Monday, March 31, 2014

"The Lair of the Serpent Lord" Chapter 11 of the Xanthus River Campaign

Our party consists of:
  • Valerius (Level 2 Warrior)
  • Absalom (Level 2 Cleric)
  • Gwen (Level 2 Elf)
  • Sausage (Level 1 Dwarf)
  • Babu (Level 1 Thief)
  • Jilani (Level 1 Cleric)
  • Knott (Level 1 Warrior)
  • Wheezy (Level 1 Halfling)
Last week, the party had explored the lower level of the secret base of the cult of the Set, the god of serpents. They were nearly wiped out by hybrid snake-humans but were saved by Valerius and Cake the Rat. 

They had just found a large natural cavern flooded with water. The cavern was supported by eight tall phosphorescent pillars emerging from the middle of the lake. A small flat-bottomed boat rested on the shore.

It's a big dark cave!
The party boarded the boat and poled across the deep lake. 
Boarding the boat
They heard a hissing voice from the darkness, "Who dares disturb the fane of the lord of serpents? Who dares disturb EXPLICTICA DEFILUS?? Tell me your names that I might know you!"

The party engaged the sibilant voice in the darkness by answering its questions. Explictica Defilus recognized Valerius, "YOU! You are the one that killed by mate!"

Valerius was confused and consulted with his companions, "Um.. I am?? I don't recall."

Enraged, Explicta rose out of the darkened depths, revealing a large red and black snake with the head of a hideous human! Explictica was a Naga, one of the noble god-kings of the ancient empire of the serpent men!
Who dares disturb EXPLICTICA DEFILUS??
Valerius cautiously ordered the rest to pole the boat back to the muddy shore and disembark. There they waited as Explictica arrogantly closed the distance, unsuccessfully attempting to cast fireball spells. Gwen called upon the aid of the King of Elfland, imbuing her arrows with the spell of slumber. Her arrows failed to find their mark and she found herself under the enchanted charm of the naga queen. 
The naga approaches!
Explictica attacked the party, biting Sausage who survived the naga's venom by luck alone.  Explictica was soon overwhelmed. As a final act before dying, Explictica disappeared into a sulfurous ball of fire, leaving no trace behind and knocking everyone to the ground. 

The party soon regained their wits and poled the skiff to the far side of the cavern where they found the naga's treasure horde. After gathering up the treasure, the party decided to leave the dungeon and return to Wince to rest, divide loot, and resupply. 

On their way out, the party encountered a small pack of giant rats which were quickly dispatched.

Outside of the dungeon, the party saw that it was midday. They began hiking back through the swampy terrain. While passing near the sunken ruin of an ancient colossal statue, the party was attacked by a giant snapping turtle! 
Okay, an ankylosaur is the closest thing I had to a giant snapping turtle.

Does anyone else notice the humongous statue?
The turtle posed little threat and was soon killed.

The party arrived in Wince at sun-down, covered in mud and gore. A large crowd of villagers, nearly the entire town, had gathered in the town square to hear a message from Archon Hadrus. The villagers were much confused as to their state. It seems nearly everyone in town had amnesia and could not remember the last six or seven weeks!

Archon Hadrus appeared with his magistrate and Father Wethis, priest of Justica. He reassured the town, informing them the town had been placed under the spell of an evil warlock named Kn'Tor, and that he had sent his finest warriors to hunt down Kn'Tar and dispatch him. Kn'Tor will be made to pay for his evil crimes! The villagers were dubious but trusted their leader. They returned to their lives.

The party attempted to book a room at the Green Tiger Inn but were turned away until they had bathed and acquired new clothes. They were directed to the bath-house next door. After refreshing themselves, they returned to the inn and ate dinner and rested. Gwen decided to sleep in the forest instead and Knott returned to his own home (he is from Wince).

Absalom overheard some merchants exchanging rumors about Kn'Tor. Absalom contributed a rumor of his own, that a naga had placed the town under its spell and that the naga had been killed. 

That night, while sleeping in their private rooms, Absalom heard a gentle knocking on his door. The knock was the secret code used by clerics of the holy order of Justica. He answered it and was greeted by a young acolyte carrying a paper lantern. The said that Father Wethis wished to see Absalom in private and that Absalom was to follow the acolyte to the meeting. Absalom did so. 

The acolyte led Absalom to a darkened chapel in the village basilica. The hooded and robed Father Wethis stood on the raised dais in the apse, illuminated by a candle. Wethis asked Absalom about his travels and where he was the past few days. Absalom answered evasively. Wethis said that he has heard that Absalom was spreading rumors of a naga, thus undermining the Archon's story and authority. Absalom was to stop immediately. In addition, Absalom, being a traveling mendicant, should be on his way, unless he has in interest in settling down and joining the hierarchy here in Wince. Absalom answered that he planned on leaving soon. Wethis replied, "Good". With that, Absalom was escorted back to his room without incident.

The next day, the party spent the morning dividing loot and treasures. Absalom was able to identify each magical item through intense prayer. Afterwards, the party consulted with a local alchemist on the properties of various potions they had obtained. They then purchased additional arrows, torches, food, and other equipment and prepared to return to the dungeon.

Before they could leave, they were met by representatives of the town guard who informed them that they were invited to an audience and lunch with the Archon. They politely agreed. 

The Archon was a gracious host, talking up the towns trade facilities and many services. Apparently, he had heard that the party was flush with coin and was hoping to get them to spend it in Wince. He gave a tour of the village's defensive capabilities while his younger sister provided a tour of the dock and warehouses.

Afterwards, they were brought into a fine dining hall equipped with many victuals for lunch and conversation. Each of the party members were poured goblets of wine and offered a toast to their good fortune. Valerius politely declined, creating a breach in etiquette and offending his host, the Archon. Everyone else drank to the toast. Sausage and Wheezy immediately passed out. Everyone else became groggy and disoriented. Valerius drew his sword as men-at-arms rushed into the hall with halberds brandished.

A dry hissing voice came from behind a curtan, "Foolish mortal! It takes more than that to kill EXPLICTICA DEFILUS!"


Monday, March 24, 2014

"Knock Knock! Who's there? Your DOOM!" Chapter 10 of the Xanthus River Campaign

Our party consists of:
Valerius (Level 2 Warrior)
Absalom (Level 2 Cleric)
Gwen (Level 1 Elf)
Sausage (Level 1 Dwarf)
Babu (Level 1 Thief)
Jack (Level 1 Warrior)
Knott (Level 1 Warrior)
Wheezy (Level 1 Halfling)
Last week, the party cleared much of the first level of the secret lair of the serpent cult near Wince, getting as far as a flight of stairs descending down before they decided to retreat to a defensible position and rest.
They moved all the cots into a single cell, formerly used by cultists guarding the entrance, and closed and barred the door. Valerius had the first watch.

Before resting, Jack made two announcements to the group. First, Jack was not a man at all. He was a woman who had been pretending to be a man! Her name was Jilana, and she fled a live of servitude and arranged marriage back home. Also, she was not a warrior but was, in fact, a cleric of Amun Tor! The party was shocked for a moment, but glad they had another cleric, hoping this one would be proficient in their craft.
Settling down for a rest
About an hour into Valerius' watch, there was a gentle knocking at the door. Valerius woke everyone and they positioned themselves around the door and prepared for battle.
Valerius queried, "Who is it? What do you want?"
The voice responded, "Open the door! I must tell you something!"
Valerius dubiously countered, "Can't you tell us through the door?"
The voice said, "I don't have much time! Open the door else I must leave."
Valerius, wary of a trap, slowly opened the door.
The figure beyond was clad in black robes and leather armor, his bald head, lack of eyebrows, pallid complexion, and sinister countenance bespoke of a member of the serpent cult. The figure was holding two clay flasks of oil with burning wicks, which he promptly tossed into the room.
One grenade shattered and burst into flame, catching Knott on fire, while the other failed to shatter.
As the figure turned to escape, the party quickly rushed him, surrounding him. He was quickly stabbed to death before he could even act.
"Ahh! My Initiative was lower than I anticipated!!"

 The party saw that the hall had been barricaded at both ends. One end was completely walled, the other left a small gap open to allow exit one at a time.
Another cultist wearing armor and carrying the weapons of a warrior called out to them from beyond the gap, taunting them. He dashed back towards the guard post near the entrance. The party gave chase, only to encounter a devious trip-wire+clothesline combination trap. The armored warrior continued south down a corridor, trying to lure the party deeper into the dungeon. Valerius, wary of more traps and an ambush, had everyone stop and withdraw.

"Come and get me, COWARDS!"
Gwen asked her lazy familiar Cake the rat to scout down a hallway. Cake responded, "Well, I WOULD, but it's all the way over there I'm way over here!"
The group retreated to their cell and re-barred their door to continue their rest. Gwen, perhaps unwisely, allowed Cake to take a watch. Cake immediately fell asleep, meaning there was no one to wake the next on watch, or the next. Luckily, the remainder of the rest was uneventful.
"Nope! We're not falling for it!"

Waking an unknown number of hours later, the group continued their expedition. They travelled west the south, cautiously retracing the path of retreat made by the mysterious warrior, searching for traps at every doorway and intersection, sometimes unsuccessfully.

They passed through the large columned chamber and travelled west, then north, to a heavy wooden door which was barred from within. It took Valerius maybe fifteen tries before he was able to kick the stout door down, given anyone within plenty of warning and time to prepare.

Inside was a sitting room with overturned chairs and upturned tables. Behind the table was the mysterious warrior.
The overturned chairs were very nice. They were upholstered in velvet with brass hobnails and fancy arm-rests.
 The party rushed in with Sausage at the lead followed by Valerius. As Knott came through the doorway, he was attacked from behind by an assassin that could have been the twin of the cultist who earlier knocked on their door. The assassin was cut down in a single stroke. The warrior was soon felled by Sausage and Valerius.
"Curses! I am undone by my lack of Hit Points!"
A brief search indicated that the assassin bore a magical short sword, an ancient looking weapon with a curved sinewy blade. Written on the blade in a curvilinear script was the word "Scute". When Babu took the blade, he was overcome with ambition and paranoia. He knew then that he would one day rule Nagina Samrajya- the ancient kingdom of the Serpent People! He will eliminate all the fools who oppose him through the subtle art of assassination! Wait, what? Whoah! Where did that come from?

Anyhow, they continued searching, finding a room shared by the twin assassins, a room for the warrior, and a room for one other, as yet unaccounted for cultist, apparently a spellcaster for within his room was a chest protected by a glyph of warding. Babu failed to disarm the chest and was paralyzed until Jilana uttered a prayer to revive him. Within they found clerical robes, a mace, and a scroll with two "cure light wound" prayers written to Set, god of the serpents.

Exiting the chambers of the cult lieutenants, they took the west passage, noting that the way south was blocked with mud and dirt from a ceiling collapse. Northward took them into a large flooded natural chamber supported by a column.
Valerius: "It's a flooded cavern. So I'm going in alone then?"
Valerius trudged through the wet sticky muddy bottom to inspect the door to the east. In so doing, he was attacked by a large killer frog.
Valerius about to get french-kissed by a giant carnivorous frog.

When Knott came to help, he, too, was similarly attacked. The frogs were swiftly dispatched and it was soon verified that the east door joined up with the main entrance.

The party turned back and retraced their steps, south then east then south through the secret door. They took the boat to the west passage from the crocodile cavern and found the way blocked by mud and debris from the ceiling collapse. Wheezy the halfling scrabbled through a narrow gap and explored the way south, finding a flooded cavern filled with rotting decaying bodies and the putrescent stench of the dead. Disgusted and repelled, wheezy returned to report. The party elected not to follow up.

The party then took the boat back to the south corridor from the crocodile cavern. They explored the south passage and found that excavations had ended abruptly. They backed up and explored the west passage until they located the den of the giant weasel. Searching the mud, they found coins of all kind littering the muck, plus the tattered clothes of the Archon of Wince!

Afterwards, they returned to the hybrid guard post and decided to descend to the lower level.

A = Assassin Fight
B = Lieutenant Chambers
C = Giant Frogs
At the bottom of the stairs, the party encountered a labyrinth of natural caves and passages. At Valerius' instruction, they kept left, heading west.

They soon explored a small empty room only to be attacked by a giant spider!
Gwen: "Nope! Nope! Nope! Nope!"

Sausage became pinned, impaled by the spear-like pedipalp of the humongous arachnid. Luckily, the spider's poison had little to no effect and the spider was soon killed. Gwen, whose player is apparently upset by spiders, stayed far far out of the room, repeating "Nope! Nope! Nope! Nope!". One of the prayers of Set soon returned Sausage to health and vigor.

Continuing to explore, the passage turned north. After finding an empty room, the party continued north until they encountered a huge chamber lit by dim torchlight. The chamber was thirty feet wide but over a hundred feet long and curved to the east at the far north end.

A large creepy cavern!
Within the chamber were several large masses of what appeared to be amniotic sacs. Within each was the silhouette of a human being transformed into more of the snake-human hybrids the party encountered in the guard post upstairs.

Trust me, each pile of skulls was an amniotic sac.
Before they could act, they were set upon by eight hybrids who had camouflaged themselves and were blending in with the muddy walls of the cavern!
The party is beset by snake-human hybrids!
Two threw small cages containing venomous snakes, one at Sausage and one at Valerius, which burst open on impact. Sausage was bitten and fell! Each of the others bore spears and scimitars upon the rest. Babu fell, then Jilana, then Wheezy. Absalom moved to Jilana and restored her to health using the remaining prayer to Set, but Absalom was soon cut down himself, quickly followed once more by Jilana, and then Knott! Gwen and Sausage took down a serpent but were themselves removed from the fight, leaving only Valerius! And wait? What about Cake? Yes! Cake too!
Valerius and Cake the Rat have left the serpent-hybrids bereft of names!
Valerius was surrounded by seven serpent-hybrids. He became a cyclone of flashing steel, with Cake nipping at their heels like a rabid dog! After a gory melee of serpentine death, Valerius and Cake had defeated all of the hybrid abominations! Valerius checked on his companions. All had survived, even Knott who survived by sheer luck alone!

Valerius was so impressed with Cake's fighting ability, he declared Cake his own familiar, ordering Gwen to find a new one! Cake pointedly reminded Gwen that he had yet to receive his cheese!

Cake sitting on Valerius' shoulder after the battle.
After a short rest and some restorative prayers to Justica and Amun Tor, the party was ready to continue. They continued to take the far left passages, which now led east.

The party then entered a small cave containing a carnivorous theropod the size of a large bear chained to the north wall, the jawbones of its victims jammed into the mud walls like prizes. Noticing that the chain only allowed the beast to within five feet of the south wall, the party's ranged fighters moved forward, only to comically retreat as they realized that being within five feet of the beast put them within reach of its snapping jaws!
"Look, it can't come near the wa... OH DEAR GOD! RETREAT!"
Instead, they pelted the poor beast with arrows and sling stones from a safer distance until the monster was dead.

With that, the party moved into a very large cavern containing an underground lake. The cavern ceiling was supported by eight glowing pillars of natural stone, giving the chamber an unearthly green cast. A flat-bottomed skiff rested on the shore near them.

D = Giant Spider
E = Snake-Human Hybrids
F = Bonesnapper

I got to use my Dwarven Forge cavern pieces a lot that night, which was a lot of fun. I don't get them out very often. They're pretty but they're kind of a pain. The walls are too high and block visibility. I'd much rather have shorter cavern wall pieces like my dungeon walls.

Speaking of the dungeon walls, I can't recommend them enough: War Torn Worlds Fat Dungeon Walls.

Almost all my pictures feature them. They are fantastic! I own two packs. My players agree that they're the best investment I've ever made on gaming. They're way more flexible and visible than tiles, and easier to arrange. They're shorter than minis so they don't block visibility or hide the action. They're also made of rubber so they won't break or shatter if you drop them, they're light weight, and won't chip.

What I WISH I had were cavern walls like those dungeon walls: rubber, short, and just walls. I don't need the floor, I have a game mat (several, in fact), or tiles. Cast dungeon floors are a waste of poly-resin, or rubber.

So, given that, I took a stab at making what I want. I made them out of clay, so they're not EXACTLY what I want, but they're short and will get the job done.

Next week: Against the Cult of the Reptile God, Part Three! "The Lair of the Serpent Lord"

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Throwback Thursday

Okay, here's my gaming-related Throwback Thursday contribution: my game group circa 1997, back in the original Game Garage (Trevor's garage at his apartment on Minehaha Street).

From left to right: Trevor, Cheney, Woobee, Jeffy, Me, Dave, Scott, with Dodd taking the picture

Oddly, I'm gaming with pretty much the same group, minus Cheney and Dave, in 2014, though Trevor, Jeffy, and Dodd are all on long-term hiatus due to college, new child, and job schedule respectively. And now we game in my garage in my house.

Monday, March 17, 2014

"Against the Cult of theReptile God" Chapter 9 of the Xanthus River Campaign

Our party consists of:
Valerius (Level 2 Warrior)
Absalom (Level 2 Cleric)
Gwen (Level 1 Elf)
Sausage (Level 1 Dwarf)
Babu (Level 1 Thief)
Jack (Level 0 Man-at-Arms)
Knot (Level 0 Rope Maker)
Wheezy (Level 0 Halfling Gypsy)
Meanwhile, back in Wince:
Nip (Level 1 Cleric)

Last week, while en-route to their home in Duirndown, the party stopped in Wince to recruit some men-at-arms. While there, they decided to investigate the cult activity they discovered the last time they were in Wince. They soon found some secret tunnels and a map leading to a hidden cult base of operations twelve miles away in the forest. They found the hidden base, an area of the swamp that had been drained to reveal ancient stairs leading underground to an entrance protected by four cult guards, which were quickly dispatched, but only after the death of two of their men-at-arms.

Heading East
The group was presented with three passages to the east, south, and west, and chose the east passage. They skipped a passage filled with doors and found another shorter passage that sloped down and ended in a door. The passage in front of the door was filled with wet mud. The thief inspected carefully and noticed a greenish hue to the mud. Fearing green slime, they poured oil on the mud and set it on fire.

The billowing smoke soon filled the corridor. One of the doors in the untaken passage opened and a female cultist popped her head out, saying "Where's that smoke coming from?" then, seeing the party, shouted, "Intruders! To arms!"

"Intruders! To Arms!"

She rushed to wake the other cultists sleeping in one of the other rooms while her three companions poured out to defend their base. A battle ensued in the hallway with Valerius and Sausage holding the front line and Gwen, Wheezy, and Babu firing bow, sling, and crossbow, respectively, from the rear. Four unarmored cultists, roused from their slumber, soon joined the fray.
Cultists poured into the hall
Fierce battle in the hallway
 The battle soon ended with eight dead guards littering the hallway.

After quickly searching the bunk cells, they tried the remaining unopened door, only to find it locked. Valerius kicked it open and surprised the four sleeping guards on their cots.
Sleeping Cultists
Gwen tried to summon forth a dire wolf but failed, miserably, resulting in a sickening amalgamation of inside-out wolf guts, muscles, bones, and fur falling with a sickening splat onto the floor. The rest of the group rushed in and stabbed, chopped, and bludgeoned the unarmed and unarmored cult guards before they could even get out of their cots.
Moving on...

The party then explored the passage to the north and found a kitchen. In the rear of the kitchen was a hall that led to a door. No matter what they did, the door could not be opened, yet it did not appear to be magical. Valerius pulled heroically on the door to no avail. The party concluded that the door was false, set up as a devious practical joke for purposes no one could fathom.

The party then travelled down a southerly corridor, finding two empty but partially collapsed rooms, a westerly passage ending in a flooded cave, and a southerly corridor ending in a door.

They opened the door into two large adjoining chambers with high arched ceilings supported by columns. A ghostly yet beautiful voice echoed from the far chamber, beckoning them forward. Everyone was enchanted by the voice, save Gwen, Knott, and Absalom.

"This looks bad..."
"Enter with caution."
Those enchanted by the magical voice walked slowly forward, as if hypnotized, into a deep pit of mud that separated the two rooms. Those with clear heads soon saw the harpy that called to them and began loosing arrows and sling stones at the creature. Absalom, frustrated at the situation, tried to plug Valerius' ears with the only material he had at hand, his bag of night soil, but to no avail.
"Crap! Harpy!"
As soon as the enchanted party members had become stuck in the mud, the harpy flew forth to attack them. The harpy ineffectually grabbed at the victims with her claws while she was peppered with arrows and bullets.
"Charmed party members stuck in the mud..No worries the Harpy died"
 Some critical arrow hits quickly brought the harpy down. The enchanted party members soon regained their wits. Babu was able to climb the walls carrying a rope and bypass the mud pit. Soon everyone was across and searched the harpy's nest, where they found fabulous treasure.

After that, they skipped the flooded cave and went all the way back to a westerly corridor they skipped earlier. They found a larder stocked with supplies and a southerly corridor with a collapsed wall, revealing a flooded cave. They followed the corridor and found a trapped door protecting a room filled with casks of wine and beer. They loaded the men-at-arms with the smaller portable casks. Around the bend to the west they located a large entrance chamber supported by four stout columns. Along the walls were bas reliefs depicting an ancient kingdom of serpent men who worshipped giant snakes with humanoid heads.

After confirming that a northerly corridor linked up with the entrance, they backtracked and continued west. At a right turn, Gwen found a secret door. Behind which was a natural corridor that opened to the flooded cavern, and a boat.

The party took the boat across the flooded cavern, taking notice of the albino crocodiles resting on a shore on the north edge of the cavern. Spotting three exits, one west, one east, and one south, they decided on the southern exit. The exit led to a corridor and a four-way junction. The westerly and southerly corridors were covered in mud. Suddenly, a giant angry weasel scurried from the western corridor and attacked! After a brief fight, the party killed the weasel and decided to go east.

Giant Mud Weasel
 The corridor turned to the south and ended in a stout primitive door which was barred from the other side. Valerius busted it down and the party engaged three guards, strange serpent-human hybrids, each carrying two scimitars, in battle while a fourth ran to an adjoining room to summon four others.

Snake-Human Hybrids
Pitched Battle!
 After a pitched battle, all but one hybrid cult guard was killed. The remaining one fled, but Babu and the rest gave chase. As the guard ran down a set of stairs, Babu killed him with his crossbow.

A snake-man fled for his life!

He was followed by Babu and the others!
 The party was exhausted. Though they had spent barely an hour exploring the dungeon, they decided to retreat and rest. They back-tracked to the sleeping cells of the guards, where they left the eight bodies in the hall. They arrived to find a giant lizard feasting on the carrion. The lizard took notice and charged the party in an attempt to defend his find. The party set upon the lizard and it was soon put down.

"Aww... He's CUTE! Who's a cute lizard monster?"
Having secured their rest area, the party pulled all the cots into one room and set a watch while they rested.


Next week: Against the Cult of the Reptile God, Part Two!


No real comments this week. Just a lot of fun dungeon crawlin.

Lucinda joined us again. She plans on joining us next week.

The fake door cracked me up. It was fun to see the players put so much thought into it. I finally broke down and told them the truth so they wouldn't spend any more time obsessing over it.

Lucinda, playing Babu, did a great job checking every door for traps, eventually finding the trapped wine cellar.

Absalom and Gwen were out of spells so the group decided to take a rest. We'll see if they get a full eight hours of rest. Ha, right!

After the final fight, all the zero level men at arms leveled up to first level. Absalom and Gwen hit second level.

Explored This Week:
1. Green Slime
2. Fight with Cult Guards
3. Harpy
4. Weasel
5. Snake-Human Hybrids
6. Giant Lizard

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Xanthus River Valley map, Player Version

The Xanthus River Valley is composed of soaring mountain peaks, rocky crags, high plateaus, and wide vistas. This means much of the valley is actually visible. This makes a proper hex-crawl where the players fill in the map as they go less appropriate since characters can just look up and see whats in that hex. In addition, there are enough people who travel the rivers to just tell you what's up that river, they were there yesterday.

However, there are still areas of the map that are occluded by mountains and ridges. These valleys, forests, and jungle areas are still a mystery since few people go there and they can't be directly observed, even from the taller vantage points.

So here is a map of the Xanthus River Valley that players can use,with white hexes indicating the blind spots that you can't see and where nobody routinely goes. This will be the map I give my players this week. The text is left in because they have been told that's what can be found there.

Monday, March 10, 2014

"The Golden Alchemist" Chapter 8 of the Xanthus River Campaign

Our party consists of:
Valerius (Level 2 Warrior)
Absalom (Level 1 Cleric)
Gwen (Level 1 Elf)
Sausage (Level 1 Dwarf)
Babu (Level 1 Thief)
Jack (Level 0 Man-at-Arms)
Edmund (NPC)

Meanwhile, back in Thither:
Nip (Level 1 Cleric)
Shau (NPC)

This week we were joined by a special guest star and a VERY special guest star. First, Sausage was played this week by his creator, Jeff, who is only able to join us on a sporadic basis. Secondly, the role of Babu was this week played by Lucinda, a friend of mine from work who hasn't played an RPG since 1986, but after reading my blog asked if she could join us. Of course I said yes! Nip's player, Matt, was unable to join us. So Nip sat this week out back in Thither with Shau the NPC.

Last week, our intrepid party had returned to the abandoned mansion of Saltmarsh to rid it of slavers who had taken up residence in the secret cellar, but more importantly to discover what happened to Shau's uncle, the alchemist.

Having accounted for the entire above-ground area of the house, and rescuing Edmund the butler who was bound and gagged in an abandoned bedroom, they decide to return to the secret cellar where the slavers were living.

Carefully entering the secret room, they found it abandoned! The slavers, aware that their hiding place and secret base had been compromised, decided to take their stuff and leave before any authorities decided to descend en masse on the house. 

The group moved to the chained door marked DANGER! Carefully entering, they found an empty room supported by two marble pillars. A magic voice came from the closer pillar: "This area is forbidden! Who are you and what is your business here?"

Absalom at first tried the truth. The voice responded, "You are not known to me! You must leave now or face the consequences! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!"

At that, Absalom asked Gwen to attempt guile, claiming to be Shau. The voice was not impressed, "Shau, your uncle is very busy! You know you are not allowed to disturb him! State your business and I can relay your message."

Gwen, still pretending to be Shau, said she needed to speak with her uncle immediately. The voice responded, "I cannot help you. Now leave this place or face the consequences! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!"

Valerius tried the direct approach and entered the room, the pillar immediately shouted, "NOW YOU FACE THE CONSEQUENCES! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!" The pillar transformed into a humanoid shape composed of marble columnar pieces. The pillar-golem attacked Valerius and battle ensued.

The DANGER room!

It is NOT a robot! It's a column golem!

The golem is defeated.
After a brief battle, the pillar-golem was destroyed. Babu was mortally injured but later rolled over and survived. Gwen found a stuck secret door she was unable to open. Assuming it could only be opened by a family member, they asked Edmund the butler to open it. Although he doubted it, the door did open for him as predicted.

At this point, I stopped the game and asked the players for their input: Did they want a happy ending or a bitter-sweet ending? They voted for happy ending. I continued.
The Alchemist's laboratory!
Inside they discovered the secret laboratory of Shau's uncle, Yithother the Alchemist, Lord of Saltmarsh Manor. The room was filled with alchemical apparatuses, workbenches, vials of chemicals, pickled specimens, shrunken human heads, etc. In the northwest corner was a hemispherical table. On the table was drawn a pentagram marked with five stones at each angle. Trapped within was a small fat demon who awoke with a start. 

The trapped demon called out, "Oh FINALLY! Hey, HEY! Do me a favor, will ya? Would you remove one of these stones? I've been trapped here for twenty years! TWENTY YEARS! It's like an ETERNITY here! Let me out will ya? C'mon!!"

At that, Valerius and Absalom taunted the entrapped demon while Gwen investigated the rest of the room. 

Seated slumped over a work bench on the east wall of the room was an elderly man made entirely of gold. The golden man was wearing chain mail gauntlets made of gold. Under his hands was a sheaf of gold. Nearby was  a golden writing stylus and a golden inkwell, a golden candlestick and candle, a golden human skull, and various other mundane items made of gold. Curiouser was a fresh apple, not gold, covered in dust, and other items that could not have possibly have remained fresh for twenty years.

Nearby was an open book. Gwen investigated and saw a formula for what appeared to be the Philosopher's Stone, an alchemical formula for turning anything into gold! 

Suddenly, the golden skull slowly turned back into a real skull in front of Gwen's eyes. Soon afterwards, other items began to return to normal. The party was perplexed! 

Eventually, the gold leaf turned back into a sheet of paper with writing on it!

The paper was a suicide note:
I, Yithother of Saltmarsh Manor, have decided to end my life. At the peak of my powers I have achieved the ultimate goal of all alchemists - All that I touch becomes gold! Alas, in my rush to inform my family of my accomplishment, I accidentally transformed my niece, nephew, and butler into golden statues! My jubilation turned immediately to horror and remorse. I have spent the past week trying to find a way to undo the curse and change them back. Alas, I fear the effect is permanent. My dearest loved ones are gone!
I can no longer live with my shame. I have decided to end my life. As I have decided to turn myself into gold. Soon I will join my loved ones. I only hope that they can forgive me in the afterlife. May the gods have mercy on my soul.
Yithother, Lord of Saltmarsh Manor 
The party soon deduced that the effect was not permanent, and that Shau had been turned to gold for twenty years, that she had somehow wound up in the bilge of a river boat, and, six days ago, turned back to normal. They concluded that the same happened to Edmund and presumably the nephew, wherever he was. They deduced that if they waited around, soon Yithother would return to normal and they could be reunited.

Sure enough, in less than an hour, Yithother returned to normal, disoriented and confused with some memory loss. They calmed him and informed him what had happened, bringing him up to speed on the slavers and the state of the house.

Yithother was concerned about the fate of his nephew, who was still missing. The party assured him that the odds were that he most likely definitely probably wasn't melted down into bullion or broken into smaller pieces and distributed, and to put either of those possibilities out of his mind. These reassurances failed to rest Yithother's mind, who was concerned that his nephew was the captive of slavers at sea!

Soon afterwards, Yithother was reunited with his niece Shau, who had been in Thither recruiting workers to restore the house. Shau and Yithother were both most thankful to their party members for their help and pledged their eternal gratitude. 

After that, the group parted ways with Saltmarsh manor and returned to Thither to take care of business. 

Gwen left he party to camp on the plain and commune with nature. For one week, she sat in a toadstool circle and called upon the King of Elfland to grant her a familiar. An albino rat entered the toadstool circle. She named it "Cake". She immediately began a second ritual and called upon the King of Elfland to accept her as a servant, which he accepted. Afterwards, she returned to Thither to rejoin the others.
Gwen and her new familiar, Cake
The rest of the group meanwhile, weighed their options and planned their next move. Recalling that their original purpose in coming to Thither was to recruit hirelings to help penetrate further into the lost dwarven city of Duirnhall, they decided to continue with that plan. Over the next six weeks, they interviewed twenty-four potential candidates, all that Thither had to offer, and found NONE of them worthy! 

During that time:

Week 1
  • Absalom helped Bo-Mont Oacha and Archon Kepha with a matter pertaining to the patricians of Thither. As a reward, Absalom was made a representative to the court of Thither and a member of the aristocracy.
  • Sausage offended a rumormonger who, in turn, spread lies about the robust dwarf.
  • One of Babu's friends in Thither, a fellow thief, asked for help in resolving a matter. It seemed the friend had offended another thief, a red elf named Alfred. Babu rendered assistance but made an enemy of Alfred.
Week 2
  • Absalom invested 25 gold in a mercantile venture.
  • Valerius was offered a private mission that would pay 1900 gold! Wary, Valerius turned down the mission. As it happened, everyone on the mission was later killed when their boat sank at sea.
  • Babu was mugged by members of Alfred's gang and lost all his gold!
Week 3
  • Sausage offended one of the patricians of Thither and was forced to pay restitution in the form of 25% of his personal wealth.
  • Babu was mugged again by members of Alfred's gang and lost all the gold he had gained since last week!
Week 4
  • Absalom's investment tanked. He lost all 25 Gold.
Week 5
  • Valerius offended a fellow warrior named Rlolot. In retribution, Rlolot coined the nickname "Swordbreaker" for Valerius, which quickly spread through the training dojo.
  • Gwen befriended Leno-Bhakith, another servant of the King of Elfland and master of the Fraternity of Thaumaturges of Thither. Leno awarded Gwen with 190 gold pieces. 
  • Babu was robbed, presumably by members of Alfred's gang, and was relieved of all belongings.
Week 6
  • Valerius fell ill for one week. 
On the seventh week, the group decided to pay for passage on a riverboat headed back to Wince and then Swallow. The journey to Wince entailed a grueling 14-hour boat ride up-river. They pulled into the small town after dark and sought rest in the inn. 

That evening in the inn, they engaged other guests in conversation, recruiting possible followers. They succeeded in adding Knot the rope-maker, Wheezy the halfling gypsy, and Can the tax collector. The true catch, however, was Tim Burr, the woodcutter! 

Tim Burr was a mountain of a man, with long golden locks, perfect teeth, and piercing grey eyes! Upon first seeing him, Gwen immediately vowed to one day marry him! Tim was a god amongst mortals, a hero, a legend! Everyone loved Tim! Tim had never known fear! Tim's sweat smelled like roses and tasted like honey! Tim had never fought a monster, they had always surrendered and asked to join him! Tim once had an entire order of clerics renounce their vows and abandon their god in order to worship him instead! 

During the night, Valerius woke everyone and gathered them outside. He planned to investigate the secret cult they encountered when they were here last. They returned to the barn and found the trap door. Downstairs they found a common root cellar with hanging sides of beef, pork, and mutton, barrels and casks full of beverages, and other items in cool storage with no trace of cult activity. However, they found a secret door in the corner.

The secret door led to an underground passage shored up with wooden beams. 

The Tunnels of Wince
The passage led away from the river for about one hundred feet and ended in a ladder going up. Another passage led to the left for several hundred feet and with two doors, one towards the river and one away. Exploring that passage, they found stone stairs leading up and opening into a small closet-like cubicle. A closed door contained a peep-hole. Through the hole Valerius could see a richly appointed room covered in rugs and tapestries, lit by braziers, candelabras, lamps, and a large fireplace. Concluding this led to the archon's keep, they decided to hold off and explore the ladder.

Valerius led the way. The ladder led to a closed trap door. He opened it and looked around. He was in a back room of the  Bilious Froth inn (#8 in Wince). The room was lit by a single candle, the innkeeper and another man, dressed in the robes of serpent-cultists, were reviewing a map. They noticed Valerius peeking up through the trapped door. After a moment of confusion and hesitation on all sides, the two men grabbed two sinuous blades and attacked. 
Valerius and Sausage fight Cultists while Babu sneaks around!
Valerius burst forth and engaged in battle, followed by the others. The room was too small to permit a full battle, so the others poured out of the back door into the alley (between 8 and 22) while Valerius and Sausage remained in the room. Outside, Absalom smashed a window and attacked the cultists. Babu sneaked around to find another door to flank the cultists and attack with surprise.

Ah... Tim the great. telling stories of his greatness.
Meanwhile, everyone else gathered around Tim to hear a story of one his adventures:
Tim was once cutting down a large tree. Unfortunately, it was about to fall onto a nearby orphanage. Thinking quickly, Tim milled and planned the tree into lumber as it fell. Before the tree could even hit the ground, Tim had used the lumber to build a new wing onto the orphanage! What a guy! True story!
Having dispatched the cultists, the group found the map they were reading. The map led to what appeared to be a secret cult base located about twelve miles southwest of town in the Blackwood Forest. 
The Route to the Cult's Base
Wasting no time, the group gathered their gear and set off under the cover of darkness. Luckily, the way was lit by the light of the full moon and the group followed the trail indicated. They arrived at the edge of the forest by dawn and stopped to eat some rations. They continued into the forest, descending towards the Unnameable River to a shallow swamp formed by a pond where the river had been dammed in ancient times. 

In the middle of the swampy pond was an island formed by a recently built earthen dike that kept the swampy water at bay. At the center of the island was a deep sinkhole, inside of which was a long set of wet mossy stairs.
Where do these stairs go?... They do down.
The group descended the stairs. Despite treading cautiously, two of the group slipped and tumbled down the stairs, taking those who proceeded them. Valerius, Can, Tim, and Knot were deposited in a heap at the bottom where they were immediately set upon by guards dressed as serpent cultists!

At the Bottom of the Stairs
Tim was immediately killed! The game was stopped to observe a brief moment of silence to remember Tim.

Also somebody else was killed, I think it was Can or whatever.

A battle ensued. The rest of the party hurried as fast as they could down the stairs to render aid. The four guards were eventually killed.

The party now faces a decision, three subterranean passages: left, right, or straight.


It was great to have Lucinda join us. I hope she had a good time. She is invited back to join us whenever she wants, even as a regular player if she so decides.

The group decided to abandon part two of the Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, which I re-skinned as "rescue the nephew from slavers". I'm running a sandbox and its totally up to the players where they want to go, and they opted to ignore the distraction and return to their original mission, with an exception to investigate the serpent cult of Wince.

I used the random "City Catch-Up" rules from the "Midkemia Press Second Edition of Cities" book to determine what happened to the party during the down time. I had been wanting to use those tables for years! I skipped the jobs section. I'll offer that next time. If there is a next time. Some of the players weren't too happy with those tables, especially the ones that were repeatedly mugged! I thought they were neat and led to new enmities in the town.

Finally, I am adapting an old TSR module, "Against the Cult of the Reptile God". Or at least part of it anyway. I had originally ad-libbed the serpent god encounter in Wince. Later, after I re-read this module, I decided to replace Orlane with Wince. I skipped ahead of all the Orlane stuff, they've done enough of that previously, and went straight for the dungeon at the end. 

Also, starting this week, I am allowing players to spend their character's GP on Experience Points, following the guidelines here, which are remarkably just like what I already thinking of on my own, except already written down and playtested.

Essentially, for every 100 GP they waste, the PC gets +1 XP.

There are two reasons for this:
1) I want to bring back the OD&D rule of spending Gold = XP
2) I want to give them an outlet for spending their accumulated gold.

The Tim thing was fun. The players had just recruited four hirelings and had divvied them up with the warning, "Do not name them or become attached to them!"

Bill replied, "Too late! His name is Tim. I like Tim."
Tim the magnificent, Tim the fantastic.
Thus began the epic saga of Tim. Dodd, especially, took the ball and ran with it, inventing one hyperbolic story of Tim after another. We all joined in, singing Tim's praises. Scott and Woobee kind of got annoyed by Tim hogging the spotlight and were kind of happy to see him die in the first round of combat. Nevertheless, we all loved Tim, almost as much as we love Babu.

Speaking of Babu. Technically, Babu died. He was zero-level when he was killed. However, we all loved Babu so much as a shared character, I ruled that he had actually earned enough XP to reach 1st level and therefore deserved a death save. I'm a sucker for Babu and thought he deserved a nobler death. Especially since Lucinda had been given him to play and it was early in the night. Since Babu graduated to 1st level, I decided he needed a new mini. His old mini was of a jovial rotund middle-eastern fellow with a beard and a turban. The mini made him likable and contributed to his  personality. However, it wasn't intimidating enough to be taken seriously, so I allowed Lucinda to choose a cooler looking mini. She chose the one pictured below. Still exotic but much more menacing, heroic, and mysterious.
Original Babu
New Babu

I shall now leave you with a picture of Woobee (player of Absalom and Knot) wearing a Norman helmet.

Next week: "Against the Cult of the Reptile God!"