Tuesday, April 24, 2018

"Dragonfang" - Tomb of Annihilation, Chapter 11

DM Comments - 
Before we begin, some unfinished business. 

While searching Captain Al-Saryak’s cabin last week, the party came across the following:
  • A drawer filled with smooth palm-sized stones. Each stone had a rune carved onto it. There were over two dozen stones, each with a different rune. No one recognized the meaning of the runes or the stones. 
  • A ledger detailing a list of ships and data for each ship:
    1. Ship name
    2. Captain
    3. Port (Port Nyanzaru or Fort Belaurian)
    4. Date and time of departure, some dates as recent as yesterday (One of the ships listed was the Brazen Pegasus). 
    5. Destination (the destination of the Brazen Pegasus was listed as Jahaka Anchorage)
    6. Cargo
    7. Nationality (Ys, Avallonis, Eusebea, Thither, Atlantis, etc. Ships from Ys were underlined)
  • A guide book showing the flags of the major city-states of Antara
  • A book on how to speak Ysian 
  • Several maps:
    1. The coast of Chult (identical to Apparently's map)
    2. Medium sized island (in case the players want to change campaigns and play Isle of Dread instead)
    3. The coast of Dalu
    4. Map of entrance to River Tath with X
When we left our heroes, they had transferred everything from the Brazen Pegasus to the larger Emerald Eye and the sloop was being towed behind the dhow. A 36-hour storm smashed both ships into the rocky coast of the Mist Cliffs. Because they were operating with an insufficient crew of 11 (the Emerald Eye required a crew of at least 20+ and no one was on the Brazen Pegasus), the Emerald Eye suffered some hull breaches and the Brazen Pegasus was smashed and began to sink.

The storm finally passed but the Emerald Eye was taking on water. Apparently and Tohaku sealed the hull breaches but it was going to take days to pump out all the water from the hold. The crew, exhausted from fighting a storm and making repairs for 48 hours with no sleep, decided to try to get some needed rest while the flooded half-submerged ship foundered. They figured they start manning the pump tomorrow.

Xoc-Wik was on night watch when a dark silhouette slid into the lantern light. Grapples were thrown across and the two ships  were lashed together. Dozens of evil looking men stood on the deck of the unknown ship with weapons bare. The prow of the ship bore a painting of a dragon's head with overly large incisors.


  • Bramble Wolf - a theran barbarian wise-man (Wildhunt Shifter Druid) searching for the legendary origin of his tribe.
  • Apparently Jones - a blue-skinned demijin caravan guide and animal trainer (Air Genasi Ranger) from Akasa, the land of sky mountains. Having failed to find work in Port Nyanzaru as an animal handler, she has joined the expedition to the interior as a scout.
  • Chak'sa - Apparently's parasaurolophus companion.
  • Xoc-Wik - a b'alam warrior (Tabaxi Fighter) from the jungles of Bres, searching for those responsible for the destruction of his tribe.
  • Zeynap Shiravadakar - a Eusebean smuggler (Human Warlock) bearing the spirit of a celestial unicorn.
  • Hasegawa Tōhaku - a Horaian kamenin monk (Tortle Kensei Monk), a traveler, explorer, and artist. He was a friend of Nova Scotia Blackman in Akwa-Obio, the city of scholars.
Xoc-Wik immediately rang the ship's bell to wake up the crew but pirates on the other ship had already laid gangplanks and were streaming across. Zeynap and Bramble were in the fore of the ship. Xoc-Wik, Apparently, and Tohaku were aft. Spike the macetail was tied down on the mid deck. The only light came from the three lanterns fastened to each mast on the Emerald Eye. The approaching ship and all the men aboard were shrouded in darkness.

Xoc-Wik ran down to the nearest gangplank in a flash and managed to throw it overboard. A tall muscular bald man wielding a massive serrated blade jumped out of the darkness and landed on the deck near the b'alam archer. Xoc-Wik ducked under the swing of the wicked sword, backed away, and climbed up the stern mast. Xoc-Wik produced his bow, drew his arrows, and began raining attacks upon the attacking pirates.

Captain Moleman screamed in panic. He ordered his men to not interfere. He held his hands up and cried, "Please! Spare us! We surrender! We surrender to your  mercy!" Apparently rolled her eyes and tied Captain Moleman to the stern mast.

Bramble moved behind the macetail, using it for cover from crossbowmen lurking on the pirate ship. 

The muscular bald man was a Chultan with dark black skin. He shouted out orders to the other pirates like a captain in a heavy Chultan accent, "Remember! Capture them alive! We need to take them back to the Anchorage! But be careful! They're dangerous! Do not hesitate to defend yourself!"

Zeynap called to the captain, "Hey! Listen! We won't surrender but maybe we can come to some kind of understanding. Stop fighting for a minute!"

The bald captain hesitated, "Alright. Men, stay your hand!" He looked directly at Zeynap, "This is your last chance. Surrender now and your lives will be spared!"

Zeynap yelled to his compatriots, "Okay okay! Hold off! Nobody do nothing until we get this figured out!"

Bramble hesitated from his position behind the behemoth. Tohaku stood still. Xoc-Wik paused high atop the stern mast.

For a quick second all was still. Two of the big bruisers climbed the ladder towards Apparently.

Apparently loosed an arrow at one of the bruisers!

The captain bellowed and  transformed into a hideous man-shaped warthog! 

Apparently shouted commands to Spike the macetail, ordering it to defend itself. The great behemoth rose to its feet and began to swing its heavy tail about, knocking several pirates off the deck and into the sea. 

Apparently and Xoc-Wik loosed arrows at the warthog-man-thing. The arrows sunk into its flesh. The captain, unfazed, simply ripped the arrows out and the wounds healed instantly. The warthog captain rushed against Spike in an attempt to make his way to Bramble.

Zeynap stood on the stern and cast attack spells at the onrushing pirates. He fought bravely and eliminated many pirates with his magical bolts of force. The tide of the oncoming pirates eventually  forced back to the starboard deck rail. Bramble, taking cover behind the macetail, did his best to defend Zeynap using his spiritually-charged staff.  The two bruisers proved too much for Zeynap. The Eusebean warlock was clubbed over the head with heavy maces and fell to the deck, dying.

DM  Comment- At this point, I informed Zeynap that the difficulty for Death Saves was not 11 instead of 10. Please make a note of it! I plan on slowly increasing the Death Save DC over time as the Death Curse slowly expands. 

Meanwhile, a lithe figure emerged from the darkness over the starboard rail at the stern of the ship. The figure was a woman wearing a short black hooded cloak. She stepped on a crossbow bolt in the deck which made a snapping noise. Apparently turned just in time to notice the figure  and dodged away from the assassin's attack.

Apparently drew her short sword and attacked. The assassin withdrew and made her way down the starboard ladder to the stern. 

Xoc-Wik loosed arrows from his perch in the crow'st nest. From this vantage he was able to see the stealthy assassin trip over one of Moleman's crewmen on the deck below.

DM Comment- I kept rolling badly on her Hide checks. She could NOT get a sneak attack in!

The assassin retraced her steps in an attempt to catch Apparently off guard. Apparently was waiting for her and struck with her short sword. As Apparently ran her sword through her attacker, the assassin's  cloak fell back, revealing the countenance of a woman crazed, her mouth contorted into a rictus grin and her eyes wide and wild. She cackled insanely as she slid off the blade and into a lifeless heap on  the blood-soaked deck.

Meanwhile two massive pirates climbed the port ladder and threatened Apparently. Apparently did her best to hold them off but she was eventually knocked unconscious. The two bruisers picked her up and began to carry her back down the port-side ladder.

Tohaku took a running start and hurled his massive frame through the air. He landed on the dark aft deck of the  opposing ship with a splintering of deck planks. He was immediately surrounded and set upon by hostile pirates.

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A thin woman climbed the ladder to the aft deck. She carried a harpoon like a staff. She had greenish-brown skin and her hair was made of seaweed and she wore a dress of torn fishing nets and hooks. She possessed one narrow yellow eye and one large bulbous eye. Her teeth were mishapen and yellow. She hit her harpoon-staff onto the deck and her skin became magically covered in a thick layer of shells, sand-dollars, and sea-stars. 

She faced Tohaku and the other pirates backed out of her way. She approached the chelonian monk and thrust her harpoon in his direction. There was a clap of thunder and Tohaku was struck by a massive wave of force. 

Tohaku attacked the sea witch but could not pierce her armor of shells. She thrust her harpoon at him again. The wave of thunder shoved Tohaku back into the starboard rail at the stern of the pirate ship. The rail cracked behind him. He recovered and attacked the witch once more. Her third wave of thunder cracked Tohaku's tortoise shell and he fell to the deck. The witch ordered the other pirates to see to Tohaku's wounds so that he could be taken alive.

The sea-witch moved to the main deck in order to support the rest of the crew.


Xoc-Wik's perch near the top of the aft mast gave him great visibility. He charged an arrow with magic which exploded on impact with the deck, eliminating several of the attacking pirates with one shot. This made him a target of all the crossbowmen on the attacking ship. Xoc-Wik was struck with several crossbow bolts and fell to the aft-deck. 

Things were beginning to look grim. Bramble was alone and taking cover behind Spike the macetail behemoth. The two bruisers who had taken down Zeynap were making their way towards him. In truth, the theran druid was neither hiding nor afraid. He was biding his time. The time had arrived.

Bramble closed his eyes and summoned forth a wolf of spiritual energy. The spirit wolf manifested out of thin air and glowed the color of the moon. The spirit animal moved gracefully through the air, passing through the fallen body of Zeynap, filling him with healing spiritual energy.

Zeynap's eyes popped open. He stood up and resumed hurling magical bolts of celestial force at his foes. Bramble's spirit wolf joined with Zeynap, infusing him with its healing spirit. Zeynap quickly eliminated the two bruisers that had previously overwhelmed him and turned his attacks to the warthog-captain.

Bramble directed his ethereal spirit wolf across the deck of the ship. It passed through Xoc-Wik and restored him to consciousness. Xoc-Wik put an arrow into one of the bruisers carrying Apparently. The other bruiser dropped her to the deck. The spirit wolf moved through Apparently and she opened her eyes and rejoined the battle.

The spirit wolf flew across the gap between the ships and made its way to Tohaku. The man-tortoise was healed and jumped back to his feet.

The warthog captain returned to human form and shouted additional orders. He saw the tide of battle turning against his crew and ordered them to withdraw, raise anchor, and shove off. He then ran into the captain's quarters of the Emerald Eye.

The warthog captain emerged from the cabin in human form with a satchel full of maps and stones. He threw the satchel to the sea-witch.

Zeynap immediately cast a powerful celestial hex against the sea-witch. Her armor of shells was shattered and she fell backwards onto the deck, her harpoon-staff spinning away, the satchel spilling its contents revealing a number of maps and rune stones. 

Bramble transformed himself into a large bear and engaged the warthog captain in hand-to-hand combat. Tohaku joined in while Xoc-Wik and Apparently loosed arrows at the captain. Their weapons slashed and stabbed and pierced but to no avail. Every wound healed instantly. Only Zeynap's magical bolts seemed to have any effect on the captain. During the fight both Apparently and Bramble were wounded by the warthog captain but the spirit wolf was nearby to heal their injuries. 

The pirate captain was surrounded. Zeynap smiled at the captain's predicament and shouted from the fore deck, "This is your last chance. Surrender now and your lives will be spared!"

Frustrated and angry, the captain leaped back across the gap to his ship and helped his crew push away with long poles. The pirate ship began to drift away as the anchor was raised and the sails unfurled. The captain was becoming annoyed at Zeynap's magical bolts so he took cover in his own cabin.

Bramble transformed back into human form and called upon the spirits of nature to produce a sphere of flame among the main sails of the retreating ship. Zeynap created his own sphere of flame using celestial unicorn magic. Both spheres fell fell down the masts and onto the deck of the ship, setting the deck ablaze. 

The crew grabbed buckets and did their best to put out the flames but the spheres continued to roll around creating more fires. Xoc-Wik and Apparently continued picking them off with arrows as they futilely tried to save the burning ship.

Tohaku leaped back across to the burning ship and saved the maps and stones from the deck. He then leaped back to safety.

The ship continued to drift away and the flames grew higher and higher. Soon it was an inferno. The surviving crew jumped off the far rail to protec themselves from the party's storm of arrows.

The last thing the party saw on the deck of the ship was the warthog captain seething in rage. The masts fell and the captain was lost from view.

The party saw the surviving crew treading water in the night, their ship burning into the waves. Xoc-Wik called out, "If any of you want to live, swim to our ship!"

The surviving pirates hesitated. Zeynap wondered, "What's wrong with them?"

Tohaku suggested, "Perhaps our continued archery attacks while they were trying to put out their fire has caused them some level of concern about our intentions."

Apparently and Xoc-Wik exchanged guilty glances. Bramble rolled his eyes, "We PROMISE we won't kill you! PLEASE swim to us!"

The handful of swimming pirates eventually swam to the Emerald Eye and were helped on board.

Apparently went into the captain's cabin. Their captive, Captain Al-Saryak, was dead. He had been killed by the warthog captain.

Captain Moleman sheepishly approached the blood-soaked party, "Well, looks like we got a full crew finally, eh?"

The others slowly turned and glared at the theran captain. He shifted his feet and cleared his throat. "So, ah, back to Port Nyanzaru then?"


DM Commentary - In retrospect I should've had the Pirates use nets to restrain them and capture them.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

"Pirates of the Emerald Eye" - Tomb of Annihilation, Chapter 10

On the fourth day after setting sail from Port Nyanzaru, Captain Moleman  picked up a mirror and reflected the sun towards a spot on the bare cliff to port. A tiny light flashed back. Soon a sleek Dalusian dhow could be seen on an intercept course.

"Here, sit down and pretend to be captured prisoners." The party did as they were told.

The dhow pulled alongside. Rotting severed heads dangled from its bowsprit. A voice called out over a brass megaphone, "Heave to and prepare to be boarded!"

Captain Moleman picked up his own megaphone and called back, "I beg ye pardon, sir! I have come bearing prisoners! They'll make fine ransom! At the very least they can be sold as slaves! I am, alas, unable to detain them myself but perhaps they can be housed in yer own fine and secure facility!"

There was a moment of silence, "What do you have?"

"I have a stout theran from unknown lands, a lithe b'alam hunter from Bres, and a middle-aged Chelonian from the Snout!"

"Ehhhh." bemoaned the other ship, "What else?"

"I have a blue-skinned beauty from the sky-tribes of Akasa!"

"Now you're talking! Anything else?"

"Yes! Of course!" He grabbed Zeynap by the shoulder and lifted him up, "I have that unicorn you were looking for!"

Zeynap snapped his gaze at the theran captain in astonishment!

Captain Moleman looked up at the Eusebean smuggler with an evil smile.


  • Bramble Wolf - a theran barbarian wise-man (Wildhunt Shifter Druid) searching for the legendary origin of his tribe.
  • Apparently Jones - a blue-skinned demijin caravan guide and animal trainer (Air Genasi Ranger) from Akasa, the land of sky mountains. Having failed to find work in Port Nyanzaru as an animal handler, she has joined the expedition to the interior as a scout.
  • Chak'sa - Apparently's parasaurolophus companion.
  • Xoc-Wik - a b'alam warrior (Tabaxi Fighter) from the jungles of Bres, searching for those responsible for the destruction of his tribe.
  • Zeynap Shiravadakar - a Eusebean smuggler (Human Warlock) bearing the spirit of a celestial unicorn.
  • Hasegawa Tōhaku - a Horaian kamenin monk (Tortle Kensei Monk), a traveler, explorer, and artist. He was a friend of Nova Scotia Blackman in Akwa-Obio, the city of scholars.

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Xoc-Wik whispered to the others, "Okay. So, ah, what's the plan now?"

Apparently blinked and shook her head, her brain fever wearing off. "Um, what's going on?"

Tohaku said, "We're hunting pirates. We're pretending to be slaves and prisoners to lure them close."

She looked confused, "Wait, ARE we prisoners? Is this guy really selling us or pretending to sell us?"

Zeynap leaned over and said, "I'm not sure. I think he MIGHT be betraying us? I'm not sure how he knows about the unicorn."

Tohaku asked, "How does he know about the unicorn?"

Zeynap blinked, then turned to Captain Moleman, "Moleman, what makes you think I'm a unicorn? I mean, that's ludicrous!" 

Captain Moleman replied in hushed tones, “Oh, Mister Shiravadakar, you HAVE lost yer memory, haven't’ you? Just like Lord Feldercarb said to me back in Port Nyanzaru! You really don’t remember me?

DM Comment - When I did Captain Moleman's voice, he sounded vaguely like Tim the Enchanter. However, when Tokaku's player did Captain Moleman's voice, he sounded like Mister Gopher from Winnie the Pooh, which was perfect! So I just started telling him what to say and he'd repeat it in a much better voice. However, as time went on, his voice shifted and sounded more like Gilbert Godfried, which was even MORE perfect! So when you imagine Captain Moleman speaking, imaging Gilbert Godfried's voice!

"It was I who was hired to transport a certain unicorn out of Eusebea. You and your crew were supposed to deliver a unicorn to me on one particular night a few moons back!" 

The theran captain continued, "We all had specific instructions to not look at the unicorn, and by no means were we to TOUCH the unicorn! I knew that if you touched it, it would use you to escape!

"Well yo never showed up with the unicorn, did you? And your mates, they went back to the guild master, didn’t they? They said they found you alone with no unicorn and a bump on yer noggin! Plus you're all itchin to set out and do right and stop my employers. I ain’t no scholar but even I could read the writing in THAT book! 

"You may not be a unicorn, but I’m bettin' the buyers could still use you to SUMMON a unicorn! Maybe all the unicorns they need!

"Now play along or they’ll discover the ruse!”

The dhow came close enough to see the captain on the stern deck. He was an obese theran with two large tusks like a walrus. He wore a fancy green coat studded with emeralds. He had a green gem set into his left eye. His hair was thinning and his jowls were unshaven. He bore the countenance of a fat barbarian covered in disgusting bits of food and rivulets of reeking sweat.

To the captain's right was a tall primitive looking orlok with red skin. To his left was a beautiful Chultan woman. 

She ship was painted dark green. Severed heads dangled from the bowsprit. 

Captain Moleman told the others, "That's the Emerald Eye under the command of Captain Zaroum Al-Saryak."

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Captain Al-Saryak called back over the megaphone, “A unicorn? You’re too late, Moleman! They already GOT a unicorn! We sold it to them two moons ago!”

Moleman replied, “This is BETTER than a unicorn! He’s got unicorn blood or something. It gives him some kind of connection to the Fairy Realm of Aeon! It gives him magic powers! Easier to transport! I’m sure that’s worth something!”

Captain Al-Saryak shouted, “The buyers got what they need, Moleman! They aren’t coming back! Your magic man and the rest of your little mongrels are worthless! You’ve done nothing but annoy me! For that, for wasting my time, we’re going to take your ship, your cargo, and your little pets! See those heads on my bowsprit, Moleman? That’s where I’m going to hang YOUR head! ATTACK!”


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He gave the wheel to the Chultan woman and shouted orders to the red orlok. The orlok, apparently the first mate, shouted orders to the two bosuns to prepare grapples for boarding and crossbowmen to attack.

Captain Moleman ordered his crew to hoist sails and prepare to flee. The Brazen Pegasus was at least three times as fast as the Emerald Eye and could easily outdistance her and get away. Zeynap asked Captain Moleman to circle the Emerald Eye at a range of about a hundred feet. The party wished to pepper the Emerald Eye with bows and ranged spell attacks. Captain Moleman wanted instead to make speed and  had to be convinced to go along with Zeynap's plan. 

"I thought you wanted to INFILTRATE the pirates! What happened to that?" shouted the theran.

"We changed our mind. We want to capture that ship and take the captain alive!" replied Zeynap.

"That was not our agreement! I do business with these people!" said the captain.

"They were just now about to take your ship!" argued Zeynap, "Do you still want to do business with them?"

The captain reluctantly conceded the debate and did his best to circle the Emerald Eye at a range of 100 feet.

As the Brazen Pegasus made a wide parabolic arc around the bow and starboard sides of the Emerald Eye both crews exchanged missiles. Xoc-Wik and Apparently loosed arrows from their longbows. Xoc-Wik's shots were especially impressive at long range as he was able to hit accurately through light cover.

The pirates took cover behind the side rails and returned in kind with crossbows. Zeynap used his celestial magic to send magical rainbow bolts against the pirates. The orlok first mate and other pirates without ranged attacks went below decks to ready their grapples. 

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The Brazen Pegasus came passed the stern of the Emerald Eye within thirty feet. Tohaku took a long running leap from the deck and his 400+ pound chelonian body sailed through the air and landed on the stern deck near Captain Al-Saryak and the Chultan pilot.  A number of pirates ran from hiding and threw grapples onto the Brazen Pegasus. 

Xoc-Wik loosed a magically charged arrow that detonated a fiery explosion, sending a bosun and several sailors flying. The grapplers were momentarily startled and failed to secure their lines. They were dragged off the deck and into the water by the retreating sloop at full sail. 

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Xoc-Wik pinned the captain to the mast with an arrow while Tohaku killed the Chultan helms-woman (whom the players dubbed Sails Magee) and fought a terrific fight with the orlok first mate and one of the bosuns.  

Apparently and Zeynap fought and defeated a boarder at the bow of the ship while  the other two chased the captain from the tiller. The sloop careened wildly and Xoc-Wik eliminated one of the rear boarders with an arrow. Zeynap and Apparently rescued the captain from the third boarder and the Brazen Pegasus was once more secure.

Upon defeating the first mate and bosun, the remaining three pirates surrendered. The party had captured the Emerald Eye and taken its captain prisoner!


Captain Moleman ordered his crew of six to lower the sails and come alongside the Emerald Eye. Tohaku had tied up the wounded captain but was tending to his wounds. Zeynap came on board and set about healing the surviving crew. Apparently and Xoc-Wik dragged the dead crewmen to the side and heaved them into the water.

"Congratulations!" shouted Captain Moleman, "You caught the Emerald Eye! Now what?"

"Now we set sail to return to Port Nyanzaru to collect the bounty!" replied Zeynap.

"With what crew?" exclaimed the captain, "A ship this size needs a minimum of twenty crew. You killed all but three of them and they're not likely to serve you willingly! That leaves the five of you! Do you know anything at all about sailing a ship?"

Zeynap, suddenly worried, looked around at the carnage and scratched his head.

Tohaku suggested, "Um. Maybe we could use some of your crew?"

Captain Moleman glared at the tortoise man, "Mister Hasegawa, let me ask you a question. What is the minimum crew complement for a sixty foot sloop? Go ahead, guess. I'll wait."

There was an awkward pause and Tohauku tentatively answered, "-six?"

"SIX! The answer is six! How many men are in my crew? Please count them."

The tortoise man sighed and answered, "six."

"SIX! You are correct! I need MY crew to operate MY ship! Besides, do you remember when we arrived earlier? How I signaled the coast with my mirror? The pirates have a lookout up there. I signal them, they signal the other ship. That's how I arrange my meetings with them. Well, GUESS WHAT? They've been watching this entire battle! They know that the Emerald Eye was just attacked by MY ship! They've got another ship in their secret anchorage. That ship is no doubt being prepared to come out and hunt me down! I have no desire to stick around! So I am going to take MY crew and MY ship and set sail at top possible speed! Do you understand me? Good luck!"

"Wait!" pleaded Zeynap, "If we get this ship back to Port Nyanzaru, we'll be paid two thousand gold coins. What if we cut you in on an equal share?"

Captain Moleman sputtered, "Equal share? I would do no such thing for any amount less than half the total bounty - one thousand gold coins!"

After some further deliberation, Captain Moleman agreed to help the party bring the Emerald Eye back to Port Nyanzaru.

Their first task was bringing the Brazen Pegasus alongside the Emerald Eye. They transferred all the supplies from the smaller sloop to the larger dhow. They carefully moved the six-ton macetail onto the larger ship using leather straps and a series of heavy cranes, counterweights, and pulleys.

Upon seeing the behemoth in the larger hold, Apparently commented, "Spike should be more comfortable in here."

"Did you just name it 'Spike'?" asked Zeynap.

"I did."

Zeynap chucked, "Bramble will not approve."

Once everything had been transferred to the larger ship the sloop was rigged behind the Emerald Eye so it could be towed. This arrangement, along with the inadequate crew, reduced the Emerald Eye's speed to about one knot.

They hoisted sail and began their journey north.

Xoc-Wik and Tohaku joined the bound Captain Al-Saryak in the hold with the behemoth. They had already taken his emerald-studded jacket appraised at over a thousand gold coins and they had taken his emerald-studded sledge hammer appraised at over five hundred gold coins. Captain Al-Saryak was fuming. Hate dripped from his every pore.

They asked him about the parts of the Soulmonger. Captain Al-Saryak replied that he knew nothing of anything called the Soulmonger. They listed some of the components and asked about the buyer. He said that the buyers were robed men from the interior. At least he assumed they were men for they concealed their faces in shrouds. They paid in ancient Chultan gold coins. He said they smelled of rotting death. They paid for their items and returned to the jungle via the Gorge of Death. That was three moons ago and he hadn't seen them since.

Xoc-Wik exchanged a knowing glance with Tohaku. Their benefactor Syndra Silvane wore a mask and smelled of rotting death. Was she connected? Did she represent a rival faction?

Captain Al-Saryak began spitting curses and insults soTohaku stuffed a gag in his mouth to shut him up.

Xoc-Wik examined the captain's gleaming emerald eye. Captain Al-Saryak's silent look reeked of anger and defiance. Xoc-Wik held the Captain's head and plucked the emerald from the eye socket. Captain Al-Saryak clenched his meaty eyebrows and pinched Xoc-Wik's feline paws. Xoc-Wik drew his hand and the emerald away with a yelp. He examined the emerald. It slowly grew dim and became a dull grey stone. Captain Al-Saryak screamed angrily into his gag. Xoc-Wik shrugged and placed the grey stone back in the captain's eye socket and was once again angrily pinched by the theran's muscular eye-brows. They left the captain bound and squirming in the hold.


The storm arrived on their second night of travel and didn't let up for thirty-six hours. They trimmed the sails and tried to heave-to but were pushed into the storm cliffs.

Captain Moleman did his best to steer through the rocks below the cliffs but he was unable to prevent the Emerald Eye from smashing against them. The hull was breached and the dhow began to take on water. The unmanned Brazen Pegasus was likewise smashed against the rocks.

DM Commentary - I rolled some ocean random encounters from the DMG and didn't get anything more interesting than "the ship comes across some wreckage". However, I rolled a d20 for the weather and got 19 three rolls in a row. I quickly adapted the rules for avoiding the rocks of Jahaka Bay. Roll a d20 three times. On a roll of 11+ nothing bad happens. On a roll of 5-10 the ship takes damage and gets stuck. ON a roll of 1-4 the ship begins to sink. I had Zeynap's player roll three times with Disadvantage to represent the bad weather and insufficient crew. He got 7, 4, and over 11, I forget the specifics. 

The Emerald Eye was stuck. Massive waves kept pounding over the side rails, flooding the deck. Spike the macetail had become anxious and was beginning to panic. Apparently ran below decks and soothe the behemoth. Once soothed, she coaxed the beast into rocking back and forth. The motion of the behemoth freed the ship from the rocks.

DM Commentary - I asked the group how they would get themselves unstuck. Apparently's player suggested the rocking maneuver. I asked her to roll Animal Handling with a DC of 15 and she succeeded. 

The ship was free but still taking on water. It was foundering. Apparently and Tohaku both tied lines to themselves and went overboard with some emergency repair supplies. Apparently's jin parentage granted her the ability to hold her breath indefinitely. Likewise Tohaku, as a chelonian, was adapted to the water. They went underwater and fought the pounding waves to apply tar and caulk to temporarily seal the hull breaches.

DM Commentary - Another spot-ruling. I asked them to make Athletics or Acrobatics checks vs DC 15  because, like, what the hell skill would you use to repair a ship? So, I went with brute force or finesse. 

The emergency repairs had sealed the holes but the bottom decks were flooded. Although the ship was now free of the rocks it could make no headway. After a few more hours the storm subsided.

Later that night, Xoc-Wik stood watch while the exhausted crew and party slept. The ship was half-submerged and listing heavily. The hairs on Xoc-Wik's necks bristled and he looked around. To his surprise the dark silhouette of a sailing ship slid slowly out of the night and into the lantern light of the deck of the Emerald Eye. A dragon's head was painted onto the bow of the other ship's hull. There were many evil looking men standing on deck, weapons drawn.


Monday, April 16, 2018

"Journal of Malcolm Magnum, 1943" - Stories from the B-Team, Part 1

by Trevor Hanson

12 January, 1943
My mentor and benefactor has shared some secrets and insights about possible research areas that may change the way we view the universe. He believes that Einstein is only partially correct, and vast parallel universes awaits discovery. He asked that I go pursue those endeavors. Alas, he is sick, and I intend to see him through his final days. I have not the heart to tell him that I am working for the US/England alliance in RADAR research. He distrusts governments so.

28 February, 1943
It has been 3 weeks to the day that I left New York after my benefactor’s demise. As a participant in US Army Air Force’s radar and scientific research I was flown to England as VIP, rather than taking 6 weeks by ship. I am to be attached to the RAF bombing command. Because I am an Officer but lack pilot training, I will am to take the position of radar operator and navigator. This is a perfect position to observe and help my countrymen at the same time. I am anxious to get started.

7 March, 1943
First mission is tonight. I have been briefed on the operation of H2S radar. The scouting boys are also using Oboe and Gee radio navigation, so creating a triangular radio wave vortex may be possible. Imagine the lives saved if we can transport you planes right over Germany and back without having to fly for hours!

17 March, 1943
No success in 3 missions. I did detect feedback from German ground radar that registered on my oscilloscope. Nikola calculated that the feedback loop would require much power, and I think using the German ground radar is key to proving the theory.

23 March, 1943
Success! At least it appeared from my instruments that a stable field existed for almost a minute. During the night mission, I couldn’t see anything.  I shall endeavor to join the Yank’s on one of their daylight raids.

1 April, 1943
I have been allowed to join the USAAF’s Eighth Air Force for a daylight raid. I have been assigned the radio operators station in this B-17E. There’s superb view topside. I can also traverse a small door to the rear of the aircraft and look to either side through the waist gunner’s positions. If I am so inclined, I can also travel through the Bombay via catwalk to the cockpit. If I can generate another sustained field, I sure to get a description of it! I have brought along all of my equipment, including a small Tesla Coil to boost out power on board.

Now all I have to do is survive the Jerry’s and Herring’s Luftwaffe.

1 April, 1943
3 Hours after takeoff and we have passed into France. Our plane was hit twice from attacking fighters. Our tail gunner is dead. I have a Browning 50 cal mounted in the roof window and I need to help watch for attack from above rear. I hope that I can eliminate the need for our boys to fly through Germany’s ace pilots. I have the frequency for the Gee markers that the RAF used last night. I will begin searching when we cross over into Germany.

3? April, 1943
I am unsure of the date. Both because so much has happened, and also because the vortex has worked!!

Let me start where I left off. Our run into Germany was contested by flak batteries and several more intercept attempts by the Jerry fighters. Our aircraft made it through without further damage, but we lost 9 planes in out formation. As we approached the target, I managed to set up a feedback loop with the German radar. I believe that helped reduce the accuracy of their anti-aircraft guns. But, more importantly, we were passing over the RAF beacon from the previous night’s raid. As soon as our bombs dropped, I discharged the coil into our radar, boosting the power. Our Bombardier, Lieutenant Hal Graves, came over the intercom exclaiming that there was a huge electrical disturbance in front and below our aircraft!

At that point we must have been hit. I was tossed about the small radio compartment and when I regained my senses, I heard the captain giving the order to bail out. I tried to open the hatch to the fuselage, but it was jammed shut by shrapnel. So I opened the hatch into the Bombay.

I remember seeing Hamburg burning below. The bomb doors had not been closed after the drop. Then the intense smell of ozone assaulted my nose and I saw the vortex pass beneath us! But the scenery had changed from city to forest! We didn’t fly over the vortex; our stricken plane had fallen through it! I had no way of knowing where the vortex was connected too, but rather than try to salvage my instruments from a burning plane, I jumped.

I awoke hanging in a jungle? It took a few minutes to gather my sense’s and remember what had happened. Africa!?! The vortex had taken us to Africa! Or possibly India, maybe even Brazil! Imagine if the Yank’s could bomb Germany from the Americas!

After I Struggled to free myself from the parachute and climb to the ground, I realized that most of my pockets had been picked my monkeys living in the jungle canopy. These monkeys had wings! I don’t ever recall reading about flying monkeys. Maybe I am in India. I know very little about that place.

After a day of scouting and foraging, I located the wreck of the Flying Fortress, surprisingly intact, stuck high in some trees. The right wing has been ripped away near the inboard engine mount. The tail section severely damaged. Although the tail section damage may have been the result of the Messerschmidt attack. That is one rugged American Plane!

I have finally climbed into the wreck through the hole left by the missing belly turret. The wreck is a good 12 meters up, hanging in the branches. I hope the belly gunner got out before the jungle canopy ripped the glass bubble from the plane. It may take quite awhile to get back to civilization. I need to find any usable survival items to help me facilitate my trip.

4(?) April, 1943
I stayed the night in the radio room. Throughout the night I heard scraping and rattling about the plane. I presume the monkeys have lost their fear of the shiny sliver bird in the trees.  I have been gathering bits and pieces from the aircraft that will be useful, and breaking down the smaller pieces of radio equipment that I have. I may have a very long trek, so I am improvising as best as I can.

It seems that the vortex has had some effect on my Knapp sack! It seems to have a dimensional vortex inside and I can insert large items, larger than the sack itself! I plan to gather any med kits and other items that may be useful.
The rattling in the tail section continues. I am going to investigate.

Branson is alive!! Or was? I approached the tail section and realized that sergeant Branson was trying to get out of the wrecked tail gunner’s position. I helped pull some wreckage from his path, and when he got free he lunged at me! His eyes were milky white and he smelled of rot and gangrene. I yelled at him to stop, trying to block his attacks. I didn’t want to hurt him further, so I scrambled back through the plane. He seems to sense where I was even through it didn’t appear that he could see. I thought he might have a jungle disease that took his sanity from him, but he fell through the ball turrets hole in the floor before I could administer any aid. When I looked out, his form had splattered all over the ground! It appeared that h was rotten throughout. How could the body move if it was long dead?

After wrenching my rations up, I searched the aircraft thoroughly for other crew members. No others were present. Either they climbed from the wreck, or they bailed out. I have no way of knowing if they are in Germany or in the jungle with me.

5(?) April, 1943
A very large jungle animal visited last night. At first I thought it was an elephant by it size and the tremors of its foot falls. In the moon light it appeared to be a very large reptile walking on hind legs! I decided discretion was the better part of valor and stayed hidden.

In the morning I found the courage to investigate the ground. The footprints were impressive. Could that be a dinosaur? My mentor had not mentioned the possibility of time travel. There my no civilization to find.

Staying here will not reveal any solutions, so I will bring my equipment and head back on the trajectory that the B-17 came down from. Maybe somewhere in this place has a power source that allowed the vortex to open here. The vortex in my knapsack is stable so far. This is a weird place.

(6)? April, 1943 
Correction, Day 4 PV (post vortex) year unknown
Since the flying monkeys have made off with my sidearm, I am taking a Browning 50 cal from the waist gunner’s position and stripping it down. It may be awkward, but I think I am in for a fight for survival.

The beast of a gun weighs about 30 kilo’s. After removing part of the housing and rebuilding the trigger assembly, I decided that having an automatic gun this heavy was useless. I could never control it, so I removed the gas blow back gear and the air cooled housing. It is not going to overheat firing single shots. I have to load it by manually actioning the cocking lever, but it also acts as a fore grip. Now it weighs a mere 10 or 12 kilo’s and still accepts the belt feed for efficient reload. I am scavenging extra ammo from my radio room gun and adding it to my knapsack.

I have managed to scavenge:

  • Cold weather gear
  • Survival Hatchet
  • Oxygen tank
  • Bayonet
  • Several first aid kits
  • Tool kit from the plane
  • Electronic tools and parts
  • Several radio transponders (so far the batteries have remained strong)
  • 3 flares
  • Modified M2 Browning machine gun
  • Flak Jacket
  • Parachute from Branson
  • 8 ration packs
  • 2 canteens
  • A bottomless Knapsack

I am leaving the aircraft that has been my home for 4 days and heading south.

PV 7
After 3 days of hiking on the jungle, I am beginning to believe that my benefactor was correct in saying that worlds could be connected with a vortex. I have seen several huge reptiles. Far larger than any I have read about. I also have discovered a rock floating in the sky. There are no apparent means of suspension, and water falls from it. Where does the water come from?  Could this have the power source that formed the vortex on this side? There seems no way to ascend to it.

PV 9
I have discovered an encampment. The sign says, "Camp Vengeance". I believe that the uniforms are from the old British Empire! I must be in India, thank The Almighty!

Hopefully they can help me get back to Europe. I am going to greet them…

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Update to the History and Cosmology of Antara

I have fleshed out more of the cosmology of the world of Antara, adding new gods to the pantheon (and re-shuffling some of the old ones) and writing up info about the planes (the Antaran equivalent to Feywild, Shadowfell, elemental planes, heaven, Olympus/Asgard, etc.).

Gods of Antara

Cosmology of Antara

Ages of Antara

Monday, April 9, 2018

"The Offer of Syndra Silvane" - Tomb of Annihilation, Chapter 9

A woman sat in a comfortable chair. She wore long loose white silk garments. A silver mask concealed  her face. Her head and neck were concealed by a habit. She spoke in a Eusabean accent.

"I am Syndra Silvane. Thank you for coming. Please, sit. Would you like some wine? Fruit?"

They accepted her hospitality and became comfortable.

"I would like to hire you to find and destroy the Soulmonger."


  • Bramble Wolf - a theran barbarian wise-man (Wildhunt Shifter Druid) searching for the legendary origin of his tribe.
  • Apparently Jones - a blue-skinned demijin caravan guide and animal trainer (Air Genasi Ranger) from Akasa, the land of sky mountains. Having failed to find work in Port Nyanzaru as an animal handler, she has joined the expedition to the interior as a scout.
  • Chak'sa - Apparently's parasaurolophus companion.
  • Xoc-Wik - a b'alam warrior (Tabaxi Fighter) from the jungles of Bres, searching for those responsible for the destruction of his tribe.
  • Zeynap Shiravadakar - a Eusebean smuggler (Human Warlock) bearing the spirit of a celestial unicorn.
  • Hasegawa Tōhaku - a Horaian kamenin monk (Tortle Kensei Monk), a traveler, explorer, and artist. He was a friend of Nova Scotia Blackman in Akwa-Obio, the city of scholars.

"We're listening," said Bramble, warily.

"Before I tell you who I am, please, tell me about yourselves." the mysterious woman replied.

Each member of the party introduced themselves. Apparently coughed quietly and withdrew to the back of the room. 

DM Comment - Damned Brain Fever!

"I am a member of an organization known as the Erelim."

"Did you say the Erelim?" said Zeynap.

"You've heard of us?" she answered.

Bramble looked at Zeynap incredulously.

"Yes, they're some kind of covert brotherhood. They also called 'the Watchers'. They oppose those who try to take over, or destroy, the world. They also collect and destroy dangerous artifacts." explained Zeynap.

"How do you know this?" asked Xok-Wik.

"Ah, you know, I hear things." explained the former smuggler of dangerous artifacts.

DM Comment - Guess who rolled a 20 on their history check!

"It's true," said Syndra, "and I have come to Chult in search of the Soulmonger. You see, our agents have tracked the collection of several powerful magical artifacts smuggled from locations throughout Antara - a live unicorn from Aeon, a crystal lens from Bres, meteoric jade from Plaksha, Residuum from Agartta, and others. The theft of any of these artifacts would be cause to worry. However, together they form the components of a fearful device - the Soulmonger."

"Yes, we've heard of it." said Zeynap, the knot on his forehead throbbing angrily at the mention of the live unicorn.

"Indeed?" responded Syndra, intrigued.   

"As I said, I, ah, hear things."

"I see. My agents learned that all of the objects were all bound for some secret pirate port on the west coast of Chult."

"What does this thing do?" inquired Bramble.

Syndra explained, "It acts as a kind of magical energy source. It drains life from the living and stores it for use in powerful necromantic rituals."

"..and let me guess, when you die from having your life drained, your body becomes a zombie." he interrupted. 

Syndra was visibly taken aback, "Y-yes. How do you know this?"

Bramble explained, "You won't find your parts in the pirate port."

"Why not?" asked Syndra.

"We have reason to believe the parts were taken to the interior, somewhere in southern Chult." said the theran druid, "and that it is assembled and activated."

Syndra Silvane tensed and grabbed the sides of her chair, "How do you know this?"

"The dead are rising in the jungles. We've encountered them. A witch woman in Mbala told us that the Soulmonger was responsible. She said the power emanated from somewhere in the south. What's worse, it's growing."

"Where is this witch woman?" inquired Syndra.

"We killed her." replied Bramble coldly as he stared intently at the figure in the silver mask. 

There was an awkward silence. 

"That it has already been activated is unwelcome news. As its power increases so too will its influence. Soon it will spread across all of Chult. It will keep expanding until it has encompassed Atlantis, Bres, Meropis, Avallonis, and beyond. It will one day drain all life from Antara."

Again there was an awkward moment of silence. Someone cleared their throat.

"You must destroy the Soulmonger! I will pay you each fifty Eusebean gold coins up front if you take the job. You will be each paid five thousand gold coins upon proof of its destruction."

"Give us a moment to discuss this." said Bramble. Bramble looked around the room, "Do you have a table?" 

"Please," said Syndra as she gestured with her hand toward a nearby desk.

Bramble, Xok-Wik, Zeynap,  Hasegawa Tōhaku, and Apparently gathered around the table. Bramble swept all the clutter off the table and brought a candelabra over. He spread out a number of maps on the table and the group began to collaborate on a plan. 

Looking at the map, Bramble suspected that the hidden pirate port was located in Jahaka bay. This suspicion was based on statements made by the attempted mutineers as they entered Chult and a statement made by Zalma Haik who claimed to enter Chult via "Jahaka". Bramble also concluded that the Heart of Ubtao was important to the plot and made that landmark their primary target. 

The team discussed several options - travel back up the River Soshenstar to Camp Retribution and from there head to the Heart of Ubtao. They decided that their best bet would be to follow the smuggling route. For that they'd need to find this secret pirate port. To do that, they'd need to make some inquiries around Port Nyanzaru. They also figured that any journey to the south of Chult and back would take more than a hundred days and they would need to provision accordingly.

"So are you accepting my offer?" asked Syndra.

Bramble looked around and everyone nodded, "Yes, I guess we are."

"Then let me share with you a parting gift. In exchange for taking this job, I will bestow upon each of you a magical gift." She produced several boxes.

"For you, Xok-Wik,  a magical arrow. It will not break."

"For you, Zeynap, a shard of the Eye of Heaven. It possesses angelic spells."

"For Tohaku, a vial containing any spice you may require."

"And for you, Bramble, if give you this potted plant. I have been growing it for several weeks."

Bramble took the gift with a quizzical look, "Is this because I'm a wise man of the forest?"

"It is a magical plant. It comes alive and can move about at your command."

Bramble reassessed his gift and was impressed. He nodded in approval, "We thank you for these gifts." 

They exited the stiflingly hot confines of Silvane's dark quarters into the wet humid streets of Port Nyanzaru. They had work to do.

Their first task took them across town to the Hall of Gold - the gleaming temple to Trapezitam, the Ysian god of merchants. The temple stood atop the highest hill in Port Nyanzaru. The temple interior was ostentatious. Music played and female dancers clad in gauzy chiffon writhed on pedestals near the entrance. There were paintings of the beautiful high priestess in her dress made of black and gold plates that resembled rectangles, triangles, and eyes.

They exchanged their vouchers from the Knights of the Circle for gold coins and concluded their business. From there they descended the hill through the Red Bazaar. They exited the city gates and emerged into the Tiryiki Anchorage outside the city walls. There they perused the available livestock in search of a beast of burden. They finally decided to purchase a macetail (aka- an ankylosaurus).

"What should we name it?" asked Xok-Wik.

"We're not going to name it!" replied Bramble, curtly, "Don't get attached to it. We may have to eat it or abandon it to save our lives. We're not risking our lives for this thing because we gave it a name!"

Xok-Wik raised his hands in surrender.

That afternoon the party took their newly purchased macetail over to Malar's Throat in search of the b'alaam scouts named River Mist and Flask of Wine. They hoped the scouts might know something about the smuggling scene in Port Nyanzaru.

As they descended the steep muddy trails past the ramshackle buildings they heard a shout and a crash. Xok-Wik and Tohaku barely jumped aside as a massive barrel filled with rain water came rolling down the path towards them. The barrel crashed into the ravine below. At the top of the hill Bramble saw the fleeing form of Lord Feldercarb as the mage disappeared behind an uphill structure.

"Should we chase him?" asked Zeynap.

"No, let him go. We have other things to do." replied Xok-Wik

They found River Mist and Flask of Wine sitting in an open-air tavern built on a wooden platform over the ravine at the bottom of the throat. They exchanged pleasantries and answered questions about their recent adventure upriver. When asked about smuggling in Port Nyanzaru the two wilderness scouts admitted that they knew nothing about that. They suggested instead that the party talk to Zindar the harbormaster.

The party made their way to the docks, macetail in tow. There they found Zindar, the humanoid dragon, busy directing stevedores in the unloading of a ship. He finished his work and paused to speak with them.

When asked about smuggling in Port Nyanzaru, Zindar proudly proclaimed that he ensured there WAS no smuggling in Port Nyanzaru! Pirates, however, was another matter! He spat and complained that pirate ships plagued the seas beyond the Bay of Chult. Everyone knew there was some kind of secret pirate base somewhere on the west coast but no one knew where it was. He lamented that the Merchant Princes had no navy to protect their shipping and relied too heavily on Aremag the Dragon-Turtle to protect the city from attack. He also noted with pointed suspicion that the Ysian ships that trade at Fort Belaurian seem to never suffer a pirate attack. He informed the party that there was a bounty of two thousand gold coins for ever pirate ship brought into port plus an extra five hundred gold coins for each pirate captain arrested and submitted for justice in Port Nyanzaru.

Bramble's eyes grew wide. He looked at his companions and they all shared the same thought - PIRATE HUNTING! It was suggested that Silvane's mission could wait, depending of course on how quickly the effect of the Soulmonger spread across the world.

DM Commentary - and thus the campaign took a 90-degree turn from the intended plot. Okay, maybe only 45-degree. They're still headed in the right direction. 

There was a small crash elsewhere on the docks and Zindar cursed. He excused himself and flew off to attend to the newest minor crisis.

The party looked around and the various ships in the harbor. They saw the Karanja. Captain Abasi was recruiting a new crew. They did some quick math, assessing how long it would take to sail down the western coast. They figured twenty days at sail to reach Jahaka Bay.

A raspy voice spoke to them, "If it's speed ye want, then ye should ignore that old garbage scow. Ye'll be wanting a fast ship! My ship! The Brazen Pegasus! We do ye need to go?"

They turned to see a short theran, no taller than a man's chest, with light brown velvety skin, an elongated face, short arms, and large hands with long muscular fingers that terminated in thick claw-like nails. He wore dark goggles over his eyes and large incisors stuck out under his up-turned upper lip. He had a hunched posture and held his long hands with his fingers pointing down in front of his chest.

"Jahaka Bay," replied Bramble.

"Jahaka Bay you say?" the short sailor inquired suspiciously. He scratched his scruffy head with long fingernails, "I see." He acted like he understood a joke no one was telling. "Lots of pirates near there. The Brazen Pegasus can outrun any pirate ship!"

"Actually, we were hoping to find the pirate base."

The wee captain jumped back, "Ye gods! Whatever for?"

"What do you know about," Zeynap looked around conspiratorially, "smuggling?"

The captain looked offended and coughed defensively, "I, uh, that is, well, look, yer not working for Zindar, are ye? If  ye are, by law ye have to tell me!"

Zeynap held his hands palm out, "Absolutely not, my friend!"

"Well, let's just say I may have facilitated the transport of goods into and out of Port Nyanzaru."

"Look, I get it," said Zeynap, "I've been there myself. And of course you've never sold pirated goods in Port Nyanzaru. Nothing, say, you may have acquired from some pirates at their secret base."

The captain came in very close, his nose twitching. He hissed through his teeth, "Okay, mebbee I did. Mebbee I know how to contact the Jahaka pirates. Mebbee I've been to their secret hideout, but I tell ye, they take yer ship, blindfold ye, and pilot ye in. I couldn't find it if I had to."

"Well that's not necessary," said Bramble, "Just get us in contact with them. We'll do the rest. How long will it take us to reach Jahaka Bay in your sloop?"

"Four days!" bragged the captain.

Bramble was genuinely impressed, "Excellent! How much?"

"Ten gold coins a day for the lot of ye. Plus another six a day to transport ye wee beast there!"

"Deal! What's your name?"

"Captain Jannes Moleman, at yer service!"

The sea voyage south along the west coast of Chult was uneventful. The Mist Cliffs loomed everpresent to the left. Fog poured over the tops of the cliffs like a waterfall of cloud. The sloop was a small craft, sixty feet long with a shallow draft and many large sails. There was only one cabin and it belonged to the captain. The crew of six slept on deck. The small area below deck was devoted to cargo which was currently occupied by the unhappy macetail. The passengers slept on the open deck with the crew.

On the fourth day, Captain Moleman  picked up a mirror and reflected the sun towards a spot on the bare cliff. A tiny light flashed back. Soon a sleek Dalusian sailing ship could be seen on an intercept course.

"There they be," said Captain Moleman, "Here, sit down and pretend to be captured prisoners." The party did as they were told.

The Dalusian ship pulled alongside. Rotting severed heads dangled from its bowsprit. A voice called out over a brass megaphone, "Heave to and prepare to be boarded!"

Captain Moleman picked up his own megaphone and called back, "I beg ye pardon, sir! I have come bearing prisoners! They'll make fine ransom! At the very least they can be sold as slaves! I am, alas, unable to detain them myself but perhaps they can be housed in yer own fine and secure facility!"

There was a moment of silence, "What do you have?"

"I have a stout theran from unknown lands, a lithe b'alam hunter from Bres, and a middle-aged Chelonian from the Snout!"

"Ehhhh." bemoaned the other ship, "What else?"

"I have a blue-skinned beauty from the sky-tribes of Akasa!"

"Now you're talking! Anything else?"

"Yes! Of course!" He grabbed Zeynap by the shoulder and lifted him up, "I have that unicorn you were looking for!"

Zeynap snapped his gaze at the theran captain in astonishment!

Captain Moleman looked up at the Eusebean smuggler with an evil smile.


Friday, April 6, 2018

The Life and Times of Hasegawa Tōhaku

by Jeffery Low

Come, my new friends.  Let me tell you my story.

My hatching name was Grey Mist Morning.  Human cultures have many names for my kind. My human father often called me a "kamenin". I have heard the Avallonians call me a testudo while the Atlanteans say I am a chelonian. My people have no special name by which we call ourselves. We simply are.

I hatched on the sandy beach of the island known to my people as the Snout of Ogmar. It is all that is left of Ogmar, The Ancient One, after he chose to sink back into the sea in the time before now.  While listening to the old ones who were my parents tell me stories of their travels throughout the lands of men, I grew to adolescence, and within a year I was strong and nearly full grown.  After their spirits departed their shells, I abandoned my birth hut to begin my own journey, filled with the wisdom they had imparted to me.  Since that day I, like many of my kind, have traveled the lands of men.  My people have no permanent settlements of our own, you see.  Only the short time with my parents and learning their life stories constitutes our way of life.  After that, the young of my kind are left on their own to survive until the call to return to the Snout and find a mate.

What's that now?  My name, Tohaku?  You are correct.  It is from the land of Horai.  The first culture I came across was a man named Hasegawa Hideyoshi, a sailor wrecked upon the Snout of Ogmar.  He was sick and wounded, so I helped him to recover and survive.  In return, he taught me about his culture.  As he recovered, he gave me the name Tohaku and adopted me as his own son.

In time, we managed to signal a ship and bartered passage to Port Nyanzaru.  I traveled with him for two years and he taught me to defend myself, as his father taught him, in the way of the kensei.  He also taught me the art of ink painting and to find and embrace the peace it provides.  It was during a sea voyage in our third year together that my new father's spirit departed his body.  He was honored by the sea tribe of the Seasprite Dancer, with whom we had been sailing during this time, in their traditional way and was given to the sea.  I bade farewell to the tribe of the Seasprite Dancer when we made our next port in Agartta. 

I've had many travels since then. I have made it my life's mission to study different cultures.  I also continue to paint the vast landscapes I encounter as a hobby.  Someday I hope to show my own hatchling the paintings in the book as I saw them.

I have traveled from Agartta to the plains of Mu where I lived with the nomads, a fascinating culture.  The mystical forests of Moar were a home as I learned the ways of the Aeonians, as well as the steaming jungles of Bres were I hunted with the jaguar-men.  I have seen the gleaming tower of Artorius Rex in Avalon and lived for a year with the batiri in the fetid swamps of South Zazamanc.  I have shared wisdom and survival ideas with a guzi tribe in North Zazamanc for several years, becoming a warrior-priest in their culture.  I briefly visited the frozen halls of the fair haired peoples of Boreas, but even their summers were too cold for me to stay long.

My life is now half over as 37 years has passed since my hatching. My people consider a life of fifty years to be a full life. I already hear the call of Ogmar, to return for the Mating time.  So long as I can resist, I will continue my travels.  So now I am here in Chult to find out more about some of the cultures deeper into the interior of this vast land.  I am happy to have you all as new friends and hope to help you learn as much about my people as I do about yours. 

I thank you for taking me into your tribe.  I will always strive to be a worthy member.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

"The Blessings of Ubtao" - Tomb of Annihilation, Chapter 8

The expedition packed up and prepared to leave Mbala. They bade farewell to Nova Scotia Blackman who would remain behind. The Nova Scotian would clean and prepare the site for the coming of the knights of the circle. Ser Baric Firstenhartenburger would remain with him to help defend the camp. Meanwhile Ser Gent Slaughter would return with the others to Camp Vengeance.

DM Commentary - You guessed it, I let the players name the unimportant NPC.

It took a little over an hour to descend the side of Mbala. At the bottom Apparently met her beast companion, the  parasaurolophus she named "Chak'sa".

That evening as the sun began to set they came across a strange figure sitting on a stone and painting. He was located near the edge of the jungle overlooking a field of tall grass gently sloping down to the Aldani basin. The setting sun illuminated the puffy clouds to the east setting the sky ablaze with pink, red, and orange. The western mountains cast long shadows across the plain before them with the far side still lit by the late afternoon sun. In the distance, standing alone in the field about two thousand feet from where the painter sat, was a single carved stone, a marker of some kind, rising from the mud and grass and overlooking a ring of objects piled all around it.

The figure was a humanoid tortoise. His composure was peaceful and serene as he finished his painting, cleaned his brushes, and put away his watercolors. He greeted the newcomers, "Hello. I am named Tōhaku. I understand that your culture uses family names. I have a family name which I can provide upon request."

There was an awkward silence. Eventually Xok-Wik rolled his eyes, "Okay, I'll ask. What is it?"

The tortoise-man replied simply, "It is Hasegawa."

When asked about the pile of objects around the statue, Hasegawa Tōhaku said he had not yet inspected it. He was at the time more interested in the beauty of the scene and capturing its essence for posterity.

The party, accompanied by their new friend, hiked across the field towards the statue. The grass proved to be shoulder high and the ground was wet and muddy. As they neared the statue they noticed that half a dozen humanoid figures had risen up from the mud. They were the reanimated remains of long-dead Chultan natives covered in decades of muck and soil! One of the figures was twelve feet tall and wielded a tree trunk and roots as a club! The reanimated remains shambled towards the party in a threatening manner.

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Tōhaku and Chak'sa rushed into battle against the smaller zombies. Zeynap broke to a clump of small trees to the left and focused his hex magic and Xok-Wik loosed arrow after arrow into the large zombie. Bramble transformed himself into a bear and provided assistance to Tōhaku and Chak'sa. All of the zombies were soon defeated.

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Upon investigating the statue they saw that the pile of objects were offerings - bones, pieces of pottery, twigs, rocks. The statue was a stylized humanoid figure with an over-sized head. Around the base of the statue was caved a maze.

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Apparently said she had heard that the people of Chult once worshiped the god  Ubtao and that Ubtao loved mazes and bestowed blessings upon those that completed them.

At the bottom was a triangle indicating a starting point. A matching triangle at the top indicated the exit. Xok-Wik traced a path through the maze, easily finding the exit.

DM Commentary- Natural twenty! We joked that the solution to the maze was a straight line from the beginning to the end.

The eyes of the statue glowed and Xok-Wik felt the blessing of the ancient god.

DM Commentary- Xok-Wik won the reward: a one time use of the spell "Find Path".


  • Bramble Wolf - a theran barbarian wise-man (Wildhunt Shifter Druid) searching for the legendary origin of his tribe.
  • Apparently Jones - a blue-skinned demijin caravan guide and animal trainer (Air Genasi Ranger) from Akasa, the land of sky mountains. Having failed to find work in Port Nyanzaru as an animal handler, she has joined the expedition to the interior as a scout.
  • Chak'sa - Apparently's parasaurolophus companion.
  • Xoc-Wik - a b'alam warrior (Tabaxi Fighter) from the jungles of Bres, searching for those responsible for the destruction of his tribe.
  • Zeynap Shiravadakar - a Eusebean smuggler (Human Warlock) bearing the spirit of a celestial unicorn.
  • Hasegawa Tōhaku - a Horaian kamenin monk (Tortle Kensei Monk), a traveler, explorer, and artist. He was a friend of Nova Scotia Blackman in Akwa-Obio, the city of scholars.

The party, under the nominal command of Ser Slaughter, returned to Camp Vengeance. The camp had recently prospered with the party's donation of the magic jug that produced clean drinking water. The camp had been preparing for the possibility of moving for the last five days and was ready to go. With the report that Mbala was cleared for settlement the entire contingent was ready to make the move the following day.

Without beasts of burden the caravan transported only what they could carry. Camp Vengeance would be abandoned. The entire contingent of 61 marched through the jungle led by Apparently and Chak'sa. The skies opened up and rain fell heavily on the contingent as it slogged though the mud and made their way slowly through flash flooded streams and rivers.

Day 27
It was the second day after leaving Camp Vengeance and the contingent had barely made it ten miles. Apparently was at the front of the train. She came upon and startled a large reptilian beast. The creature had three horns and a wide armored crest behind its head. The beast backed away defensively but maintained a threatening body posture. Apparently called for the train to halt and attempted to calm the beast. She successfully earned its trust. She told the others that it was a mother defending its nest. Zeynap suggested she lure the beast away so they could sneak past and find the nest so that they could steal an egg or two. Bramble the druid reluctantly approved of the plan so long as they left one or two eggs in the nest.

Apparently tried to lure the three-horned beast away but it would not move. Zeynap shrugged. Apparently kept the beast calm while the train made its way carefully past as it continued on its way.

Day 33
The rains continued for several days but eventually let up. The air was warm and thick with humidity. As it became dark the contingent was forced to make camp only five miles from Mbala. The camp consisted of five separate campfires spread over a large area.

That night Zeynap was on guard while everyone slept. He failed to notice the massive fifty food long constrictor snake stealthily move through the underbrush and coil around the sleeping form of Apparently. The demijin woke as the constrictor wrapped around her and twist across the ground. She called out for help, waking the others around the campfire. Her companions leaped to her aid as she fought off the snake with her short sword. The snake eventually let go and fled into the dense foliage. Zeynap blindly cast several magical bolts after the creature.

Day 34
The train arrived in Mbala and slowly made its way up the side of the tepui. They met Ser Baric Firstenhartenburger at the top. Out of respect of the Knights of the Circle and their potential reaction to his new status the Nova Scotian chose to hide in the nearby Pteran caves which he had converted to his new home. Tōhaku went to find his former friend from Akwa-Obio to catch up. The knights and soldiers of the Circle set about establishing their new camp which they named Camp Retribution.

Day 35
The party bade farewell to the Knights of the Circle and began their return journey to Port Nyanzaru with their payment vouchers. They made good time and set camp roughly halfway between Mbala and the old camp.

It was the dead of night and Tōhaku was on watch. The kamenin monk smelled a sweet aroma drift from the west. He gently roused the b'alam Xok-Wik to make use of the cat-man's excellent sense of smell. Xok-Wik sniffed the air and his eyes grew wide. Without saying a word Xok-Wik began running towards the source of the aroma.

Tōhaku ran after the b'alam but could not keep up. He called for the others to wake up and help. Apparently and Chak'sa rushed after Xok-Wik while Bramble went to wake up Zeynap.

Xok-Wik ran into the night but stopped at the edge of an ancient ruin overgrown with fines and plants. He shook his head and cleared his mind of the urge to continue. He hard a crashing through the jungle behind. He quickly moved aside as Chak'sa lumbered past at a gallop. Chak'sa did not stop until the beast was entangled in a mass of writhing vines and plant growth.

The others caught up to Xok-Wik and saw the giant mouth-like parts of the animated plants futilely try to wrap around Chak'sa. Tōhaku and Apparently waded into battle against the plants, chopping at their thick vines and stems. Xok-Wik turned and darted back to the camp to grab his bow and arrows. He passed Bramble and Zeynap. He grabbed his weapons and caught back up to Bramble and Zeynap in a flash.

Bramble transformed himself into a bear and attacked a nearby plant. The plant's "head" wrapped itself around the bear and tied itself closed with vines. Bramble was wrapped up and held tight. The plant began to secrete digestive acids. Zeynap and Xok-Wik focused attacks on that plant and were able to cut it from its trunk. The plant fell and disgorged Bramble from its mouth-like leaves.

The battle continued in this way as the party fought the remaining four animated man-eating plants. Bramble or Apparently would be engulfed and the others would focus attacks to kill the plants quickly.

The man-eating plants were eventually destroyed and the injured party retreated to their camp.

The party arrived in the now empty Camp Vengeance. When they left there were five boats and canoes on the shore. Now there were only two. Apparently bade farewell to Chak'sa for the great beast would not fit in the boats. She hoped the parasaurolophus would travel downriver on its own and meet up with her in Port Nyanzaru. The party set off in the two canoes with Tōhaku, weighing in at over four hundred pounds, occupying his own canoe.

On the fifth day of their journey downriver they heard a hoarse voice calling for help. They where near the location where they heard a similar call for help from shore when they first traveled upriver. The voice called to Zeynap specifically and the party decided to go to shore.

They met Lord Feldercarb the mage, the sole survivor of Zeynap's original expedition into the jungle. They had been separated when zombies attacked their camp in the ruins of Camp Righteous and had become lost. The fact that Zeynap did not recognize his former traveling companion caused Lord Feldercarb great sadness and offense.

Later that night Lord Feldercarb confided to Zeynap that he felt nothing but disdain for Zeynap's new companions. They had ignored his calls for help on their journey upriver. He told Zeynap that he planned to kill them in their sleep.

Zeynap tried to dissuade Lord Feldercarb of this action but Zeynap only became frustrated when 

Feldercarb mistook his meaning and instead decided to hire assassins when they arrived at Port Nyanzaru.

Zeynap warned the others the next day. Bramble suggested they preemptively kill Feldercarb and eliminate the potential threat. Zeynap argued in his former friend's defense suggesting that he was simply overcome with emotion. Xok-Wik and Apparently supported Zeynap and they decided to keep a close eye on Feldercarb for the rest of the trip.
On the eighth day of their journey downriver they set camp at the mouth of the River Soshenstar. On the ninth day they took their boat and canoe into the ocean for the remaining twenty miles to Port Nyanzaru. Ahead of them in the distance they could see three other boats. In one of the boats was the merchant explorer Zalma Haik. They arrived at the port city late that afternoon and procured a room at Kaya's House of Repose. Xok-Wik curled up next to the fire in the common room while Tōhaku withdrew into his shell.

The next morning they came down the stairs to find a short brown-skinned foreigner standing near the door flanked by two large Chultans. He introduced himself as Aazon Talieri, representative of Master Jobal, one of the merchant princes of Port Nyanzaru. He was pleasant and polite and allowed the group to have some breakfast. As they did so he informed them that they were invited to meet with Master Jobal some time today before noon, at their convenience. He instructed Strombo, one of the large attendants, to stay behind and escort them to Master Jobal when they were ready.

They finished their breakfast and planned their day then went with Strombo to Master Jobal. They were led to a walled hilltop district containing the palatial villas of the merchant princes. There were three hilltops connected by marble bridges.

Strombo took them to Jobal's villa and were instructed to wait in the sitting room. Joining them in the sitting room was an unknown prospector and Zalma Haik. After making small talk catching up with Zalma Haik they were led to the meeting place in Jobal's garden. Several muscular men who could have been Strombo's brothers stood watch discreetly in the corners.

After polite introductions Jobal began his inquiry, "I understand you have just returned from an expedition into the interior, please tell me about your journey."

Apparently related the story of their expedition, occasionally answering questions from Jobal as they arose.

"Ah, so you were hired by a patron. For what services were you hired?"
"To act as guide and scout," she replied.

"I see. And how much were you paid for this service?"

"We were each paid 2 Avallonian gold coins a day totaling 48 gold for Bramble and myself and 24 for Zeynap who joined us later. Tōhaku here was not a part of the arrangement."

"Indeed. Ms. Jones, do you know what I do here in Port Nyanzaru?"

"I'm not sure."

"I arrange work for the local guides and scouts. Employers such as the merchant and prospector you met in the sitting room come to me to hire experienced guides to help them navigate through the jungle. I ensure they meet my personal requirements for quality, knowledge, and customer service. In exchange I am exact a percentage of the transaction. In order to ensure that my clients receive the highest level of customer service and quality, I require the engagement of all guides and scouts in Port Nyanzaru to be personally arranged by myself. In that way I maintain a certain- equilibrium here.

"I have been informed that not only did you originally seek to employ the services of two scouts..."

"We did?" interrupted Zeynap.

"We did," said Bramble, "the two b'alam."

"River Mist and Flask of Wine," said Apparently.

"Yes!" said Jobal coldly, "River Mist and Flask of Wine. They are outlaws who do not work within the system. I have issued orders for their arrest. Not only did you seek their services over more qualified offerings, you chose instead to provide your own services as guide and scout! Through your actions you have unintentionally threatened the delicate equilibrium!"

He paused to let the implications sink in. Apparently looked around at the guards in the corners and didn't like where this was going.

"Ordinarily I would have no choice but to punish you for disrupting the equilibrium. I would be forced to confiscate all your wealth and property and sentence you to Executioner's Run. However, I understand that you were new to Port Nyanzaru and hadn't taken the time to learn our customs. I am willing to offer a compromise."

Apparently narrowed her eyes, "Which is?"

"I happen to have another job opportunity that you and your friends would be uniquely qualified to undertake. Undertake this mission and I will overlook this initial oversight of our ways."

"What is this job?"

"I cannot tell you the particulars, but I will give you a reference to the employer. Her name is Syndra Silvane and she is currently a guest with Master Wakanga Otamu. I will give you twenty-four hours to meet with Silvane and hear her mission. If you agree to her undertaking and agree to operate within the rules and customs of Port Nyanzaru for all future transactions, I will forgive your transgressions. If in twenty-four hours you decline this offer, I will inform my men to arrest you and send you to the Run. Are we clear?"

"Very." said Apparently and they were dismissed.

"Well? Do we take the job?" asked Apparently.

"We should at least hear her out," said Bramble.

So they took the letter of reference to Wakanga Otamu's residence. They were led to a darkened room. The curtains were drawn. Despite the heat a fire burned in the fireplace. Incense burned in the corners filling the room with a thick spicy aroma.

A woman sat in a comfortable chair. She wore long loose white silk garments. She wore a silver mask over her face. Her head and neck was concealed by a habit. She spoke in a Eusabean accent.

"I am Syndra Silvane. Thank you for coming. Please, sit. Would you like some wine? Fruit?"

They accepted her hospitality and became comfortable.

"I would like to hire you to find and destroy the Soulmonger."