers and milling around the courtyard were assembled several hundred nobles in brightly colored fancy silks and wearing gaudy hats.

Outside the compound:
  • Forty lizardmen and forty bullywugs, including shamans and warriors, who had accompanied Anuran through the swamp.

Round Zero: Randalf cast Misty Step and appeared on the platform between Anuran and the sacrifice. He cast a spell of banishment on Anuran. Anuran disappeared!

Anuran failed his saving throw by one! Rassin-Frassin! 
Randalf must maintain concentration for one uninterrupted minute (ten rounds) for the banishment to hold. Should he take damage at any time, the banishment fails and Anuran returns. I made sure the following events were tracked precisely! 

Round One: There's a moment of stunned silence as the surprised throng gathered to witness the sacrifice processed what just happened. Even the lizard men and bullywugs outside the compound recoiled in surprise at the sudden disappearance of their deity.

Inza and Gravy rushed out of the crowd and climbed the ladder leading to the top of the gate house. Lodar ran inside the gate house to guard the passage to the outside. Aline grabbed her flying broom and shot into the air. She descended quickly to land next to Randalf.

Round Two: The high priest shouted, "They're attempting to stop the sacrifice!" The Archon shouted, "Stop them! Arrest them! I want them captured alive!" The stunned crowd murmured in confusion and the guards on the ground moved towards the ladder. The guards on the towers ran down the wall towards the gate house.

Meanwhile, Inza shouted at Lodar to climb the ladder. Lodar left the passage way, climbed the ladder, and Inza pulled the ladder up behind him. Aline grabbed Randalf and put the elder wizard on her flying broom. She flew up, carrying him to the top of the gate house. The entire party now closed ranks around the sacrificial victim atop the gate house. The guards on the ground had no immediate means of gaining access to the top of the gate house short of climbing another ladder in one of the towers.

Round Three: Aline cast a greater illusion spell, making it appear that everyone in the party was engulfed in a massive column of blue magical flame! Lodar cut the virgin's shackles with his magic blade Magmatar. The approaching guards momentarily hesitated. The crowd recoiled, gasping in fear and awe at the brilliant display. A few even clapped, believing this to be some kind of performance.

Round Four: Aline replaced the fiery blue explosion with the illusion of an empty roof, making it appear as if they had teleported away. The high priest shouted, "It's a trick! I want you men to search that gatehouse thoroughly! Find out where they've gone!"

The guards approached slowly and warily. One of the guards, while poking about with his spear, stumbled into the illusion! Before he could shout out, he was hit by Inza's stunning strike and knocked unconscious with the flat of Magmatar. The guard was carefully caught as he fell, dragged into the illusion, then quietly gagged and bound.

Round Five: The other guards recoiled in shock to see one of their fellows disappear, then began to slowly advance on that spot. Aline, thinking quickly, added a giant blue flaming sphere to her illusion. The guards backed away quickly. The high priest, atop the platform at the base of the signal tower, narrowed his eyes in suspicion.

Round Six: The leader of the lizard men outside the gate called out, "Archon! Archon! We would speak with you!" The archon sighed heavily and marched towards the portcullis inside the gate house accompanied by his body guards. The high priest, in a shocking breach of protocol, ran past the archon crying "No! It's a trick! It's a trick!"
Guards taken aback by the appearance of a giant blue fireball

The high priest, believing this to be nothing more than an illusion, attempted to dispel any magic atop the gate house. Randalf countered the high priest's action with a simple gesture. The illusion remained.

I was impressed. Randalf was built to be a counter-magic wizard, and was living up to that promise. Lodar's player kept remarking, "Good hire!"
Randalf Azul

Round Seven: The archon, insulted by the high priest's action, pushed past him and continued to the gate house. The high priest sputtered and fumbled in confusion. He regained his composure and tried again to dispel any magic atop the gate house. Once more, Randalf countered the priest's spell with nothing more than a wave of his hand. Once again, the illusion of the giant blue flaming sphere remained.

I thought to myself, how many spell-slots can the high priest have for dispel magic? The answer is two. Then I thought, how many spell-slots can Randalf have left for counter-spell? The answer is apparently also two. Also, counter-spell requires only a somatic component (hand gesture) and does not break concentration. So the image of Randalf countering the spell with a mere gesture was just awesome!

The archon reached the portcullis and addressed the lizard-men and bullywugs. "I am Archon Kephra of Thither! We are not responsible for what happened here. We had no knowl..."

The lizard-man shaman interrupted, "The pact has been broken, Archon! We will return to our home and Anuran will be re-born. We will come back and we will lay waste to your precious city. You are doomed, archon!"

The lizard-men and bullywugs then turned and marched off through the mud exposed by the low tide. The archon sighed and turned around, announcing to his people, "The festival is over. The sacrifice is cancelled. Return to your homes. Prepare for an invasion."

Round Eight: Aline caused the blue flaming sphere to burn out, leaving them invisible atop the gate house. Inza set the ladder against the outside wall of the gatehouse. Before they left, Inza gave the unconscious guard a bag with five gold pieces to compensate him for any trouble he might be in. The party then invisibly descended the ladder outside the walled compound.

Round Nine: They moved as an invisible group, carrying the drugged virgin sacrifice behind a clump of mangrove trees. Off in the distance, they could barely hear the sounds of alarm as the unconscious guard was discovered and revived. No doubt he had finally informed the others of the invisible interlopers.

Round Ten: The group continued to hide behind the clump of mangrove trees. The spell was completed. Anuran was successfully banished!

Guards exited the compound through the portcullis in order to search for the party. The party remained invisible and managed to escape into the muddy forest.
It was at this point that the players informed me that they were going into the swamp to find the city of the swamp-dwellers and destroy Anuran before he could attack the city. I said, "Wait! I have a great idea!" I ran upstairs and grabbed my copy of the old AD&D module Dwellers of the Forbidden City
Lodar's player (Jeff) wearing the D&D bow-tie from Lootcrate while Gravy's player (also Jeff) looks on)

The Victim is Returned
A short time later, the party was deep in the mangrove forest following the muddy tracks of the swamp-dwellers. It was now fully dark. The only light came from Magmatar and Gravy and Aline's magical cantrips. The tide was beginning to rise but the party could still move from mangrove cluster to mangrove cluster through the drained waterways.

The sacrificial victim emerged from her drugged stupor. She was surprised to learn of her fate. When asked about her prospects back in the city, she revealed that she was the daughter of a simple tanner with little means. Her father could not afford to purchase an exemption from the lottery. Inza gave her several hundred gold coins and Aline flew her back to the city under the cover of darkness. She was told to escape with her family and find another city. Afterwards, Aline returned to the party in the swamp.

The Tide Also Rises
A few hours had now passed since sundown and the tide was quickly filling all the muddy water-ways. The party found themselves trapped on a small island covered in trees, vines, and crumbling ruins. They were on the outskirts of the ancient city of Sinopia, the ancient Agarthan trade hub that was destroyed by divine judgement at the end of the Age of the Uuani, when the gods of the Aslak rose up and destroyed their predecessors and all who worshiped them. All around them, they could hear the distant sound of hundreds of children crying.

While searching for shelter, they were ambushed and surrounded by three shambling mounds of animated plant matter: one large and two medium sized.

Lodar and Randalf engaged the large one on the right flank while the rest of the party fought the other two on the left. Aline, meanwhile, took to the sky on her flying broom.

It was a tough battle. The large  lumbering mass seemed ignore much of the damage from fiery Magmatar. Inza used ki strikes to temporarily stun the smaller creatures hoping to allow his teammates the ability to maneuver away without impediment, but much to Inza's annoyance his teammates failed to take advantage of the maneuver and stayed close in spite of his help.

At one point, all three shambling mangrove creatures were lined up in a neat row. Aline let loose a destructive lightning bolt spell against all three! However, instead of being damaged by the bolt, the creatures appeared to be invigorated by it! Luckily, the large creature was prevented from benefiting from the lightning bolt thanks to Randalf's Crypt Touch spell.

We have all played D&D for so long that, despite me never calling them such by name, everyone knew exactly what these creatures were: Shambling Mounds. Everyone also knew that shambling mounds were healed by electrical damage. It was common knowledge. As I DM, I thought I'd never ever see a wizard use lightning bolt on a shambling mound.  
 Everyone knew this, that is, except for Aline's player Lucinda. Lucinda played D&D back in the eighties, and with us for the last year, but she had apparently never fought a shambling mound. When she declared her intention to use lightning bolt, my eyes got huge with glee! I had to keep myself from shouting, "REALLY?!?!"  I hid my terrible poker face behind a book until I got it under control, took a deep breath, and calmly said, "Very well, you may continue."
Nobody else apparently thought of the implications of this because they said nothing. Inza's player, Scott, knew exactly what was about to happen, but to his credit, he knew his character wouldn't know so he kept his mouth shut. 
She rolled damage and I rolled saving throws. The big mound technically made his saving throw and I joked, "I choose to fail." It didn't matter because Randalf's "Crypt Touch" (a better name than "Chill Touch") kept it from regaining any hit points that round.  
I was so pleased when I saw the look on Lucinda's face when I said the mounds appeared to be invigorated by the blast. It made me so happy. After the game, I gave Lucinda a big hug and thanked her for that. It made my night.

Eventually, with the water lapping their ankles, the party was finally able destroy the animated creatures. They quickly moved to some nearby elevated ruins to seek shelter from the rising tide. There they made camp for the night.
Ambush in the flooded ruins

The Crying Swamp
The ruined city at night was haunted by dozens of ghosts of small children. The spirits could be seen wandering the city, sobbing. They appeared to be searching for something. At one point, one of the hollow-eyed specters approached Randalf. In a sad voice, it asked, "Are you my mommy?" Randalf warily said no and the ghost moved on, continuing to cry as it searched the flooded ruins.
The tide receded at dawn and the party broke camp. In the light of morning, they could see a two-hundred foot high ridge of obsidian rising from the swamp. The ridge formed a circle around the center of the center of the old city. Therein lied the forbidden city of the swamp dwellers, and the key to destroying their squamous god Anuran once and for all!


Next week - the party searches for a way into the Forbidden City!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

"The Evil of Anuran" - Chapter 1 of Dwellers of the Forbidden City

Aline becomes the new leader. A new member joins. The group decides to head north to aid Lodar on his quest for vengeance. Pirates are repulsed. The group confronts Anuran, the ranine demon-toad of the Crying Swamp.

The Group:
  • Aline, a Thaumaturge of half-Human/half-Sylvan* parentage
  • Gravy, Human Priest of Thumina
  • Lodar, Prairiefolk** Barbarian
  • Inza, aka "The Shadow", Human Shadow-Warrior

A New Leader is Chosen
It had been five weeks since the adventure through the portal to the realm of ice. The blizzard was gone and the snow had quickly melted. Spring was coming to the highlands of Xanthus. Soon the summer rains would set in.

Arrn and Dornan took the remains of the Ice King back to the wizard city of Yon to collect the bounty. They promised to deposit everyone else's share in the money changer in Thither. The group agreed.

Aline the Evoker
With the death of Joroon, Aline was chosen to lead the group. Technically, Gravy had seniority, but the absent-minded holy man demurred to the capability of the thaumaturge.

During this time, Inza was nowhere to be found. He spent the five weeks coming to grips with a strange new affliction. His skin began to take on the appearance and texture of silver dragon scales, and he found he could master simple magics. 

Meanwhile, Aline and Gravy listened to the story of Lodar. Lodar was a young warrior of a tribe of prairie folk on the Maidanalu plains. One day he returned from his ritual test of manhood to find that his entire tribe had been killed. He learned that they had died at the hands of a pack of mutated gnolls serving an evil wizard who lived in a strange dark tower in a tall thin mountain that grew mysteriously from the Madanalu plain. He tried to infiltrate the tower to get his revenge. Instead, he became the victim of a magical trap that teleported him into the the frigid blizzard. He found refuge in the house at the center of the blizzard, which was where he met the rest. He hoped to one day get his revenge on the wizard that killed his tribe, but he knew not where he was.
Lodar the Barbarian
Aline informed him that he was in the Xanthus River valley, 400 leagues from the Maidalanu plain. 

Lodar vowed that he would return to the tower of wizard and get his revenge. Aline and Gravy vowed to help him. 

Recruiting a New Member
Aline, Gravy, Lodar, and Inza sat at a table in the inn called the Argentum Funicular in Swallow. They were recruiting a new member and specifically advertised for a spell-caster. The group was joined by a strange creature, an imp. The imp was Aline's new familiar. She had summoned a familiar and the creature crawled out of the crystal ball she carried, proclaiming, "You called?"

The first respondent to the advertisement was a young man, barely seventeen. His wore the clean new robes of a prestidigitator, right out of the wizard academy in Yon. He was politely dismissed.

The second respondent was a grizzled veteran, covered in mud, blood, and stubble. He said he was a bard who had recently escaped from the clutches of a local farmer where he'd been kept chained in a pit for two years, forced to play music once a year to increase the farmer's crop yield. But he got his revenge! He killed the farmer and his entire family! AND HE'D KILL ANYONE ELSE WHO EVER TOLD HIM WHAT TO DO!!!

The group was intrigued and put a pin in his name.

The third respondent was an older man with long white hair and beard. He wore a long blue robe and a tall pointed hat with a wide brim. He introduced himself as Randalf Flynn O'Shea. He presented a folio with his resume' and credentials.
Randalf Flynn O'Shea
Randalf possessed a WMD (Wizard Master’s Degree) attaining the 3rd Circle of Warding from the White Tower of al'Thanon, with a focus on Abjuration magicks and counter-spells.  He spent several years as a Sage of the White Tower with a focus on History, Arcane Lore and Religions. He spoke, read, and wrote modern Agarthan, Elioud, Daro, and Primordial. 

Aline was skeptical. Gravy called for a test and asked Randalf what he would do if Aline cast a fireball at him. He calmly replied that he would dis-spell it. Gravy asked Aline to cast Fireball at Randalf. She did. He dis-spelled it. The group was impressed and offered Randalf the position. 

They asked Randalf if he had ever heard of a wizard who controlled mutant gnolls from a mysterious tower in the Maidanalu plain. In fact he had. The wizard's name was Xenix. He was an alchemist and transmuter who specialized in takwin, the shaping of flesh. He had heard of him. Xenix was a dangerous adversary and very evil. His creations wrought havoc across northeast Agartha.

They asked Randalf if he would accompany them on a journey to Maidanalu to kill this Xenix. Randalf agreed. In fact, Randalf was from the northeastern city of al'Thanon, the only port near the Maidanalu plains. He knew many people there and could be their guide.
To seal their alliance, Aline gave Randalf a case of scrolls that the coterie have gathered over time.

Down River Pirates!
The rest of that day was spent preparing for their journey. Inza took Lodar to the gnome money changer in Swallow. He deposited the large bags of coin and jewels and opened an account, instructing the diminutive barbarian in the use of scrips. They were assured that the money changer in al'Thanon would accept the scrip from Swallow. Each scrip is imprinted with a magic seal, like a scroll, which verifies its authenticity, and all the gnome bankers of Agartha are able to decipher the seal.

The next day, they took the silver funicular down to the boat landing below the Argent falls. There they bought passage on a river boat going to Thither. 

That morning, as they passed the high rock where the black waters of the Atrous river join the golden waters of the Xanthus, Randalf noticed a lookout on top of the rock waving to someone in the other river. That could mean only one thing: river pirates!

A longboat dashed from behind the rock and gained on the bulky river boat. Aline and Gravy harried them with spells until the longboat came alongside and threw grapples. Lodar leaped from the quarter-deck of the barge to the stern of pirate ship where he momentarily lost his footing while Inza jumped from the forecastle to the bow and engaged the pirate captain. 

Aline ordered her imp to become invisible and hide, then climbed onto her flying staff and flew up and astern of the pirate ship. There was suddenly a bright flash and a loud clap of thunder as a lightning bolt flew from her fingers up the line of the ship, eliminating many of the pirates in one stroke.

Randalf, for his part, cast a gust of wind, impeding the movement of two of the pirates until they scattered. Two pirates managed to climb aboard the river-boat, threatening Randalf and Gravy. Gravy harried one with sacred flames while Randalf directed his gust of wind against the other, knocking him off the river boat. 
Inza the Shadow
Inza did battle with the pirate captain while Lodar made his way up the length of the boat, dispatching the two pirates once blasted by Randalf's wind. 

When there were but few pirates left, the bosun appealed to the captain to flee. The captain shouted, "No! We are behind quota! The master would never allow us to return empty-handed!" The captain and his bosun were then incapacitated by Aline's thunderwave spell, cast from directly above them. The captain and the bosun then surrendered. 

The pirate that was blown off the deck was swimming to shore when he was suddenly engulfed in roiling water and multiple serpentine heads! Moments later, a winged hydra burst out of the water and took flight, ridden by the pirate. The bizarre creature and its equally surprising rider flew off to the west, up the Atrous river to the pirate lands. 

The pirate captain looked on in awe, "It's the master! He was with us the entire time!"

He informed the group that the pirate king is a powerful shape-shifter. 

That evening, the team stopped in Wince. There they sold the pirate longboat, which they had taken in tow, and collected the bounty on the pirates, all of which they shared with the boat captain. 

They continued to Thither the next morning.

Festival of Anuran
Signal Tower of Anuran
As the river boat floated down the Xanthus river, it passed into the sluggish waters of the Crying Swamp. Lizard men and bullywugs watched them from the shore. More so than normal, it seemed.

They arrived in Thither late that afternoon to see many boats crossing the channel from the city to the far shore. The sun was setting and the tall signal tower on the northern shore was emitting a strange opalescent smoke, accompanied by queer alien music and dozens of voices chanting.

Curious, they inquired with the boat captain. The captain told them they had arrived on the day of Anuran. On this day, each year, a virgin daughter is selected by lottery to serve as a human sacrifice to Anuran, the god of the swamp upon his awakening from hibernation. It is an ancient pact dating back to antiquity. As long as a sacrifice is given once a year, great Anuran and his swamp-dwelling servants will not lay waste to the city. The annual ritual had become an institution overseen by the archon. It was a day of celebration and revelry. Festivals and bacchanals would last through the night.

The captain docked his river-boat at the waterfront in the city. The group, meanwhile, joined a boat full of pilgrims crossing the river to witness the event.

Across the river from Thither was a mangrove forest, a maze of clumps of trees and small islands. The signal tower of Anuran occupied a small island with the river to the south and the marshy forests to the north. The only structures on the island other than the tall signal tower were located within a walled compound. Stairs led from the river to a colonnade that served as a river-side gate. The group joined the throngs of revelers that climbed the stairs and entered the courtyard.

The courtyard was filled with hundreds of people, all dressed in their finest apparel. The group, still wearing their dirty traveling clothes, stood out, drawing the condescension of many in the throng.

Sitting in a place of honor atop a podium was Archon Kepha, his family, and a dozen of his personal guards. He was joined by the bald high priest of Anuran and several high ranking acolytes of the cult. A retinue of armed soldiers stood guard near the gatehouse on the far side of the courtyard that led to the swamp. A column of robed acolytes wearing pointed hats faced the gatehouse, chanting and swinging censers of incense.

A young woman was chained to two pylons atop the gate house. She swooned in a drug-induced stupor.

The entire tableaux had the air of a civic festival. Vendors were selling grilled frogs on sticks, lizard haunches, candies, and other theme-appropriate foods. The red smoke billowed to the north overhead.

Suddenly, a lookouts in the towers blew horns and cried out, "Behold! Anuran approaches!" The sound of great splashing, cracking vegetation, and uprooted trees came from beyond the gatehouse. The great bulk of a giant demon toad rose from the swamp and emerged through the dark thicket of trees.

Anuran was over fifty feet tall and covered in giant horns, warts, pustules, and open weeping sores. A massive forked tongue dangled from his slack mouth in a most unwholesome fashion. His massive yellow eyes were sleepy slits. The demon-toad was accompanied by hundreds of lizard men and bullywugs, striding, capering, and swimming all about the loathsome entity.

With great effort, Anuran heaved his mighty bulk onto land and crawled toward the wall and his prize atop the gatehouse.

Suddenly, Randalf appeared on the steps in front of the gate house, having magically teleported there. Randalf waved his magic staff at Anuran and shouted a spell of banishment!

The surprised Anuran was returned to his home plane with an audible "PLOP!"
Randalf banishes Anuran!


I'm curious to see how the group gets out of this one. Randalf must maintain the banishment spell for one minute (ten rounds) for it to stick. He'll get one round of surprise as everyone wonders what the hell just happened. He might get a round or two of orders and movement. Then it will be up to Inza, Aline, Gravy, and MAYBE Lodar, who's player has a habit of not showing up, to hold the gatehouse.

Even if he sticks the banishment spell, what then? They'll need to either escape with their lives or convince the authorities that what they did was the right thing to do. Was the pact broken? Was there ever really a pact to begin with? Do the lizard men and bullywugs of the Crying Swamp have a means to re-summon Anuran in order to wreak havoc on the city? Is Thither Doomed? Will the group even hang around long enough to find out if Thither is doomed? 

Find out next week! 

UPDATE: Instead of seeking vengeance in Maidalanu, it's looking increasingly like the party is going to explore the lost city of Sinopia in the Crying Swamp, so I have changed the title of this sequence.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Exiled in Eris playtest wrapping up, Next: More D&D!

I have wrapped up my Exiled in Eris playtest. You can read all about it over in the Exiled in Eris blog.

This Friday, we'll be returning to D&D. I thought about radically changing up the setting but I know my players prefer a traditional generic fantasy setting, so I'm sticking with Agartha. However, I'm taking the campaign out of the Xanthus River Valley and moving it up the continent to the Maidanalu plains. Something about an evil wizard and vengeance. It's all very Conan. The new location will feature lots of centaurs, minotaurs, and other denizens of the cold steppe.