Wednesday, May 21, 2014

"A Vitch You Can't Scratch" Chapter 17 of the Xanthus River Campaign

This week, the party fights some more kobolds, almost gets their butts kicked, spends some down-time healing and leveling, then find and murder execute a disgruntled and bitter kobold wizard named "Vitch". It's Racially-Motivated Home Invasions, the RPG!

Our party:

Player characters
  • Ser Valerius (Level 3 Human Paladin)
  • Absalom (Level 2 Human Cleric of Justica)
  • Gwen (Level 2 Elf Fighter)
  • Jalani (Level 2 Human Cleric of Amun-Tor)
  • Stefan (Level 1 Elf Fighter/Thief, special guest star)
  • Babu (Level 2 Human Magic User)
  • Knott (Level 1 Human Fighter)
  • Brown Tom (Level 1 Human Fighter, Squire of Valerius)
  • Clench (Human Mercenary Heavy Infantryman)
  • Squat (Human Mercenary  Heavy Infantryman)
  • Push (Human Mercenary  Heavy Infantryman)
  • War Dog
Old Gnuder
When we left our party, they had just defeated the kobold chieftain and his bodyguards and freed the poor old dwarf prisoner, Old Gnuder. Old Gnuder had no legs and only a left arm. He was chained by a collar to the wall like a dog and fed scraps.

The party took Old Gnuder out of the mountain and into safety in the village of Duirndown.

As they emerged, they spied two figures standing on the bridge connecting the entrance to Duirnhold to the village of Duirndown. It was Gwen and another elf, her cousin Stefan. Gwen re-joined the party joined by Stefan, who had only recently arrived from the Otherworld.

In Duirndown, an attendant was hired to see to Old Gnuder's needs and a scribe was hired to record his tale and anything else he knew about the fate of Duirnhold.

Old Gnuder recounted the story of Duirnhold as he knew it. He said that many of the dwarfs of Duirnhold had at first become passive and lethargic, eventually turning evil, their eyes black and their skin ashen. The evil dwarfs, the so-called Derro, began to enslave the remaining good dwarfs. A civil war resulted, killing thousands. With the war came an invasion, led by whom he knew not. He only knew that an army of evil humanoids, orcs, goblins, hobgoblins, orgres, and trolls, had swarmed through the hidden cracks in the earth, and attacked the weakened city. The dwarfs were forced to flee. Old Gnuder was tasked to hold the checkpoint during the evacuation. He was eventually overrun by the orcs and left to die. He was later found by the kobolds and taken prisoner. He has been the "pet" of the kobolds for the past few years.

The party informed Old Gnuder that fifty years had passed since the fall of Duirnhold. Old Gnuder could not accept that. It had been no more then ten years at the most! Of this he was certain!

Back Into the Mountain
The party left Old Gnuder in caring hands and returned to the mountain. They retraced their steps and followed various unexplored passages, noticing and avoiding passages covered in alchemical powders.

Eventually, they reached a long L-shaped room, a temple, protected by twelve kobolds, four guards, and a shaman.
That's a lot of kobolds!

A fierce battle ensued as a forward force of kobolds kept the party pinned in the door while another force of kobolds formed a line, backed by the guards, to protect the shaman. The party finally broke through and advanced to do battle with the defensive line. As the kobolds began to fall, the surviving kobolds turned to flee. The guards began killing deserters and the shaman case Remove Fear to reestablish morale. Eventually, however, all the kobolds were wiped out.

Form up! Defend the Shaman!

The room was searched. Two stone-giant skulls flanked a pair of ever-burning fires in braziers on top of the raised altar platform. Piles of skulls from orcs, goblins, and even ogres, flanked the altar platform. A well in the center of the room was filled with black oily liquid. Valerius prayed over the well and the oil retreated into cracks at the bottom, revealing 4900 copper pennies.

 The party continued on, discovering another guard room with one guard and eight kobolds. The fight was ferocious and Knott and Jilani found themselves at death's door, only to be saved by Absolom. The fight was so fierce, in fact, that Brown Tom and the mercenaries were called up off the bench and got to kill their first opponents!
These guards were surprisingly tough!

After the fight, three of the party members were unconscious and unable to continue so the party retreated to Duirndown to rest and heal.

Down Time
Everyone spent a week in Duirndown. During that week, Stefan took a job as captain of the village guard and Gwen found herself robbed of 10% of her total wealth. Absolom was offered a business opportunity to fund a traveling merchant but refused.

The next week, once everyone had recovered, Absolom, Babu, and Jalani traveled to Swallow, a day's hike away, to study for a week. Absolom studied under the tutelage of the priest of Justica in the Hall of Justice. Babu, with the help of his imaginary friend Urso, found the secret wizard shop ("Wizards Only, Fools!") and was instructed in how to meet and learn from a more experienced mage. Jalani, however, followed a series of clues and secret messages concealed in various landmarks around Swallow to lead her to the place of secrets, where priests of Amon-Tor learn the mysteries of the God of Secrets.

During that same week, Valerius was offered a dangerous mission that involved a cave high up on the mountains. He refused, but Stefan took the mission. A week passed and Stefan did not return. Everyone feared him dead. That same week, Gwen made a friend of an assassin from Swallow. The assassin was grateful to Gwen and gave her the choice of awards: the nullification of any assassination order at some point in the future or a reward of 1900 gold coins. Gwen took the gold coins.

Once More Into the Mountain
After two weeks, the party once more ventured into the mountain. They retraced their steps, encountering no dangers along the way, until they reached another guard room. This time, the guards backed away cautiously. One of the guards tossed a capped metal cylinder into the room. Jalani moved away from the rest of the group and cautiously opened it. A puff of powder exploded and Jalani fell unconscious. The kobolds, chagrined that their plan failed, tossed another capped metal tube into the room and waited for a response. The party ignored the tube and rushed the kobolds, slaying each and every one of them.

Later, after Jalani was restored to consciousness, the tube was inspected and opened, revealing a note. The note contained a notice of surrender and an invitation to discuss terms, eloquently written in excellent handwriting, signed Vitch.

The party moved forward and found a kobold alchemist and wizard, wearing dirty robes and along pointy hat that curved forward, sitting in his study. The kobold surrendered himself saying, in the common tongue, "I give up! I give up! I'm the last one!"

Poor doomed Vitch.

The Story of Vitch the Doomed
The kobold introduced himself as Vitch, kobold alchemist and wizard. Vitched seemed erudite and well-educated, but bitter and angry. Vitch asked how the party came to be here. When told about the key, he exclaimed, "You have a key? You can leave this place! Take me with you! I'll tell you anything you want to know, just get me out of here! I was once a promising wizard! I studied at the best colleges across Agartha! I've been trapped in this fucking place for almost ten years! TEN YEARS with these damn disgusting rat-dogs!"

When it was explained that fifty years had passed on the outside, he became enraged, "Those FUCKING Mages of Bhakru! DAMN IT!"

He explained that he was a human that came here to study alchemy from the dwarves of Duirndown. While he was here, the city had fallen to an evil influence called Ogremoch, and that this evil corruption led to a civil war. When the wizard Ezekiel attacked with his army of evil humanoids, he tried to escape. He was captured. He eventually fell into the company of an infestation of kobolds here.

GM Note - Vitch was a human who was polymorphed into a kobold by Ezekiel, a detail Vitch failed to mention that could have saved his life. Indeed, I didn't think of it until just now and I wish I had at the time.

The Mages of Bhakru came to re-take the city and send Ogremoch back to the elemental plane of Earth. They failed. Ogremoch could not be stopped. He would continue to grow and expand until one day he would destroy all of Agartha. However, although he could not be stopped, he could be contained. The Mages cast a powerful spell on the mountain. Nothing that entered the mountain could escape. Thus would Ogremoch and the armies of Ezekiel be trapped within.

Vitch described what the party might expect below, with tribes of orcs, hobgoblins, goblins, and ogres trapped in the abandoned dwarfish city. He also said that the protective spell allowed things to enter, but would not allow them to leave, so other monsters and even explorers have found their way through the secret cracks and passages of the mountain into the city. He said that Ezekiel had taken over Duirn's palace as his own and that different forces have taken control of different areas of the city.

However, it seemed the Mages not only sealed everything within, they froze time as well, probably hoping to deal with the problem at some point in the future. Well, its obvious the spell wasn't perfect. Several years have passed, so time has been leaking, possibly even accelerating. Ogremoch was slowed but not stopped. And one day, the spell will fail, time will catch up, and Ogremoch will escape his prison!

"In the meantime, get me out of here!"

While the party was distracted, Knott approached Vitch, brandishing his battle axe. Vitch tried to cast Invisibility on himself but failed. Knott hacked Vitch down in cold blood. Ending any debate before it could begin.

With the murder of Vitch, the party searched the room. An arch opened into an adjoining empty room. In the other room, the arch disappeared behind an illusory wall. Vitch's quarters contained a laboratory, within which was discovered:
  • A fine magic axe of dwarfish manufacture, with inlaid knot-work on the blade and runes caved along the haft. The axe was later identified by Old Gnuder as being his axe, which he donated to the party due to his current infirmity.
  • A two-hundred pound magic anvil, later revealed by Old Gnuder to be the Anvil of Hrind the Fabricator. The anvil is of great use and importance to the dwarves, but is useless without the hammer and tongs of Hrind which must still be in the mountain somewhere.
  • Two potions of Stone Giant Strength.
  • One vials of Sleeping Powder (As MU Spell of same name, can be thrown by anyone, subject to grenade-like missile rules).
  • Two vials of Stinking Cloud Powder (as MU spell of same name, can be thrown by anyone, subject to grenade-like missile rules).
  • Two vials of Scare Powder (as MU spell of same name, can be thrown by anyone, subject to grenade-like missile rules).
  • One potion of Stone Giant Control.
  • 300 gold coins stashed in clay jars.
  • Two golden statuettes worth 100 GP each.
  • Alchemy tools and laboratory worth 500 GP.
  • Various alchemical ingredients and magic user spell components.
The party once more made their way back to the surface to stash their gains, consult Old Gnuder, and make plans for future forays.
After Action Report
Knott's murder of Vitch brought Knott's neutrality into question. At the time, I ignored it. The players do not like having to deal with issues of morality and philosophy in the game. However, after the fact, I raised the question with Knott's player: At best it could be interpreted as an execution of a kobold - an irredeemable enemy of humanity. At worst, it could be interpreted as the cold-blooded murder of an individual who has surrendered, had, in fact, done you no direct harm (discounting the fabrication of alchemical traps), and seemed to be held there as an unwilling prisoner!
That's the second surrendered prisoner Knott has executed. It definitely displays a certain amount of wrath on Knott's part, and I associate wrath with evil and its opposite compassion with good. Definitely not the act of a disinterested neutral party. I think a neutral character would only execute someone if they were personally wronged, injured, or in some way personally put at risk. Or if they logically came to the conclusion that the offender was irredeemable and a threat to others.
Knott's first execution was a cultist who was a mass-murderer and probably a cannibal and definitely irredeemably evil. Totally logically justified. However, Vitch the kobold was another story. Assuming Vitch was just a kobold (and not a polymorphed human), and that kobolds are irredeemably and indisputably evil (which is only possible in a game like D&D), is it neutrally logical to exterminate them to eliminate their threat?
Knott's player is basing Knott on Jayne from Firefly. His alignment is "Jayne". His philosophy is "What would Jayne do?"
And that's a fair question. What alignment is Jayne? I've seen various alignment charts on the web, and they vary from Neutral Evil to Chaotic Neutral to Chaotic Evil.

Personally, I think Knott is 60% Neutral Neutral, 20% Neutral Evil, and 20% Chaotic Neutral.
What do you think?

Monday, May 12, 2014

"Escape from the Pit of the Kobold Chieftain" Chapter 16 of the Xanthus River Campaign

 Our party:
  • Valerius (Level 3 Paladin)
  • Absalom (Level 2 Cleric of Justica)
  • Babu (Level 2 Thief)
  • Jalani (Level 2 Cleric of Amun-Tor)
  • Knott (Level 1 Fighter)
  • Brown Tom (Level 1 Fighter, Squire of Valerius)
  • Clench (Mercenary Foot Soldier)
  • Squat (Mercenary Foot Soldier)
  • Favreau (Cook)
  • Paula (Cook)
  • War Dog

Into Duirnhold
When we left our party last time, they had just fought their way past the makeshift kobold fortifications at the entrance to the lost dwarfish city of Duirnhold and had made their way to the checkpoint hall.

Inspecting their surroundings, they found a room filled with debris, the tailings of some sort of mining operation, and another empty room with a small tunnel dug into the wall. They crossed the empty room to the tunnel only to find that the floor was a thin veneer placed over a pit. Absalom broke through the crust and fell ten feet to the floor below and beset by nine large centipedes! Two of the centipedes managed to bite him and he failed his saving throw, taking 4D4 damage! His companions managed to haul him back up but Absalom was at death's door. A prayer of healing brought Absalom back but he was spent. Favreau and Paula escorted him up the passage entrance and back to the village of Duirndown to recover.

The rest of the party continued into the small tunnel, having to stoop to gain entry. The tunnel branched several times, turning back on itself, etc. The kobold tunnels resembled a termite colony. At one point, Valerius encountered a section of tunnel covered in mysterious yellow powder that was quick to puff into vaporous clouds. The powder caused him to itch but he pulled away. The group took a different branch.

Eventually, the party found its way to a bare room occupied by four well-armed kobold guards. As the party poured into the room to do battle, the kobolds tried to drink potions at their side. Three of the four kobolds were killed instantly and only one managed to imbibe his potion. It did him little good for he too was soon dispatched. Upon recovering the three unopened potions, the party determined that they were Potions of Giant Strength.
New Minis for Clench and Squat
The party could find no reason to guard the empty room and left the way they came.

They soon found a room once occupied by guards, now empty, and passages that led into the entrance corridor and to the niches that provided the archers with a vantage over any intruders. They then found a tunnel that led beneath the passage and up the other side, revealing another empty room where guards once sat.

Taking another tunnel, the group climbed a steep incline until the tunnel started to loop back around. There Valerius triggered a trap that released sleeping powder. The powder soon overcame everyone in the party.

Escape from the Pit of the Kobold Chieftain
The party woke later, stripped naked and thrown atop some refuse at the bottom of a dark pit. Dim torches revealed a ledge twenty feet above guarded by two kobolds. Babu cast a spell and put the guards to sleep. The rest of the party formed a human pyramid and managed to get Knott and Valerius to the lip of the ledge so that he could climb up. Knott and Valerius killed the two guards and took their spears and shields, then went out into the warren to look for rope. After some quick exploring, they found a store room with some kobold spears, shields, crossbows, and some rope, as well as a bolt of linen, some sacks of flour, and some amphorae of vinegar. They returned to the pit with the rope and began to haul everyone else out.

No sooner than they were done with a random kobold entered the room. He managed to escape their attack and ran for help. The party gave chase and soon caught up with him and killed him.

Now, armed with nothing more than some pitiful spears and shields, they continued to explore. they soon found a set of two large doors, large enough to admit a horse or cow. They opened them and caught the stench of an animal pen. Within were two giant weasels and three warthogs with two kobold tenders.

The tenders quickly began releasing the animals by opening their pens. The animals rushed to attack the party who stood firm in the doorway. Babu put the two weasels and one of the warthogs to sleep but the other two warthogs pressed the attack against Valerius and Knott in the doorway.

The fight went poorly and Knott soon found himself at death's door. In short order, Jalani too was near death. At this point, Valerius managed to get the doors shut and shoved his spear into the handles to keep them closed. They picked up Knott and Jalani and ran.

They carried their fallen comrade down a tunnel that opened over the collapsed portion of ceiling of the checkpoint room. The used their rope to climb down and made their way up the passage to the exit. The kobolds, now alerted to their escape but wary of combat, began hurling feces and rocks at the party as they crossed the threshold to safety.

Time Heals All Wounds
The party spent the next seven days recuperating in Duirndown. Valerius prayed for a cure to the disease afflicting Duirndown and was granted one. The black oil from the earth that was draining the town of its vitality was stopped, at least for a little while. After a few days, it came back, and Valerius prayed it away again. Valerius then prayed for the health of his companions Absalom and Jalani, and they miraculously recuperated. Absalom and Jalani, in turn, prayed for their fellow companions and were likewise rewarded with miracles of faith.
Valerius and Wardog
Soon, the party was rested up and, after borrowing some equipment from the Headman of the village, were ready to head back into the kobold warrens.

They re-opened the doors and entered cautiously. This time, they were prepared for the falling stone trap and crossed the ten-foot pressure plate using a timber from the village laid across the rubble. With no sound to alert the guards, the party crossed the threshold unopposed.

This time, they climbed into one of the archer niches and scrambled through a tunnel to a guard post. There they surprised four guards sitting around a fire. The guards were quickly dispatched.

The party continued, returning to the animal pen. Babu cast two spells and put both weasels, a warthog, and both handlers to sleep. After a fierce battle, Valerius and Knott defeated the remaining two warthogs.

The party then traveled down an unexplored tunnel and heard the squeaking yip of female kobolds. They pulled aside a heavy curtain to reveal a large room with a sunken area in its center containing the harem of the kobold chieftain. Two well-armed guards stood in each corner and burst into action upon seeing the intruders.

A melee ensued and all eight guardians were soon killed. The party showed no mercy towards the vicious snarling females and hatchlings, slaying them all as they bit and clawed at the party ineffectually.

The Throne Room of the Kobold Chieftain
A single passage led up some stairs on the far side of the harem room. They ascended the stairs and entered the throne room of the kobold chieftain. The chieftain was a large fellow, nearly man-sized, clad in plate armor and wielding twin short swords. He was flanked by two bodyguards. A miserable figure huddled in the corner: a naked old dwarf with no legs and only one arm, chained by the neck to the wall like a dog. In addition, the party's belongings were stacked in a niche in the rear of the room along with piles of dwarfish treasure.
The Final Battle of the Kobold Chieftain

The kobold chieftain stood from his ivory throne and, along with his bodyguards, entered into combat with the intruders. The fight was bloody and challenging. At one point Knott fell and faced death but was saved by Clench. After a terrible battle, the kobold chieftain and his bodyguards were finally killed.

The party was victorious!


After Action Report
Here's a map of the explored parts of the kobold warren. One of the questions from the peanut gallery was, "If the gate into Duirnhold has been sealed for 50 years, why do the kobolds have a manned guard post?" I dismissed the question, but there is a reason, and it's a mystery. Through really, the players couldn't care less and that detail is the furthest from their mind. I'll post the entire dungeon when we're done.

The Kobold Bodyguards
Kobold Bodyguards

Frequency: Uncommon
No. Appearing: 4-8
Armor Class: 4 [16]
Move: 6"
Hit Dice: 2d4 (8 hit points)
% in Lair: 40%
Treasure Type:
No. of Attacks: 1
Damage/Attack: 1-6 or by weapon type (spear or sword)
Special Attacks: Attacks as 2 HD creature (+1)
Special Defenses: Nil
Magic Resistance: Standard
Intelligence: Average (low)
Alignment: Lawful Evil
Size: S (4' tall)
Psionic Ability: Nil
Attack/Defense Modes: Nil

The Kobold Chieftain
Kobold Chieftain
Frequency: Uncommon
No. Appearing: 1
Armor Class: 2 [18]
Move: 12"
Hit Dice: 5d4+1 (12 hit points)
% in Lair: 40%
Treasure Type:
No. of Attacks: 2
Damage/Attack: 1-6 or by weapon type (twin short swords)
Special Attacks: Attacks as a 5 HD creature (+4)
Special Defenses: Nil
Magic Resistance: Standard
Intelligence: Average (low)
Alignment: Lawful Evil
Size: M (5' tall)
Psionic Ability: Nil
Attack/Defense Modes: Nil

Thursday, May 1, 2014


On a completely unrelated note, I am playing Numenera about one Sunday a month.

We are playing through the Devil's Spine

Those interested in the shenanigans from that game can read the reports.

Session 1

Session 2

Session 3

Session 4

I'm enjoying it. The setting is a little too weird sometimes, which can make it hard to relate to. Often, it's hard to figure out what's a mystery to solve and what's just a weird thing with no other meaning because it's just weird. Plus there's no baseline for "normal". But the rules are simple and fun, and that's important.