Savage Worlds – Space 1889 – Flip Through

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I was involved recently in an online conversation where someone pointed out the vast difference in cost between the core rules for Savage Worlds and the various settings books. I understood his point but in text, without posting long paragraphs of explanation, I couldn’t explain adequately what I thought he was missing. The video flip through is partly to show what the Space 1889 setting book is like but also why it’s worth nearly four times what the rules cost.

I say in the video that there this isn’t a review of Savage Worlds (although I do love the system) or of Space 1889 if you’re looking for those check out.

Frank Frey’s Video and Blog or the RPG Net review.

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Al Qadim – The Vizier’s Turban – Session 5

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We ran the fifth session of my first online campaign tonight (you can find the rest here) aside from some technical difficulties it went pretty well.

I recently Kickstarted Kobold Press’ Arabian Nights setting for Pathfinder – Southlands.  I’m really looking forward to getting those books at the end of this year however in the meantime I really fancied doing some Arabian Nights inspired roleplaying (my band Secret Archives of the Vatican have long been inspired by those stories).  A friend suggested I look for the old TSR setting Al Qadim and I really liked what I found.  Initially published for 2nd edition AD&D it took some time to convert it to Pathfinder but my players (most of whom are also in my “in person” Lonely Coast campaign) thought it sounded like fun.

So here it is the fifth session of my Al Qadim campaign…

Dungeon Dressing GM’s Miscellany – Flip Through

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This is a video I’ve wanted to make for a while. As you’ll realise watching the video I’m a massive fan of Raging Swan Press and especially this book. I recorded the video a month back but didn’t get round to recording the audio for the introduction until today, the result isn’t as clean or concise as I’d like it to be as a result. Apologies for the rambling nature of it.

Raging Swan’s website can be found at – http://www.ragingswan.com

Their page for the Dungeon Dressing GMs Miscellany which has links to places to download/buy it can be found at http://www.ragingswan.com/gm-essentials/gms-miscellany-dungeon-dressing

For a better review than the above check out Endzeitgeist’s site at http://endzeitgeist.com/gms-miscellany-dungeon-dressing

The Dungeon Dressing complete line is at Drive Thru RPG – http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/browse/pub/3311/Raging-Swan-Press/subcategory/5631_9060/Dungeon-Dressing

For anyone interested in reading adventure logs for Retribution or Shadowed Keep On The Borderlands they’re here on the blog. Bear in mind they’re the first games I’ve run in more than 20 years with players who are new to the hobby or have been away a long time.

The Lonely Coast – Shadowed Keep On The Borderlands – Session 11

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Session 19 (16th Feb 2015)

For the second adventure in our Lonely Coast campaign I turned once again to Raging Swan.  This time I went to the brilliant Shadowed Keep On The Borderlands which got amazing reviews and makes for a totally different style of play from the groups previous adventure Retribution.  If you’d like to read the whole campaign’s adventure log it’s posted in order here.  The previous session can be found here and the whole of the Shadowed Keep sessions here.

Note if as a player your GM is likely to run Shadowed Keep On The Borderlands by Raging Swan please do not read any further, the adventure is one that will be wrecked by spoilers.

The cold light of the early morning filters through the drizzle that fills the courtyard. An elf wearing a black wolf fur cloak, the head forming part of the hood, backs from broken double doors. Obviously unsure of whether to watch the courtyard or the dark entrance that he has just stepped through he descends the three curved stairs from the doorway swinging to try to watch the whole area. He holds an arrow nocked to the string of his bow as he blinks the rain from his eyes backing towards the sentinel like watchtower that stands against the opposite wall. Reaching the tower he takes his hand from the arrow and bangs on the door behind him, his eyes never stopping their scanning for possible enemies. After a short wait there is a hurried conversation through the door and he steps into the tower. The sound of the bar inside the door dropping back into place echoes around the empty courtyard.

A large room is lit by a roaring fire against one wall, a spitted animal turns above it cranked round by two goblins, their heads seemingly too large for their bodies and the mouths too large for even those heads. The room is crowded with goblins, warriors as well as women and children, some eating and laughing while others argue or doze. At the far end of this room a goblin child charges, breathless, into the scene shouting out to any who will listen. Instantly the mood in the room changes, warriors grab for weapons or adjust armour, women grab children and hurd them into side passages, not a single hand lies still.

Three goblin warriors run into a large chamber, its vaulted ceiling held up by four slender pillars. They stop in their tracks at the sight of the fallen, hewed bodies lying scattered around the room. One sprints back down the corridor while the two who remain unsheath swords and anxiously scan the few other exits from the room.

There is the sound of a fist pounding on a wooden door lit by the flickering of firelight. At loud grunt the banging stops, seconds later a vast shadow falls across the door and the door opens. Stood in the doorway is a goblin warrior, his face a mixture of eagerness to tell news and fear of the figure he stands before. Leaning back in order to look up into the face of this figure he quickly starts to give his news. A gigantic mailed fist lifts the handle of a vast falchion, it’s blade covered in fell runes glints in the light of the fire.

In a high ceilinged room, it’s walls daubed with eldritch symbols two figures, a halfling in dark clothes and a man wearing armour, stand the only illumination an almost too white light streaming from the human’s chest. The corpses of two dead goblins lay by an open doorway through which a dwarf, his beard singed, blood still seeping from a vicious head wound and a tall man stagger panting from the exertion of battle. The halfling stands with an ear pressed against the other door, a mixture of concentration and fear on his face…

Seeing the huge gouge in Dvadi’s head and the fatigue on his face from his ferocious battle with the goblin shaman, Hederas called on Irori to grant healing to his comrade. The divine power caused the wound to close and the blood to stop flowing. Behind him Arris prayed to Darlen for his healing light and felt his spirits lift as his wounds closed and his pain eased.

Dvadi and Arris searched through the wreckage from the altar and found some undamaged candles to light while Hederas searched the shaman’s corpse and room. Unfortunately the wand that was being used by the shaman turned out to be useless having been fully expended during the fight however the chest and table in the room revealed a cache of potions and scrolls that must have been stripped from unlucky travellers and adventures as well as a bone wand which Armitage identified as being able to cast massive webs.

A little more than ten minutes after the battle with the Shaman finished the group had put together a rough plan and felt recovered enough to risk fighting their way from the lair out to the surface.

While there had been the sounds of occasional footsteps running along the corridor outside nobody had tried to enter the room but the group knew this wouldn’t last. As soon as Dvadi confirmed the corridor was clear of goblins Armitage used the wand he had discovered to ensure nothing could follow them from deeper within the lair. This precaution attended to the group moved at high speed back the way they had come, pausing at corners to check they weren’t running into an ambush. Having skirted the large pit and webbed the corridor leading to the living quarters of the goblins Dvadi led the way back to the guardroom at a full run. As he turned the corner he spotted movement in the room which quickly resolved itself into a group of goblin warriors moving the bodies of the fallen. These were being directed by a huge figure, around nine feet in height hefting a large spear. Not slowing his speed the dwarf tore into the room and launched a huge attack on this vast foe. As several of the goblins grabbed their bows and leapt for cover behind the pillars in the corners of the room Arris bore down on one of these. As Hederas two companions reached the room he suddenly saw the room’s occupants who had been hidden from sight until that point. Raising his crossbow he shot a bolt into a warrior the far side of the cave who was not even aware of their approach.

The battle between Dvadi and the gigantic figure fully twice his height was a blur of axe and spear. As a goblin warrior drew his sword flanking the dwarf and forcing him to take some of his focus from the bulk in front of him things looked to be grim however Armitage again brought the wand into play, webbing shooting from it forming a barrier that blocked half of the room and ensnared not only this ugly giant but also several of the goblins.

Under a hail of arrows Arris cut down his chosen target before turning to take the pressure from Dvadi by engaging the goblin at his back and as Hederas drew his mace to attack one of the archers Hederas used a vial of alchemical fire to burn the web and it’s occupants.

The battle was hard pressed and chaotic, smoke and fire, mixing with the ringing of axe, sword and spear but in less than a minute all was over. The gigantic corpse of Dvadi’s foe lay blackened by fire in the centre of the room, his ribcage opened from a huge rising swing of the dwarf’s axe. One goblin had fled, that entrance now webbed by Armitage, while another had been cut down at the foot of the stairs while trying to escape. In total five goblins lay dead alongside their gigantic leader. Hederas added the head of the leader to that of the shaman that he already carried and the group moved to the bottom of the stairs hoping that they would meet no further resistance on the way to the tower where hopefully they would find Elrohir waiting for them.

LV426 – Savage World

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A few weeks ago I ran an impromptu Savage Worlds game at very short notice (we decided to play something about four hours before the game started). I can’t remember why Aliens came to mind but the idea of running an LV426 (the planet from the film Aliens) scenario seemed like a good one and on discovering a fan made Aliens vs Predators setting was already in my archive I felt far more confident than I otherwise would have done.

The game went far better than I was expecting. I often find that it’s really difficult to know how into a game the players are when sitting behind the screen.  After nearly an hour and a half when we took a break little had happened and I was feeling like I was running a really boring session. As it turns out I couldn’t have been more wrong, the players were really on the edge of their seats and had spent the entire game feeling really tense, which was great news to me. We ran out of time in the end and while we finished the scenario I didn’t cover as much ground as I was hoping to and actually ended the game without a single fatality (definitely not the plan).

I ran the game without maps and very much by the seat of my pants which I’m not normally comfortable with but I thought I’d share some of the ideas I used, particularly as I focused on mood far more than anything else and it seemed to work. I also should name check Graham Walmsey and his excellent book Stealing Cthulhu (it’s also available on DriveThru as a pdf) which discusses various techniques for building tension and horror in games. In particular I was very concious of the need to start with a slightly spooky, empty base and gradually increase the proximity and knowledge of the danger. The game plan in my head was more a map of the “volume” of the game over time than it was a map, flow diagram, etc.

Although I only had three players I realised that I really needed to have two squads of marines in order for both the players to survive early encounters of the adventure and also so that I could increase the emotional impact of the horror when their comrades started to be dismembered. In the end I settled for three squads, two that would go on the mission and one that would stay with the commander in the APC as backup (more on that later).  Savage Worlds is designed for players to run NPCs which was yet another reason why I think the system was a good choice for this game.

Like the various alien movies, I knew the game needed to start slowly and build tension before anything actually happened but I equally like to start any game session with a bang if possible as I want to capture player attention and state “okay, the game has now started”. To do this I started with the players already strapped into the APC, itself loaded in to the dropship. The opening introduction for the game was along the lines of…

“Suddenly you feel your stomach rise into your mouth as you plumet downwards, everything is shaking and banging, the noise is a pressure in your ears as you’re pushed into the harness keeping you in your seat. You feel the engines kick in and the direction of the pressure changes as you’re slammed deep into your seat, the noise rising to a level that you almost wouldn’t believe possible. As you glance around the cabin you see the rest of your squad all harnessed into their seats and remember the briefing. Contact with the colony has been lost and you need to investigate to see what’s happened. Suddenly you’re slammed deep into your seat as the dropship touches down, everything tips forwards as the ramp lowers and you feel the APC accelerate away, bouncing over the rough ground. Holding on tight you release your harnesses, stand and gather your kit as the comander yells out that you’ve got two minutes until evac. As the APC comes to a halt, the door slides open and you pile out into the open.

You’re stood in a large open space, dim, yellow, unhealthy light filtering through the clouds above you. As the rain splatters off you there are a mixture of smells in the air, most strongly ionisation but with a harsh chemical overtone. Between you and the double doors thirty feet away oil slicked puddles cover the tarmac, several piles of crates lie closer to the buildings. What do you want to do?”

The players agreed that by starting the game in this way (loud, confident, fast and full of sensory information) when I handed over control to them they felt an urgency to act, highly exposed by the space around them and that the sudden silence was unsettling. Although much of the game was quiet and slow that opening enforced a juxtaposition rather than the game simply being a bit slow and without a lot happening. I also downloaded the soundtrack for the film Aliens which gave a great spooky tension to the evening (provided I remembered to keep it on the spooky tracks rather than the big martial ones). The motion tracker app on my phone added a degree of immersion as well.

Assuming that you’ve watched the film Aliens I don’t really need to describe the engineering rolls to get into the base, them finding the command and control area, getting the power back up and running and finding that the colonists implants showed that they were clustered underneath one of the atmosphere processing plants. I did forget to have a motion tracker lead them to a lab where mice ran around in cages but actually I’m not certain if that would have heightened the tension or not.  What I really didn’t want to do was have a Newt type character in the game, I wanted the characters to feel completely alone.

As mentioned above I had a captain and a third squad on the APC as backup, I also used the captain to direct the squads that were in the base. This meant that I could suggest directions, etc to the players but it also gave them the feeling that someone had their backs. It allowed for some great roleplaying where the squad sergeant had to report what he’d found to the captain and discuss the situation and best course of action. It also gave me a way to prod the players forward, in directions that they knew they didn’t want to go, further and deeper into the darkness and confinement.

The players obviously had to go and investigate the location where the colonists were and I had several things planned that upped the tension which I think are worth a mention. Firstly although I’d told the players that the colonists were in a sub-basement that was three levels below ground but that the only route they could take to get there was back out into the open (obviously leaving them scanning the shadows for danger and feeling exposed) before climbing two floors up to gain entry to the atmosphere processing plant. They didn’t need to explore the APP as they had plans and knew where they were going however each time they descended a level I described the wide corridors and stairs gradually getting narrower and closer thus increasing the claustrophobia of the environment. I’d asked for tips on RPG Brigade Facebook page (I got some great responses and suggestions from the guys on there) and had ended up with a list of words that conjured up the environment I wanted.  Having a list of descriptive mood words in front of me when running the game helped me to keep my descriptions appropriately flavourful. Eventually the wide staircases gave way to narrow staircases and eventually to metal, spiral stairs allowing for metallic echoes as boots fell on them.

One of the ideas I got from Stealing Cthulhu was that of distance from the horror.  Starting with a lot of physical separation between characters and whatever they’re afraid of and moving closer over time. An example of this in a classic Lovecraft setting is hearing vague newspaper reports of the situation, then speaking to direct witnesses, then seeing the aftermath and then seeing the horror itself. What I decided to do with the Aliens game to up the tension but without actually having the PCs encounter everything was to wait until they were well inside the tunnels and corridors and starting to feel claustrophobic before having the APC attacked by something. Not only did the players get to hear screams which foreshadowed and reinforced their fears but it also cut off their backup and help in decision making. The players afterwards said this was really effective in suddenly making it feel like everything was closing in on them.

Savage Worlds makes a lot of use of spirit rolls in combat to check whether characters can take actions based on their mental state. During the game, when emotionally charged incidents occured I got players to make spirit rolls and asked them to react to those rolls. This definitely seemed to have a positive affect on the game without removing player agency, for example in several situations a character pressed on because they made a spirit roll when the player was quite keen to retreat.  It’s something that I’ve introduced to my Pathfinder campaign since, using will saves to make players consider their actions rather than actually forcing something on them as a result.

In my game, which didn’t start until late, there was eventually an Alien attack from which the troops retreated from. As I needed to end the game due to time constraints I allowed them to call in the dropship and it got there in the nick of time as hordes of aliens started to appear. I was planning for the marines to find a couple of dead colonists, post chest burster, then witness a chest burster happening before eventually, hopefully, rescuing a couple of colonists from being impregnated.

Although we ran out of time the game really did go well and hopefully some of the above might be use to people. Definitely interested in what people think and what other tips people have for running this kind of game.

Hadramkath

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At some point in the future my players will most likely discover the lost city of Hadramkath and a couple of sessions back the characters found a map detailing part of the city.  For a number of reasons I’m not going into pertaining to spoilers which I’m worried my players of my Lonely Coast campaign might read I have taken my time giving them the map but it’s finished and I thought I’d share it.

I’m not going to say which of Dyson’s awesome maps this is taken from in case it comes as too much of a temptation for my players and they take a peak.  I downloaded the maps below from Dyson’s site (if you’re not already following Dyson then why not, the guy supplies amazing maps free of charge, although he also accepts money via Patreon)…

https://rpgcharacters.wordpress.com/maps/

https://rpgcharacters.wordpress.com/maps/

Then in photoshop I joined the two together and added some text to get the following…

https://rpgcharacters.wordpress.com/maps/

The text reads…

The Marble and Bronze Halls of Hadramkath

The vast marble hall of Hadramkath truly one of the wonders of the legendary city. Carved and polished by the masters of old. Those who are lucky will be led to it via the fabled bronze halls where the statues of the original kings of Hadramkath stand guard.

Now as I’m planning to give this out I then went through the techniques I got from The Outsiders 68 video (and I wish I’d thought to take photos as I went but I didn’t)

  • Rubbed the paper all over with an old tea bag.
  • Cumpled it up.
  • Folded it carefully into four.
  • Unfolded it and baked it for about eight minutes in the oven.
  • Cut round the edges.
  • Coloured the edges with a black marker.
  • Folded it up and pressed it between several heavy books.

This is the finished article ready to give out to my players, as you can probably tell I’m pretty pleased with the result.

Hadramkath - Finished Player MapThe paper feels beautifully old and textured from the time in the oven and when I gave it to the players tonight they loved it.

 

Squarehex Dungeon Desk Pad (Kickstarter)

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I hesitate to advertise Kickstarters on this blog but I thought I’d put this out here.  I’ve backed both the A6 and A5 Gamer Notebooks recently and they’ve run to time and been really great products.  The latest Kickstarter they’re doing is for A3 Dungeon Desk Pads which look awesome but are a product I don’t think I’d personally use.

“The sheets in the pads are A3-sized and feature a 34×34 6mm grid for mapping, flanked by two large columns for notes. Beneath the grid, are three smaller columns ideal for writing lists, tables or additional notes. Above the grid there is space for a title and byline and a key for multi-part maps. The key has a 6×4 grid of boxes which may be shaded to show how the map on the sheet relates to neighbouring maps on other sheets.”

For more details check out their Kickstarter page.

The Lonely Coast – Shadowed Keep On The Borderlands – Session 10

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Session 18 (2nd Feb 2015)

For the second adventure in our Lonely Coast campaign I turned once again to Raging Swan.  This time I went to the brilliant Shadowed Keep On The Borderlands which got amazing reviews and makes for a totally different style of play from the groups previous adventure Retribution.  If you’d like to read the whole campaign’s adventure log it’s posted in order here.  The previous session can be found here and the whole of the Shadowed Keep sessions here.

Note if as a player your GM is likely to run Shadowed Keep On The Borderlands by Raging Swan please do not read any further, the adventure is one that will be wrecked by spoilers.

Leaving the doorway through which the sound of snoring came Armitage crept back to his companions. Leaving Hederas and Dvadi to guard them from an ambush Armitage returned to the door with Elrohir and Arris. Having thoroughly inspected the door he lifted the latch as silently as was possible and after a brief pause took a deep breath and gently opened it a crack. Peering through the narrow opening, in the dim light from where Hederas stood further up the corridor, the young halfling saw a sparsely furnished room with a large shape, larger than even a large man, half sat, half lying in a bed in the corner, the snoring came from this creature. Taking another deep breath he stuck his head further into the room, peering behind the door and barely made out in the darkness similar shape on a second bed in the far corner. Hoping that if the alarm had not been raised so far they would be able to dispatch these creatures without wakening them he drew his dagger and pointing Elrohir to the far corner opened the door. The elf and the halfling entered the room together but as the light from the now open door allowed a better sight of the occupants Elrohir froze.

The elf’s mind flashed back to the fateful day that he had allowed his cousin Aughron to continue to scout ahead while he had returned to bring the patrol. As he had rounded the bend in the path with the patrol he had seen the vicious furred thing, holding the broken, bleeding but still living Aughron in front of him. As the vile monster had caught sight of the patrol, as the cry of anguish was leaving Elrohir’s mouth, it had simply taken the head in one paw and turned it until, even at that distance, he had heard the snapping of bones. It dropped the lifeless body of his cousin, turned and fled into the woods. The patrol had pursued it, caught it and killed it while Elrohir cradled the still warm body of his fallen kin. His guilt of allowing Aughron to go alone had driven his hatred of goblinkind from that day.  The sight of the sleeping bugbear before him brought with it the bile of rage and hatred.  As he turned towards the more shadowy corner of the room and the second shape it spoke, it’s deep, harsh voice issuing a challenge even though it was barely awake.

Armitage sprang towards his target, plunging his dagger into the slumbering monster’s throat bringing a quick and clean end to the beast. Elrohir launched an frantic attack even as his target reached for it’s spiked mace stopping it from standing under a flurry of blows that it could barely defend against. Hearing the fight breaking out Hederas redirected his light spell onto a coin and threw it into the doorway, thus illuminating the room for it’s occupants. The light brought focus to the elven figure raining furious blows down upon his hated enemy. Elrohir barked to Arris to back off as the paladin ran to his aid. Ignoring his comrade’s words Arris joined the fray, eventually responsible for the killing blow. Wiping the gore from his sword and casting a filthy look at the paladin Elrohir stalked silently from the room. Not trusting himself to speak he took solace in his own thoughts in the dark corridor. Armitage meanwhile started to search the room for possible loot, quickly finding a key under the table that was an obvious fit for a chest in the corner of the room.

As the sounds of the short fight died away Hederas quietly walked past the fuming elf to the unexplored corner of the corridor and recasting his light spell, plunging the room back into darkness behind him, checked to ensure that nothing was approaching from this unexplored direction. Satisfied that around this corner there was only another empty corridor, two closed doors leading off it, he returned to check that his companions weren’t in need of aid.

Minutes later, having rearranged the room as best they could to disguise the slaughter from a casual investigation, the party were prepared to press further into the lair. Armitage and Elrohir took their normal position well ahead of the group, their way dimly light by Hederas who followed at a distance with Arris while Dvadi stayed as a back guard relying on his natural darkvision to spot pursuers.

The first doorway smelt bad, the stench of burnt meat mixing with that of faeces and the rank smell of goblin. From beneath this new door came a gentle light and the muted sounds of one or two quiet goblin voices. Gambling on the room’s occupants staying put Arris and Hederas advanced to this doorway as Elrohir and Armitage continued towards the next.

The second door was sturdier that the others that the party had seen. Again a gentle light emanated from beneath the door and while there were no voices there was the sound of life from within. Armitage closed his eyes and focused on sensing any arcane auras beyond the doorway but could sense nothing within. At their beckoning Arris and Hederas crept down to guard this doorway while Elrohir and Armitage crept on to check around the next corner before tackling this room and its occupants.

As they approached the corner Elrohir’s mind was still racing with memories of his past thrown up by the encounter with the bugbears and stench of goblins. Distracted by these thoughts he missed a slightly raised flagstone and tripped, bouncing his head off the wall and only catching his balance as he stood exposed to the corridor that they had not yet surveyed. As his vision cleared the corridor came into focus, his gaze slid over the doorway halfway along and fell on the four goblin children playing at the far end of the corridor. The child facing Elrohir raised his eyes, attracted by the sudden movement, raised his arm as his mouth dropped open. The other children turned to follow their playmate’s gaze and as they did so Elrohir began to run towards them, sword drawn.

Behind him Armitage peered around the corner to see why friendiend had suddenly run off and also spotted the children. Summoning his power once more he focused on the children sending out the same energy he’d used to cause so many of their enemies to sleep. Two of the children suddenly collapsed, succumbing to Armitage’s power, however one turned and fled as Armitage was barely halfway down the corridor. Seeing he could not stop the alarm being raised Elrohir turned on his heels and returned the way that he had come. As he reached Armitage he continued past him telling him to run as he went. Armitage saw the final child drop to her knees, trying to wake her friends before turned to see Elrohir passing Arris and Hederas and hearing him telling them to run as well.

Armitage ran to the door that Hederas and Arris were next to, seeing the question in their eyes. On the assumption that the room contained Ruknor, he threw open the door and dived inside. Seeing their companion taking decisive action Arris and Hederas followed their small friend into the room. As Elrohir passed Dvadi he barely slowed as he told him to get back to the surface. Seeing his other three companions entering the room Dvadi decided to check what they were doing first.

Elrohir had run almost back to the room where they had encountered the bugbears before he realised that he was alone. The darkness had closed around him and behind him lay only utter blackness, with no sign of Hederas’ light. Unsure of where his friends were and unwilling to be discovered alone in the blackness when the alarm was fully raised he decided to press on and get back to the tower. With nothing to guide him but his hands on the walls and his memory of the rooms they had passed through he skirted the tremendous pit they had passed, feeling it’s yawning blackness in his mind. Only when he finally approached the guardroom did the dim light become enough that he was more comfortable. Passing by the corpses that lay where they had fallen he mounted the stairs and eventually found himself in the daylight of the courtyard. Running for the tower he hoped that Rethnic was awake and alert enough to open the door quickly for him.

Below ground the stench grew suddenly stronger as Armitage entered the large, high ceilinged room. His eyes took in the slender pillars that held up the roof, the fell symbols painted in what looked like blood on the walls and the large altar, covered in burning candles, in a recess. What he focused on though were the two guards sat on either side of a door on the far wall, both of whom looked up in surprise as the diminutive figure leapt into the room. Almost without thought again he felt the power rise within him and again focused it on the sentries who slid back down as they were beginning to rise, both were asleep before Hederas and Arris pushed past into the room.

Hederas ran to the door between the sleeping sentries, checking that they hadn’t missed anyone else by the altar on the way. Dvadi arrived just as Armitage was appraising Hederas of recent events. Closing the door behind them Armitage pulled out a scroll that would allow him to magically lock the door and listened hard for sounds in the corridor outside. Dvadi ran to the sleeping guards and despatched the closest one of them, Hederas lowered his crossbow and finished the second. Hederas turned his attention on the door and listened carefully while Arris turned his attention to the altar and the symbols on the rear wall. Casting his mind back to his lessons he studied the symbols and came to the conclusion that these were designed to look impressive but actually lacked any real power or significance. The altar on the other hand was dedicated to dark powers and the cloth covering it bore the signs of sacrifice. Once satisfied that there were no voices behind the door Hederas strode over to the altar and heaved the covering and it’s contents onto the floor. With the candles extinguished the only illumination now came from Hederas breastplate, glowing from divine light.

Taking over from Hederas, Dvadi stepped up to the door and listened carefully. Suddenly he realised that while there were no voices beyond the door there was definitely the sound of quiet movement. Arris crossed to backup his comrade as Dvadi called out to warn the group and grasping his axe tightly he lifted the latch on the door and opened it gently. As they peered through the gap into the pitch blackness inside a wave of flame leapt out searing both companions and lighting up Dvadi’s beard. The relative darkness of the room briefly flashed into brilliant light as the flame crawled across the wall. The dwarf dropped his axe and jumped back desperately trying to extinguish his beard. Hederas spun as the light in the room blossomed and called on Irori’s power to create water directly above his comrade putting out the remaining flames. The searing pain of the heat played across Arris’ chest and called out to Darlen for healing, feeling the divine power pushing the pain of the burning back.

Dvadi scooped his fallen axe from the floor and stepped through the doorway into the dark room. His dwarven eyesight took in the bed chamber behind the goblin that stood in filthy robes in front of him. Hederas raced over to his friends in order to light up the area for Arris who moved to step up beside Dvadi. Arris swung his great sword in a huge arc but it sliced just above his foes head, clanging into the wall. Fire leapt from the wand in the goblin’s hands slamming into the wall above Dvadi’s head, leaving the stones on the wall glowing a brilliant red and cracking as they cooled. Dvadi’s blood was pumping in his ears as his axe swung for the goblin, as it leapt backwards he carved a deep wound the whole length of it’s body and into its thigh. Arris swung his blade back, this time slightly lower, but as the goblin staggered again the blade missed however this time as it continued on it’s arc it connected with Dvadi’s head slicing a deep wound into him. Blood poured down the dwarf’s face as the goblins wand lit up the wall behind Arris. Blinking the blood from his eyes the next blow from the dwarf’s waraxe again went wide. The goblin slapped Arris open palmed and Arris felt a chill force emanating from the touch but fought against the sensation and felt it quickly fade out. As Hederas called on Irori to heal his comrades Dvadi took a final swing at the goblin slicing him into two and splattering his entrails across Arris. The sudden silence within the room was only broken by the sounds of heavy, painful breathing and occasional groan of pain as the warriors gingerly tested the extent of their injuries.

In the corridor outside Armitage could hear the shouting of goblins obviously raising the alarm that intruders were in the lair…

Al Qadim – The Vizier’s Turban – Session 4

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Having cancelled the last session due to illness tonight we ran the fourth session of my first online campaign (you can find the rest here).

I recently Kickstarted Kobold Press’ Arabian Nights setting for Pathfinder – Southlands.  I’m really looking forward to getting those books at the end of this year however in the meantime I really fancied doing some Arabian Nights inspired roleplaying (my band Secret Archives of the Vatican have long been inspired by those stories).  A friend suggested I look for the old TSR setting Al Qadim and I really liked what I found.  Initially published for 2nd edition AD&D it took some time to convert it to Pathfinder but my players (most of whom are also in my “in person” Lonely Coast campaign) thought it sounded like fun.

So here it is the fourth session of my Al Qadim campaign…

The Lonely Coast – Shadowed Keep On The Borderlands – Session 9

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Session 17 (19th Jan 2015)

For the second adventure in our Lonely Coast campaign I turned once again to Raging Swan.  This time I went to the brilliant Shadowed Keep On The Borderlands which got amazing reviews and makes for a totally different style of play from the groups previous adventure Retribution.  If you’d like to read the whole campaign’s adventure log it’s posted in order here.  The previous session can be found here and the whole of the Shadowed Keep sessions here.

Note if as a player your GM is likely to run Shadowed Keep On The Borderlands by Raging Swan please do not read any further, the adventure is one that will be wrecked by spoilers.

The torch guttered as Hederas descended the stairs to the basement of the watchtower.  Largely ignoring the calls of the captive bandits he instead concentrated his attention on the goblin cowering in the corner.  Yar appeared eager to help, repeating his pleads to be released but didn’t seem to understand requests to draw a map of the Blood Moon clan’s lair.  His call for Elrohir to come and help with the intimidation of the creature was answered and the elf explained that filthy wretch wouldn’t know how to draw a map, his innate fear of paper and writing stopping him from understanding how to even hold a pen.  Hederas instead turned to questions about the Blood Moon and soon discovered that the clan had around 80 members and was led by an ogre called Ruknar.  Having decided that no more useful information would be forthcoming the companions returned to the tower to discuss the best option for clearing out the infestation beneath the keep.

After the spending of several healing spells, a long rest and some food everyone’s spirits were improved.  Rethnic, released from his prison beneath the tower, was recovering and while gruff and stern was friendly in his own way.  The group quickly decided that the best option was to have another night’s rest in the tower and then attack the goblins with the dawn, hopefully as they were preparing to sleep for the day.  Rethnic was not keen on accompanying the group below ground, Hederas felt that the dwarf felt the physical impact of his imprisonment too keenly, but eventually Rethnic volunteered to stay in the tower so that the group had a bolt hole if they needed it.  Having thrown some food to the prisoners and prepared their gear for the next day they settled down for a final rest before heading into the fray.

Creeping across the courtyard through the early morning drizzle as the sky first lightened the donjon seemed larger than it had previously and the black entrance unwelcoming, the silhouette of one of it’s doors hanging at a strange angle gave it an unpleasant look.  Inside the building was dry but the explorers felt the weight of the darkness pressing down on them as they retraced their steps back to the top of the stairs down to the lair of the Blood Moon clan.  Armitage left the lights with the party before creeping down the darkened stairs towards the faint fire light below.  As he descended Armitage heard the unmistakeable sound of goblin voices getting louder, a disagreement of some sort was going on. Peeping through the doorway into the large room at the bottom he could see six of the squat, large headed creatures squabbling around a table in the middle of the room near to a small fire. Carefully keeping in the shadows he beckoned Elrohir to come down to as well. Elrohir sliently made his way down the stairs and quietly nocked an arrow before beckoning to the rest. Hederas arrived first followed by Dvadi however before Arris could descend sounds on the darkened stairs alerted the goblins to the company and battle was joined. Elrohir filled the air with arrows and Armitage cast a sleep spell which dropped several of the foes immediately. Dvadi, Hederas and Arris stormed into the room, hacking into the goblins with deadly force. Arris cut the first goblin he met in two while Dvadi was a whirl of axe blades dealing death to those goblins near him. Seeing the situation as hopeless one of the goblins turned and fled from the assault, chased by Arris who managed to cut him down in the corridor as Armitage dazed the creature.

Having subdued the guards Hederas noted that one of the goblins was still alive and brought him round. Questioning him brought about some basic information, primarily that the corridor the goblin had fled down led to the tribe while the other led to a well. Deciding that they had all the information they were likely to get Hederas drove his dagger into the goblin’s neck without warning, ending it’s life. Having regained their breath after the short but bloody conflict Armitage initially investigated the area to the north on his own. Having confirmed that the room was unoccupied he beckoned Elrohir to join him in the hopes that his excellent eyesight would improve their odds in the near darkness. A crumbling well stood in one corner and a further darkened corridor led off to the west. The faint musky odour that came from that corridor made them think of canines, convincing them that something lurked further down that path and in the darkness beyond the range of their lights.

Returning to the group a hurried, quiet discussion decided that the best course of action would be to ignore this corridor and instead penetrate as far as they could into the goblin lair itself. If it was possible to take out Ruknor without causing a general alarm that may take the fight out of the tribe.

Armitage scouted ahead down darkened corridors before long arriving at a large chamber with a dark shadowy pit filling the centre. Shining light into it displayed a thirty foot drop into an even larger cavern below. This vast space appeared empty and therefore carefully skirting the edges Armitage decided to press on. Of the two exits from this chamber the one to the south showed some signs of faint illumination and sounds of occupancy echoed up it while the one to the west was shrouded in absolute darkness and silence. Choosing to investigate the source of the illumination Armitage crept down the south passage.

The sound of voices grew louder and the flickering of firelight brighter as Armitage crept down this corridor. Peering round a bend in the passage he found himself staring into another large chamber. Lit by a large fire, over which cooked some sort of meat, the moving shadows of at least 30 goblins flickered on the walls. Tables and benches filled much of the space, goblin children running around ugly females while warriors drank and ate. A short headcount was all that Armitage felt he had time for before returning to the previous chamber to brief his comrades.

After hearing what awaited them down the southern corridor the party agreed that if they were to find Ruknor without alerting the tribe the western corridor was a better option. Again Armitage led the way into the darkness, relying on the faint light of Hederas’ magical light to find his way. Stopping by the only doorway in the corridor before it eventually turned itself to the south the young halfling strained his ears for sounds that the room beyond was occupied. He was rewarded by the deep sound of the snore of something large within. Should he continue to push further ahead or bring up the rest of the party and try to quietly dispatch the occupants?