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Here’s what happened in last night’s session of Hoard of the Dragon Queen as the adventurers headed north to the Carnath Roadhouse and into the notorious Mere of Dead Men. Each PC gets 620 xp.

8th Eleasias, 1490 DR

The High Road Charter Company convoy leads Waterdeep under the command of Ardred Briferhew. The PCs and Jamna Gleamsilver make up half the armed escorts guarding the supply wagons.

13th Eleasias

The convoy stops for the night at Thornhold. The PCs consider sneaking into the keep to spy on the secretive Stoneshaft dwarves but think better of it.

15th Eleasias

With the road now running alongside the Mere of Dead Men, the wagons come under attack from lizardfolk. Rosie kills two with her eldritch blast, Turin sends one to sleep, and Gwastdyn’s conjured lions take down a fourth, allowing the PCs to gang up on the much bigger blackscale and finish him off. The adventurers notice that the lizardfolk had glass beads, costume jewellery, coins and other trinkets mixed in among their bone and feather fetishes. Some were also armed with steel weapons.


17th Eleasias

After ten days of travelling the convoy arrives at its destination – the old Carnath Roadhouse which is now being used as a supply depot and work camp for the road builders. Bog Luck, the compound’s half-orc supervisor, points them in the direction of their quarters as the wagons are unloaded, turning down Ug’s request for a single room. The PCs notice he is wearing a scabbard decorated with dragon designs, similar to those worn by the Cult of the Dragon fighters at Greenest.

Later that evening in the common room, Ug and Turin talk to Bog Luck again. Ug asks the half-orc where he can find Naerytar and the black dragon that killed his family. Turin is more subtle (not hard!) and tells Bog Luck he’d like to hear the story behind his interesting-looking scabbard. The superintendent first tells them he killed a paladin for it, then says he's only joking – he bought it in Waterdeep.

Meanwhile, Rosie chats to Gristle Pete the cook after overhearing him complaining about noisy rats keeping him awake at night. She finds out these “rats” only make an appearance shortly after a new shipment has arrived at the camp and crash around in the warehouse below the kitchen.

Crake and Gwastdyn speak to some of the labourers about the Mere of Dead Men. Most avoid going into the swamp, particularly after one of their number wandered into the mere following some glowing lights and never returned. Lizardfolk and bullywugs sometimes attack the roadbuilding crews, hence the need for armed guards.

Just as the PCs get ready to leave one of the cultists confronts Rosie, accusing the warlock of murdering her friend Penrin and demanding satisfaction. Rosie agrees to a fight in the courtyard and a small crowd of labourers and cultists gathers to watch. The ex-pirate acts first, striking the cultist twice with her eldritch blast, then using misty step to escape to the balcony when her opponent closes to melee. The cultist chases her up the stairs but is brought down by Rosie’s blasts before she can get into close combat again. With the show over, the crowd disperses.

Rosie has a short rest to recover from her wounds, while Ug keeps watch on the cultists’ room. Nothing happens so the paladin goes over to the warehouse and has a look inside. He’s joined by Turin who persuades him that perhaps it would be a good idea to fetch some of the more stealthy members of the party.

After listening and sneaking around outside with Rosie and an invisible Turin, Crake picks the lock on the door inside the warehouse. Inside are six lizardfolk who have come up through a trapdoor. The thief is hit a couple of times and disengages from melee, allowing Ug to take his place in the doorway. Turin casts shatter, catching all the lizardfolk in its area, and making it fairly easy for the PCs to finish them off. Realizing that some of the crates are marked, Crake opens a couple of them and confirms they hold cult loot. Rosie pockets a handful of items while the others discuss what to do next.

Leaving a note for Jamna, the PCs grab their gear and head down through the trapdoor into a dank tunnel. After 500 yards, the passage comes out in the Mere of Dead Men – a marked trail leads further into the swamp. The party slog through the bog for a couple of hours before reaching an area where the vegetation is dying and diseased. Here, they are attacked by a catoblepas. The fell beast turns its deadly gaze on Ug but fortunately the paladin is made of sterner stuff and survives. As the monster closes to melee, Gwastdyn wild shapes into bear form and the PCs manage to slay the creature before it can use its gaze again.

By now it is the early hours of the morning and the adventurers need to sleep. They find a patch of dry land in the marsh and rest.
Here’s what happened in last night’s session of Hoard of the Dragon Queen as the PCs followed the Cult of the Dragon through Waterdeep, City of Splendours, and met with friends and contacts. Each PC gets 600 xp.

6th Eleasias, 1490 DR

The caravan arrives in Waterdeep and each merchant goes their separate ways. The cult wagons head north through the city on the High Road. Turin follows invisibly while the others find a place to store their wagon and trade goods and get rooms at the Galloping Minotaur Inn in the North Ward. Gwastdyn insists on seeing his room first to make sure it lives up to his high standards of cleanliness.

Meanwhile Turin has followed the cultist wagons to a compound in the Field Ward belonging to the High Road Charter Company. Jamna Gleamsilver appears, as if from nowhere. The gnome has also been following the wagons – she says she will keep an eye on them overnight, and suggests the PCs meet her here in the morning.

Gwastdyn receives a message from Leosin Erlanthar delivered by a talking blue jay, asking for a meeting at the Shrines of Nature in the Sea Ward. He meets Leosin there, gives the Harper an update on the party’s progress since Elturel, and learns that Rezmir was seen heading north a tenday ago with an escort of a dozen mounted guards. Leosin gives the dwarf a Harper magic item – a wandering star.

Crake heads to the Yawning Portal in the Castle Ward where he meets Duromil "the Fearless”, a former member of Crozier’s gang. Duromil saw Talis a couple of months ago when she passed through Waterdeep. She was wearing fancy-looking white scale mail and boasted that the new group she was working with were "really going places”. She claimed to be a "Wearer of Purple" and would soon be able to join the “inner circle”. While the pair are talking a group of adventurers are lowered into Undermountain. Soon afterwards there are sounds of combat and screams. Durnan the Sixth offers Crake a free trip down the well, as well as food, drinks and rooms for the night, if he and his companions can deal with whomever or whatever is preying on expeditions entering the dungeon.

Rosie goes to the Thirsty Sailor, one of her old haunts in the Dock Ward and meets with the dwarven fence Stumpy Joe. Over several flagons of grog she learns that the Mermaid’s Cock was in Waterdeep a month ago and unloaded crates of plunder which were transported north through the city. Several of the ship’s crew went with them, including Maelgot and Sorvic, ring-leaders of the mutiny against Anya Ogre-Teeth. They were sporting fancy new scabbards for their cutlasses. The ship left without them. Rosie sells Joe the gold candlestick she stole from the church in Greenest.

After talking to Jamna, Turin wanders back to the Dock Ward to meet the others at the Blushing Mermaid as planned. He takes a wrong turn following Rosie’s confusing directions and ends up in a dingy alley where two street thugs try to rob him. The elf makes short work of one with dissonant whispers; the other runs off. Turin heals his wounds and meets Ug outside the Mermaid. Deciding it’s not their kind of drinking establishment, they go back to the Galloping Minotaur to meet the others.

Reunited at the inn, the PCs share what they’ve learned, then go to the Yawning Portal. They start placing bets on themselves to survive their trip into Undermountain at great odds with a halfling but Rosie’s notorious reputation scares the bookie when she tells him who she is, and all bets are off!

Durnan lowers the party down into the entry well where they find the bodies of three adventurers. Heading west, they battle a pack of gnolls in the Hall of Broken Pillars. Rosie’s new spell hunger of Hadar is very effective, and the PCs are able to defeat the foul humanoids without too much trouble and rescue three survivors from the adventuring band. Gwastdyn spots Rosie trying to pocket some loot and calls her on it.

Despite Gwastdyn’s insistance that the party need to be up at 6am in the morning, Rosie decides to visit a Zhentarim address on Manysteps Alley and asks the others to come with her. Ug gives a blind fortune-teller in the alley a platinum piece to tell him his fortune. He is told to “beware the Weed That Walks”. She speaks of “thieves in the night” for Gwastdyn, while Rosie is told “you will get your revenge soon”.

Rosie knocks on the blue door and gives the code phrase, “I’m here to join the expedition”. The door opens to a warehouse full of dangerous-looking armed men and crates of trade goods. Unfortunately, the warlock gets off on the wrong foot with the men inside, first disrespecting their swarthy leader, calling him “the doorman”, and then refusing to leave. Even two nasty stab wounds don’t shut her up – she is still shooting her mouth off as she backs away. She makes it out the door with a crossbow bolt sticking out of her thigh, her reputation with the Zhentarim in tatters. At this point, the party decide to call it a day and head back to the Galloping Minotaur to sleep.

7th Eleasias

Early in the morning the PCs meet Jamna close to the High Road Charter Company compound in the Field Ward. She tells them that the cultists will be leaving tomorrow morning for a works camp on the road to Neverwinter. The gnome advises the PCs to hire on with Ardred Briferhew as guards.

Turin and Gwastdyn visit New Olamn College on Mount Waterdeep and meet the Harper and Magnus Alumnae Boondoor Evenmist. Turin finds out more information about the Mac-Fuirmidh school and his cittern. He purchases the sheet music to the fog cloud spell. Both spend time in the college’s library researching Naerytar. They learn it’s a ruined castle in the Mere of Dead Men, built by a half-elf wizard over 100 years ago. After it became cut off by the swamp, it was abandoned until it was claimed by a group of astrologers called the Academy of Stargazers. They built an observatory at the top of the keep before they vanished mysteriously. The Mere of Dead Men is home to Voaraghamanthar, a powerful black dragon.

Rosie and Crake visit Serpentil’s Books and Folios on Book Street. The warlock purchases a book called “On Liches and their Kynde” which contains information on Sekharet the Undying, her dark patron. Crake isn’t much of reader and buys nothing. Afterwards the pair sell the party’s trade goods at 100% profit in the market and pocket the difference.

Ug goes to the House of Wonder in the Sea Ward to find out about joining the Knights of Mystic Fire. He speaks to Dweomerkeeper Ilbrost Mythyl and the paladin Jelkar Feldspear – both are confused as to why a paladin of Ilmater wants to switch deities. Jelkar tells Ug he must swear devotion to the Mother of All Magic, and complete a quest to recover an item of ancient or lost magic for the temple. The half-orc says he doesn’t think it will take him long and he’ll be back “in an hour or two”.

With their business in Waterdeep complete, the PCs hire on as guards with the High Road Charter Company and get ready to leave in the morning. That night Rosie visits the Blushing Mermaid, using disguise self to appear as the Zhent “door keeper”, hires the most indiscreet prostitute on their books, and confesses to a diaper fetish.

8th Eleasias

The party and Jamna join the supply convoy heading north. It’s fair to say the cultists aren’t pleased to see the adventurers again.
Here’s what happened in last night’s session of Hoard of the Dragon Queen as the party's caravan passed through Daggerford and came within sight of Waterdeep, bringing Chapter 4 to a close. Each PC gets 770 xp, enough to reach 5th level.

23rd Kythorn

The PCs decide not to confront Bartek that night – instead Rosie will try to befriend him and lure him away from his fellow cultists so he can be ambushed.

24th Kythorn

Rosie begins her charm offensive but her coquettish behaviour only succeeds in baffling Bartek.

25th Kythorn

A group of over 200 worshippers of Loviatar, Maiden of Pain, blocks the road ahead, walking extremely slowly as they flagellate themselves with whips and scourges. Ug confronts the high priestess, threatening her to no avail. Turin and Rosie have more success, pointing out a thicket of gorse bushes off the road and encouraging the goddess’ followers to walk through the thorns.

That evening, the PCs put their plan to get rid of Bartek into action but things don't go quite as they expected. When Ug leaves the camp to hide in a nearby copse, he is followed by Bartek and his two companions and ambushed. The others rush in to help him – Crake kills Bartek while the paladin slays one of the cultists. Gwastdyn casts hold person on the third attacker, Penrin, and the adventurers take him prisoner. He knows little when the PCs interrogate him – Bartek had shared his suspicions about Ug with him but the Dark Sails mercenary only knows their wagon was bound for Waterdeep. He promises to go along with whatever the PCs ask of him to spare his life. Rosie’s story is that the three cultists were attacked by a bear. So, to make things more believable Gwastdyn wild shapes into bear form and wounds Penrin with his claws. The cultist limps back into camp, shouting about a bear attack.

26th Kythorn

That night, an invisible Crake sneaks into the cult’s wagon while Penrin is on watch and opens a couple of the crates inside. He steals a few choice items.

27th Kythorn

Rosie casts alarm each night on the PCs’ camp from this evening on. Gwastdyn spies on the other two cult wagons in weasel form and learns the cultists are suspicious of the PCs.

4th Flamerule

The caravan passes the mist-shrouded ruins of Dragonspear Castle.

6th Flamerule

The PCs kill two perytons as the caravan heads northwest along the Trade Way towards the Way Inn. The party talk to the human merchant Nyerhite Verther – he is skeptical about the amount of money the PCs will make from their peppercorns and other trade goods in Waterdeep. He shows them his "fine Calishite silk”. Unfortunately, it’s infested with worms and he becomes completely unhinged, ranting and raving, when he finds out.

8th Flamerule

A herd of deer are spotted on a rise above the road; a beautiful golden stag is among them. The caravan guards grab their bows and spears and charge off after the animals and they scatter. The PCs try and catch up with the mysterious golden stag – Gwastdyn is able to follow its trail for a while but loses sight of it in the trees.

19th Flamerule

The caravan reaches the Way Inn. The PCs enjoy hot baths and braised bustard on toasted buns for dinner, and pay a wainwright to fix their wagon. Turin is offered the chance to perform in exchange for free bed and board but refuses – he doesn’t want to draw the cultists’ attention to his musical talents.

21st Flamerule

It’s been a miserable wet and windy day when the caravan arrives at the small village of Bowshot that evening. When the PCs enter the inn, the embarrassed innkeeper tells them that all the rooms have been taken. Four arrogant, braying nobles are the only guests – they jeer at the party’s misfortune. Rosie is having none of it. Dumping a purse of coins on the bar, she heads upstairs to find a room. Two of the nobles draw weapons and go after her while the others confront the rest of the adventurers. A fight kicks off despite Ug’s attempts to hold back Gwastdyn (“it ain’t worth it!”). Although their attackers are competent swordsmen, capable of inflicting vicious wounds, the adventurers are able to defeat them. Rosie, who has been using the landlord as a human shield during the battle, takes down the last one with her agonizing blast. A search of their gear reveals that the four men were in disguise but provides no clues to their true identity.

27th Flamerule

The wagons reach Daggerford. Here, five new faces join the caravan – the merchants Oyn Evenmor and Lai Angesstun, the lawyer Aldor Urnpolehurst, the Thayvian Azbara Jos and the gnome Jamna Gleamsilver. Turin and Rosie talk to Jamna, establishing she is neither an entertainer or a “salesgnome”. Rosie gives her a Zhentarim code phrase and gets the correct response. She is told to sit tight for now. The PCs decide to allow the gnome to travel with their wagon, as long as she rides alongside.

29th Flamerule

The caravan leaves Daggerford. Azbara Jos is riding in Penrin’s wagon. The PCs notice Jamna keeping an eye on the cultists.

2nd Eleasias

Jamna approaches the PCs while they are eating breakfast and fishes a small object out of Crake’s oatmeal – a coiled sliver of bone that will cause a slow, painful death if swallowed. She warns them all their breakfasts are likely to be contaminated. Gwastdyn finds a suspicious object in his; they all throw their food away.

4th Eleasias

Two days from Waterdeep, the caravan awakens to find a dead body under one of the cult wagons. It’s Penrin – he’s been stabbed from behind with a sword. The cultists accuse the PCs of being behind the murder, but the merchants leap to the party’s defence. Even Azbara Jos speaks, calming the situation. The cultists reluctantly back down, although their hatred for the party is abundantly clear. Eventually, the merchants decide that with no witnesses, there is nothing to be done and the caravan gets ready to depart. It seems likely to the PCs that Jamna was responsible.
Here’s what happened in last night’s session of Hoard of the Dragon Queen as the party's caravan crossed the Fields of the Dead and entered the Trollclaws. Each PC gets 1,560 xp, bringing your totals to 6,000 xp, 500 xp short of 5th level.

13th Kythorn

In the evening, Gwastdyn notices one of the "travellers" – a bald, swarthy fellow with a lazy eye, named Bartek – is watching Ug suspiciously. At first, the dwarf decides not to tell Ug and just shares what's he's observed with the other three PCs. Changing into a weasel with wild shape he sneaks up on the cult wagon and listens to Bartek telling his two companions that he thinks Ug is the half-orc who fought Cyanwrath in single combat at Greenest. He returns to the others and shares what he's learned with Ug too.

That night while Crake is on watch, he spots Bartek sneaking up on the party's wagon with a spanner in his hand. The rogue wakes Turin who casts sleep on the cultist. The PCs grab hold of him, tie him up, and pull him into their wagon for interrogation. Rosie comes up with false names for the party (Brudd, Galadriel, Gruff and so on). When their captive tells them he believes "Brudd" to be a dangerous killer who needs to be brought to justice, Rosie pretends the PCs just hired him in Baldur's Gate. Bartek is clearly making stuff up, but the PCs are worried about "disappearing" him in the middle of the night, so they let him go with dire warnings of retribution if they catch him near their wagon again.

14th Kythorn

The caravan camps for the night near ancient barrows. Zombies commanded by a wight attack as the merchants and guards sleep. Ug is on watch but is surprised and ends up surrounded by zombies. Crake wakes up and stabs the wight with his rapier – doing a critical hit for 23 hp. The hideous undead warrior drains life energy from Turin and Crake before Gwastdyn rams his flaming sphere into the wight, killing it. Once the zombies are destroyed, the PCs leave Sulesdeg the Pole to guard their wagon while they plunder the wight's barrow. They give the Pole a cut of the coins and gems; Turin attunes to the Mac-Furmidh cittern they find.

17th Kythorn

When the caravan wakes up, they find that the continual rain has caused a huge carpet of fungus to sprout overnight, surrounding the camp and spreading onto the road. When stood on, the mushrooms give off black spores and shriek in pain. To make things worse, the fungi are growing taller as the PCs watch. Turin and Ug are both traumatised by the screams of the mushrooms when they are trodden on – all they can do is sob  and rock back and forth. Crake pulls two 10 foot poles from his robe of useful items and he, Rosie, and the Pole clear a path through the fungus to the road so the wagons can get moving again. Turin and Ug have weird nightmares for the next few nights and develop an aversion to mushrooms.

22nd Kythorn

The caravan camps in the Trollclaws, not far from the ford. The PCs and guard set up a ring of bonfires around the wagons and Rosie casts alarm. During the night a troll triggers the spell – the loud, ringing bell sound is enough to drive it off.

23rd Kythorn

The caravan waits for highsun, then races across the ford as fast as the wagons will go. As their wagon starts to move, Ug realises that one of the wheels is starting to wobble. Sabotage! Rosie casts mage hand to hold the wheel bolt in place as Gwastdyn commands their still unnamed, (but charmed) horse to head across the Winding Water.

Three trolls attack the wagons as they cross the ford, forcing them to run a gauntlet of savage teeth and claws.  Both Turin and Ug are badly wounded by a troll as they march alongside the wagon; the cultists lose a driver and a guard, and one of the merchants loses his halfing driver too. Turin casts dissonant whispers repeatedly to keep the trolls at bay, while Gwastdyn uses his flaming sphere to stop them regenerating, and Crake and Ug swing their blades. Meanwhile, Rosie keeps her mage hand tightly clenched on the loose wheel bolt. The PCs make it across, slaying two of the trolls as the caravan reaches the other side. The third troll gives up and withdraws to its lair.

Once the wagons have stopped at a safe distance from the ford, the PCs return to take care of the final troll. Crake scouts ahead, heading into the troll cave. The adventurers corner the foul creature with Gwastdyn's flaming sphere and take it down. They return to the caravan with boxes and bundles of looted trade goods and discuss what to do about Bartek...

Books Read 2015

Here's the list of what I read in 2015 – 65 is the most books I've read in a few years.

As always, it's an eclectic mix of fiction, non-fiction, D&D books and other RPGs, and graphic novels, in both print and eBook formats.

1. Grandeville Noel by Bryan Talbot
2. The Golden Fool by Robin Hobb
3. 13 True Ways (13th Age)
4. The Wreck of Volund's Glory by Wade Rockett (13th Age/Midgard adventure)
5. Hogfather by Terry Pratchett
6. Not Dead Enough by Peter James
7. Town Backdrop: Deksport by Creighton Broadhurst (Raging Swan Press)
8. The Location Crafter by Tana Pigeon (Word Mill)
9. Fool's Fate by Robin Hobb
10. Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher
11. The Murky Deep (AD&D 2e adventure)
12. The Immortals of Meluha by Amish
13. Nemo: Heart of Ice by Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neill
14. The 45% Factor by Stuart Macbride
15. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
16. Hellboy: Wake the Devil by Mike Mignola
17. The Outcast Blade by Jon Courtenay Grimwood
18. You Are Dead by Peter James
19. Nemo: The Roses of Berlin by Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neill
20. Nemo: River of Ghosts by Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neill
21. Interesting Times by Terry Pratchett
22. Broken Monsters by Lauren Bewkes
23. Play Dirty 2 - Even Dirtier by John Wick
24. Kobold Guide to Magic (Kobold Press)
25. Make Your Own Luck by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan (13th Age adventure)
26. White Night by Jim Butcher
27. Numenera by Monte Cook
28. Eyes of the Stone Thief by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan (13th Age Adventure)
29. Uprooted by Naomi Novik
30. Primeval Thule (Sasquatch Game Studio)
31. Dead Man’s Footsteps by Peter James
32. The Wilful Princess and the Piebald Prince by Robin Hobb
33. The Truth by Terry Pratchett
34. The Exiled Blade by Jon Courtenay Grimwood
35. Six Years by Harlan Coben
36. The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson
37. Hellboy: Conqueror Worm by Mike Mignola
38. Make Me by Lee Child
39. The Wicked + The Divine: Vol. 1, The Faust Act by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie
40. The Wicked + The Divine: Vol. 2, Fandemonium by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie
41. The City and the City by China Mieville
42. Southlands by Wolfgang Baur, Ben McFarland & Brian Suskind (Kobold Press)
43. The Strangling Sea by Robin D Laws (13th Age adventure)
44. The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
45. The Scroll of Years by Chris Willrich
46. The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson
47. Eeny Meeny by M J Aldridge
48. The Forgotten Monk by Greg Stolze
49. Small Wars by Lee Child
50. The Strange by Bruce Cordell
51. Eschatology Code by Bruce Cordell (The Strange adventure)
52. The Story of the Stone by Barry Hughart
53. Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide (D&D 5e)
54. Night of the Yellow Moon by John Dunn (13th Age/Primeval Thule adventure)
55. The Last Continent by Terry Pratchett
56. The Lost Tower of Viondor by Jason Nelson (13th Age/Primeval Thule adventure)
57. Out of the Abyss (D&D 5e adventure)
58. A Red and Pleasant Land by Zak S (Lamentations of the Flame Princess)
59. Freeing Nethus by Christina Stiles (Midgard adventure)
60. Sweetgirl by Travis Mulhauser
61. Cat and Mouse by Richard Pett (5e Southlands adventure)
62. Southlands Heroes by Rich Howard (5e Southlands)
63. Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb
64. Doors Open by Ian Rankin
65. Northlanders Book 5: Metal and Other Stories by Brian Wood
66. The Autumnlands Book 1: Tooth & Claw by Kurt Busiek & Benjamin Dewey

I also read quite a few monthly comics which aren't on this list but I enjoyed Rat Queens, Copperhead, Lazarus, Pathfinder: Origins and The Sandman: Overture.

Oh, and for those of you that are interested, my album of the year was Skinny Lister's Down on Deptford Broadway – thanks very much to Matt for suggesting we went to see them live! 


Tyranny of Dragons, Session 7: Wagons Roll

Here's what happened in last night's episode of Hoard of the Dragon Queen. Each PC earned 500 xp, bringing total experience to 4,440 xp.

28th Mirtul

Town criers and broadsheets from Baldur's Mouth announce news of last night's violent robbery in the Lower City. Maggers gives Crake the party's cut of the take and tells him the PCs need to lie low for a while. Ug contemplates turning himself in, and insists that Rosie needs to confess her sins at the Shrine of Suffering. Turin gives Rosie the necklace he bought for her from Edhelri's stall. The adventurers spend the evening in the pub planning their next move.

29th Mirtul

The PCs buy a draft horse, a wagon from Ackyn Selebon, and 100 gp in bulky trade goods to fill it. Rosie tells Ug she's been to the Shrine of Suffering and atoned for her sins by wearing a hair shirt.

That night, the PCs break into the building at the sign of the fox. Ug climbs in through an upper story window, followed by Rosie and Turin and finally, Gwastdyn. Meanwhile, Crake picks the lock on the front door. When he enters the house, he draws the attention of Rex, the owner's hell hound pet. The hell hound breathes on the thief and Rosie, dealing 21 hp damage to both of them. Ug moves downstairs to help while Turin creates an illusionary hole in the floor in front of the other bedroom door. The three sleeping thugs in the front room wake up – Gwastdyn changes into bear form and attacks them. Aravax Foxtraveler comes out of his room, leaps over the hole, and attacks Turin. The hell hound breathes on Ug (twice) but the paladin survives, killing the fiendish mutt with Edge of Agony. Gwastdyn kills one of the thugs, Turin knocks Aravax unconscious and the last two surviving enemies throw down their weapons.

The party interrogate Aravax who tells them he is expecting a group of travellers on 7th Kythorn – they will stay overnight before moving on to the north. He knows very little about them – in his business you don't ask questions. His hell hound was a gift from a Red Wizard. Clearly scared by the PCs' casual conversation about whether or not to kill him and threats to turn him in to the Flaming Fist, he promises not to say a word to anyone about them. The party untie him and head back to their boarding house.


6th Kythorn

Rosie and Gwastdyn return to the safe house to wait for the cultists.

7th Kythorn

The cultists arrive. Crake, who is in the street opposite, goes to fetch Turin and Ug from the pub. Meanwhile, Rosie turns invisible and Gwastdyn wild shapes into a mouse. Both are able to witness the arrival of a black half-dragon (Rezmir) and around 20 cultists – some bear the insignia of the Storm Blades mercenary group. Rosie slips out of the front door as her spell is about to expire but Gwastdyn stays longer and checks out the chests the cultists are storing in the basement.

After an hour, Rezmir leaves in a palanquin with some of her guards and visits Selebon's yard where she hires three wagons under the watching eyes of Ug who has hidden in a cupboard.

8th Kythorn

The caravan assembles – there are eight wagons in total, including the PCs'. The cult have three wagons, each manned by a driver and a guard. Two separate groups of (one of four, one of five) are going with them as travellers. There is no sign of Rezmir. Before wagons roll, Rosie visits Bigbelly and asks him to pass on a message to the Zhentarim agent joining the caravan at Daggerford.

11th Kythorn

After three days of wary but uneventful travelling through the Fields of the Dead, a stranded wagon is  spotted on the road ahead. Its horses are dead and the occupants are cowering underneath – a band of hobgoblins in wolfskins has them pinned down. The PCs rush into action, attacking the humanoids, which brings grateful cries of joy from the merchant who turns out to be Samardag the Hoper, their old employer. Worried that he is going to blow their cover Rosie sends him a message telling him to "Shut the fuck up!" The PCs swiftly dispatch the hobgoblins after Turin uses dissonant whispers to send their captain packing. They reluctantly agree to give Samardag a ride on their wagon as long as he promises to keep quiet.

Tyranny of Dragons, Session 6: Baldur's Gate

Here’s what happened in last night’s session of Hoard of the Dragon Queen. Each PC gets 610 xp.

25th Mirtul, 1490 DR

The PCs dock at the Gray Harbour and make their way through the Lower City. En route they see graffiti daubed on buildings reading "Down with the Patriars” and "Extinguish the Flaming Fist!” and observe the Flaming Fist dishing out some rough treatment to foreign workers from the Outer City.  Arriving in Blackgate, outside the city walls to the northwest, the PCs make contact with Ackyn Selebon as per their instructions from Ontharr Frume. They rent rooms at the Dozing Dwarf boarding house – Gwastdyn is very particular about cleanliness and inspects several rooms before finding one that’s acceptable. Even then, Turin has to clean it over and over with a cantrip before the dwarf is satisfied.

26th Mirtul

Crake goes to the Outer City district of Stonyeyes to see his old gang. On the way, he witnesses the dwarf toll collector, Nant Thangol, and the Flaming Fist charging extra “fees” to people leaving via the Basilisk Gate. Maggers and Robin tell him that Rilsa Rael of the Guild has ordered Crozier’s Gang to rob Thangol’s daily take – can Crake’s new friends help? Crake spends the night at the gang’s HQ.

Turin and Gwastdyn go to the Wide. The dwarf is looking for fresh, clean linens for his bed, while the elf seeks his old admirer, the moon elf merchant Edhelri Lewel. Sadly, Edhelri’s jewellery business is in the doldrums – after rebuffing the advances of the lecherous Bailiff of the Wide, her stall has been moved next to the privy tents! Turin spins a yarn to the Bailiff about a group of influential noble ladies who have been demanding that Edhelri’s stall is restored to its original pitch – this fools the official and he agrees to the bard’s request.

Rosie visits the Low Lantern down at the harbour and asks around about her old mutinous shipmates from the Merman’s Cock. Her enquiries lead her back to Blackgate where she meets Borstig Bigbelly of the Zhentarim – the faction are also interested in the Cult of the Dragon. Bigbelly suggests Rosie hire on with a caravan heading north; an agent will join at Daggerford. He also warns her Ackyn Selebon has "trouble coming", and tells her to check out the “sign of the fox”.

Ug is keen to find out more about the goddess Mystra and goes to the magic shop Sorcerous Sundries where he talks to Rivalen Blackhand, wizard in residence. After babbling on about Mystra for a while, Blackhand suggests Ug visit the House of Wonder in Waterdeep's Sea Ward and find out more about Mystra’s paladins, the Knights of Mystic Fire. Afterwards, Ug goes to the Shrine of Suffering to pay his respects to Ilmater.

27th Mirtul

As the PCs meet up to discuss whether or not to get involved in robbing tax collectors, they spot a group of dodgy-looking characters heading for Selebon’s yard. This is a group of Guild thugs led by infamous Fruward the Nail who have come to kill Selebon for allegedly spying for the Flaming Fist. Rosie and Crake are wary of getting involved so hang back – the warlock turns invisible and sets fire to a thatched roof to cause a distraction while Crake attacks from hiding. Meanwhile, Ug, Turin and Gwastdyn the lion get stuck in, killing Fruward and capturing four of the thugs. While Crake remains outside, the other PCs question their captives and agree to let them go once they’ve convinced them that Selebon isn’t a Fist spy. The Guild thugs hastily back away.

Turin visits the Wide and finds a very happy Edhelri back in her old pitch; he buys a nice necklace for Rosie. Crake returns to Stonyeyes and tells Maggers and Robin that the party are willing to carry out the robbery that night.

The PCs scout the route Thangol takes from the Basilisk Gate and set up their ambush. As the toll collector’s party approaches, they strike. Turin casts sleep which takes care of Thangol, the two porters and one lamp lad, as Gwastdyn goes into melee in bear form with the Flaming Fist guards. Rosie and Crake attack from the rooftops, killing two Flaming Fist soldiers. Maggers and Robin grab the cashbox as Turin's dissonant whispers send the Flaming Fist Manip (sergeant) running. Ug, who has not taken part, lets him pass. With their mission accomplished, the PCs flee the scene.

Tyranny of Dragons, Session 5: Elturgard

Here’s what happened in last night’s session of Hoard of the Dragon Queen. Each PC gets 600 xp.

15th Mirtul, 1490 DR
The party return to Greenest where Ug leads the way in returning plunder stolen by the Cult to its rightful owners. Turin performs a gig at the tavern which goes down well with the locals.

16th Mirtul
The PCs leave for Elturel on horses provided by Leosin.

19th Mirtul
Beautiful singing comes from a tree-covered hill close to the road, prompting the PCs to investigate. As they approach, the party come under attack by a clamour of harpies whose luring songs charm Crake, Gwastdyn and Ug. Shaking off the charm effects, the PCs, with Gwastdyn as a “barkskin bear”, slay four of the creatures, then rescue Vert, a human male who has been manacled to a standing stone at the top of the hill. Climbing up into the harpy nests in the trees, the PCs find a few gems – Ug returns Vert's turquoises to him until Rosie persuades the hapless fellow to hand one over as a reward for his rescue. The bold warlock leads the way down into the tunnels beneath the hill – a fifth harpy is soon dispatched and a pool of water with healing properties is discovered. After a rest, the party continue on through Elturgard towards the city of Elturel.

21st Mirtul
The adventurers arrive in Elturel, crossing the River Chionthar on the ferry and heading for A Pair of Black Antlers where they meet Ontharr Frume. The boisterous paladin challenges them to a yard of ale drinking contest, then arm wrestles Ug. Rosie takes bets from all comers, and Turin performs the famous song, The Knights of Dragon Down. When the others have retired for the night, Rosie tries to find out if there is a local Zhentarim presence but is unsuccessful.


22nd Mirtul
Ontharr Frume and Leosin Erlanthar explain they are members of the Order of the Gauntlet and the Harpers respectively, and are working with a third group, the Emerald Enclave, to oppose the Cult of the Dragon. They brief the PCs on their mission – to find out what the cult are up to by following their treasure wagons north by joining the caravan in which it hides. The party should travel by boat to Baldur’s Gate in the morning, and make contact with Ackyn Selebon in Blackgate; it is likely the cult wagons will not arrive for around ten days. Ontharr Frume is impressed with Ug and invites the paladin to join the Order of the Gauntlet – the half-orc says yes.

Turin wants to shopping so the party visit The Able Alchemist. Here, Algar Braden sells them some potions of healing and energy resistance before a coughing fit causes him to drop a flask of alchemist’s fire and start a fire! Some half-assed attempts to smother the blaze with cloaks are made with little success but Gwastdyn is at least able to fetch a bucket of water to throw over the flames. As various potions and powders catch fire blinding the PCs, they beat a retreat, dragging Algar with them. Rosie goes back to rescue the alchemist’s hedgehog familiar just before the whole shop explodes. As is her wont, she bamboozles the alchemist into a reward for saving little Tanglefoot.

23rd Mirtul
The PCs head downriver to Baldur’s Gate. Rosie first tries to sack the pilot but the other PCs persuade her that it might be a good idea to have someone who knows the waters.

24th Mirtul
A pair of ogres on an ancient bridge over the river demand a toll from the party to let them pass. The PCs aren’t willing to pay and make for the shore as the ogres pelt the boat with rocks and crocodiles try to capsize the vessel. Ug, Turin and Gwastdyn battle the ogres on the bridge while Crake and Rosie deal with the crocs – both get grabbed in reptilian jaws. When Rosie escapes, her eldritch blast misfires, striking the helpless Crake instead. Happily, the ogres have some treasure, including a pair of goggles of night.

25th Mirtul
With the boat repaired, the party arrive in Baldur’s Gate.
Here's what happened in last night's session of Hoard of the Dragon Queen. Each PC gets 1,387 xp, enough to reach 4th level.

14th Mirtul, 1490 DR

The PCs are joined by Gwastdyn who has arrived from Greenest. Leaving Turin to keep watch over the raiders' camp from the tower, they head back inside the cave. No new guards await in the entrance so they return to Frulam Mondath's quarters. The Wearer of Purple has heard them coming and has her spirit guardians in place to protect her. But with no cultist allies this time, Mondath is easier to defeat and Rosie delivers the killing strike. Gwastdyn tidies up after the battle, putting the cultist's body in her bed. The dwarf druid doesn't like to leave a mess.

Rosie sneaks ahead, climbing down the shaft to the Dragon Shrine. When she's spotted by Cyanwrath, she calls for help and turns invisible. The other PCs climb down, which is just as well – the half-dragon's lightning breath drops the warlock as soon as she becomes visible. Crake kills one of the berserk cultists, as Ug seeks revenge on Cyanwrath for his defeat in Greenest. But it's Gwastdyn in bear form that takes Cyanwrath down, much to the paladin's disappointment. Crake opens the chest without triggering its trap and grabs the loot. More tidying up follows as the party haul the bodies up to Mondath's room.

The PCs enter the Dragon Hatchery. Ug is glued to the floor by kobold grenades and set on fire, but he is able to pull himself free. Still under fire, the PCs go down the stairs to the eggs but are attacked by a pair of drakes. At this point, they become aware of the roper in the corner who asks them if they are here with more meat. With the odds against them and Rosie unconscious yet again, Crake and Gwastdyn take inspiration from Turin's song that says "you've got to search for the hero inside yourself."  The battle turns in the PCs' favour – the drakes are killed, and the last surviving kobold surrenders.

hot drake on Crake action

Deyjen the kobold guides the party to the "meat locker" and Ug drags a dead bear back to feed to the roper. After munching it down, the weird creature crawls off in the direction of the meat storage, leaving the PCs free to explore the hatchery. Three black dragon eggs are found and smashed. Ug lets Deyjen go ("he's done his job").

The PCs explore the rest of the caverns. Ug manages to trigger two kobold traps - one in the Drake Nursery and one in the Kobold Barracks, collapsing part of the ceiling on top of Crake and Rosie. There are young drakes lurking in the nursery but they hide behind stalagmites when the PCs take potshots at them from above. The kobolds appear to have all fled from the roper.

Gwastdyn changes into a giant rat to scavenge through the waste pit, attracting the attention of four troglodytes who appear through fissures in the walls. With only 7 hp, he's back in his dwarf form as soon as he's hit by a javelin. The rest of the party cover his retreat, killing one of the trogs with ranged attacks. The other foul-smelling creatures slink away, and the PCs decide to do the same, heading back outside for a long rest.

Pic by @gogmagog
Here's what happened in Saturday night's session of Hoard of the Dragon Queen. Each PC gets 443 xp.

13th Mirtul, 1490 DR

Rosie wakes up in terrible pain after a night of disturbing dreams of torture. Somehow her skin was peeled from her back while she slept and used to cover the sinister Book of Shadows she finds at the bottom of her bed!

When the PCs meet for breakfast, Gwastdyn tells that Leosin has a mission for them, but he needs to stay in Greenest for a day or so and look after the monk. He gives the party a big bag of goodberries to take with them. Leosin arrives and asks the party to return to the cultist camp and discover what their plans are. In particular, they should find out what's in the well-guarded cave. They are to meet Leosin in Elturel to report – if he's not there, they should seek out the paladin Ontharr Frume, a member of the Order of the Gauntlet, at A Pair of Black Antlers, the city's best-known tavern.

The PCs travel back across the Greenfields to the raiders' camp. As they approach, it's clear that the majority of the cultists have left. Climbing one of the guard towers, Turin and Rosie spot a couple of hunters who are skinning an antelope. The party talk to them for a few minutes and learn that some of the cult leaders and kobolds are still in the cave. Rosie uses friends to persuade the woman to take them up to the cave, but the spell wears off before they can get inside, and the hunter stomps off angrily.

Rosie casts invisibility and goes ahead, followed Turin, then the other two. Unfortunately, the bard walks straight into an ambush by two dragonclaw cultists and goes unconscious in the first round of combat. The warlock brings him back round with a goodberry, and the PCs are able to kill the dragonclaws. After searching the area where the two attackers appeared from and  finding nothing of interest, they head further into the complex.

In the fungus garden, Turin and Rosie are attacked by violet fungi – the warlock experiences hallucinations of a monkey stealing her Book of Shadows and running off with it. While she chases it up a large stalagmite, the others destroy the dangerous plant creatures with ranged attacks from the top of the steps.

The cave beyond is full of hundreds of bats which Ug disturbs with his clanking and stomping. As the bats fly around, filling the cavern with their squeaking and flapping, a swarm of stirges take advantage of the confusion and attack the adventurers. Crake, Rosie and Turin all have a stirge latch on to them, but Ug ends up with three attached. The paladin loses a lot of blood before the party can help him dispose of the nasty little creatures.

With everyone low on hit points and most of the goodberries eaten, the PCs decide they need a short rest. Returning to the entrance cave, they sit down in the "dead end" they found before and Turin gets out his lute to play a restful tune. Sadly, his strumming attracts a group of cultists who come through the hidden passage from their barracks and attack the party. The PCs are able to defeat them, but decide not to push their luck, retreating to the empty huts outside to rest without being disturbed again.

When the PCs return to the cave shortly afterwards, they find the entrance occupied by a vicious guard drake and two urds (winged kobolds) who annoy the party by dropping rocks on their heads from aloft. Once these foes have been dealt with, the adventurers push on to the barracks where run into yet more cultists. Three of them dash out of the exit to the east, while the others step up to attack. After these too have been vanquished, Turin checks out the almost empty treasure vault to the west, killing a snoring, drunken cultist in cold blood.

From here, the PCs press on, advancing into Frulam Mondath's quarters where the three cultists who ran off await with the Wearer of Purple herself. The evil cult leader is surrounded by ghostly red demons and hangs back to cast spiritual weapon, leaving her lackeys to engage the party in melee. The PCs battle past these minions – Crake perhaps wishes he hadn't when he falls foul of the infernal spirit guardians protecting Mondath and drops unconscious. Fortunately Rosie has one last goodberry and is able to bring him round. Ug moves in to attack Frulam with his fearsome war cry "Feel my slash!" but the cultist has had enough, jumping through a hidden opening in the floor. The half-orc runs after her, but thinks better of it when he hears Cyanwrath's voice and remembers he is very badly injured.

With their enemies on the run but still very much alive, and our heroes out of spells and low on hit points, they decide to withdraw to the nearest guard tower for a long rest.
Here’s what happened in last night’s Hoard of the Dragon Queen. Each PC gets 500 xp, enough to reach 3rd level.

11th Mirtul, 1490 DR

An hour before dawn, the PCs hear cries coming from the battlements of the keep. The raiders appear to be getting ready to leave, but a fearsome blue-scaled half-dragon has approached the keep. This is Langdedrosa Cyanwrath. Surrounded by his kobold honour guard, he calls for Greenest’s champion to come forth and face him in single combat. In exchange, he will release four pitiful prisoners – a woman and her three children. Ug is, of course, eager to fight the half-dragon and marches out of the keep right away; the rest of the PCs follow at a safe distance. Cyanwrath is true to his word, releasing the two youngest children before the start of the fight, while his kobolds hold knives to the throats of the other two captives to ensure fair play from the adventurers.

The battle begins. Unfortunately, the half-dragon is fastest, breathing a line of lightning at the paladin which he can only partly dodge. Then, Ug closes to melee and strikes the half-dragon with his axe. Cyanwrath slashes twice in return, reducing the half-orc to below 0 hp, but his relentless endurance allows him to stay on his feet. Ug lands a critical hit on the evil warrior, but then falls to the half-dragon’s sword. Cyanwrath strides into the darkness, as the kobolds release the other two prisoners, laughing at the paladin’s fate. Gwastdyn rushes to Ug’s aid and heals him.

With the raid finally over, the PCs have a few drinks and collapse into bed, exhausted. Gwastdyn is completely out for the count so Rosie takes the opportunity to shave off the dwarf’s eyebrows and moustache while he snores away.

In the early afternoon, the PCs are woken up by a knock on the door. Governor Nighthill has come to ask them to follow the raiders to their camp and bring back information on their leaders, numbers and intentions, offering them 250 gp each (!) from the town treasury. He tells the party that an injured monk is also waiting to speak to them in the courtyard. Gwastdyn refuses to get up, so the others go and talk to the monk alone. The lisping young fellow introduces himself as Nesim Waladra and explains that his master, Leosin Erlanthar, has been captured by the raiders. Leosin, a member of the Harpers, had been trying to find out as much as possible about the dragon cult in the library at Candlekeep and had come to Greenest to spy on them. When the others tell Gwastdyn this, he is keen to get going straight away – Leosin is an old friend who once saved his life.

The PCs travel across the Greenfields, following the numerous tracks of the cultists. After a few hours, the gently rolling hills give way to rugged terrain as the trail winds between steep-sided rocky plateaus. Up ahead, the party spot a thin column of smoke from a campfire. As they get closer they can hear the sound of raised voices – a group of raiders are arguing over the best way to cook prairie hens. Ug rushes up the slope to get a better view, with the others close behind. The PCs are able to attack the four humans and eight kobolds with surprise, defeating them easily. Two of the kobolds run away but Gwastdyn chases after them in his bear wild shape and kills them before they can warn any of their allies in the main camp.

Crake had knocked one of the humans unconscious so he can be interrogated. Unfortunately, Ug loses patience and smashes the prisoner’s head in before he can tell the PCs anything useful.

Back on the trail, the PCs enter an area where the tracks head through a narrow gap between two rocky outcrops. Suspicious, the party manage to spot a group of cultists lying in wait in the rocks above the path before they attack. Turin casts sleep, taking two of the cultists out, and the PCs climb up to the rocks and attack the cultists in melee. Two of the cultists are acolytes and use command to force Crake and Ug to jump back down again, suffering falling damage in the process, but the party are able to make fairly short work of their enemies.

Turin kills one of the sleeping cultists, then the PCs interrogate the other one. Rosie leads the questioning, banging a piton into the cultist’s hand to encourage him to talk. This tactic proves effective and the warlock learns there are actually two half-dragons among the cultists and that the main camp is less than a mile away. After unpinning the cultist's hand, she also learns the five-fingered cult salute (“Praise Tiamat’s glory!”).

After a short rest, the PCs move up to the horseshoe-shaped hollow where the raiders have set up their camp. Gwastdyn wild shapes into a cat and scouts around, identifying the tents of the kobolds, three mercenary groups (the Storm Blades, the Red Suns and the Dark Sails), the cultists, and the command tent. He can hear voices inside the latter speaking in Draconic. He also spots a well-guarded cave and the place where Leosin is tied to a wooden cross. He returns to the others to report.

The adventurers decide to dress in the cultist garb they’d taken from the ambushers, and masquerade as returning raiders with Ug as their prisoner. They make their way past the kobolds without too much trouble and, through talking to several cultists, work out that the truly-dedicated make a three-fingered (rather than five-fingered) salute to Tiamat. Some of the Dark Sails recognise Ug from his duel with Cyanwrath but fall for the PCs’ story that they are taking the half-orc to Frulam Mondath.

Crake suggests causing a distraction to allow them to approach the well-guarded cave without being detected. Turin uses minor illusion to make it sound like the Red Suns are attacking the Dark Sails while Gwastdyn sets fire to one of the Dark Sails’ tents with produce flame. This creates enough of a kerfuffle for the PCs to reach the cave, but the guards on the entrance do not let them in despite Rosie’s persistence. No one is allowed into “the nursery” without permission from Rezmir, the female black half-dragon who is the overall leader of the raiders.

The PCs decide it’s too dangerous to try and get into the command tent and retreat to a cave in the cliff wall to keep watch. When a young messenger returns from the leaders’ tent, they grab hold of him and drag him into their cave for questioning. They learn that Rezmir, Mondath, Cyanwrath and a red-robed human wizard are in the tent, and that the cult are planning to head north in a couple of days with the loot they’ve captured. The PCs tie up their prisoner and wait for dark.

Turin climbs up the cliff wall and secures a rope, while Crake and Rosie take position at the bottom. Meanwhile, Ug and Gwastdyn cut the grateful Leosin free from his bonds and help him down. They hustle back to the others and make their escape. As the last PC reaches the top of the cliff, Leosin’s absence is spotted by the cultists and the alarm is sounded. The heroes hurry away into the night.

12th Mirtul

The PCs arrive back in Greenest with Leosin who has filled them in on everything he knows about the cult. Nesim and the other monks are overjoyed to see their master alive, and Governor Nightfall pays the party their promised 250 gp each, praising their courage and daring.

Pic by Gog Magog

Sea Bitch now on sale

Avast! Looks like Sea Bitch, my new pirate village for Raging Swan Press is now on sale at drivethrurpg.com :)

Sea Bitch Preview

My latest bit of game design - a new pirate village backdrop - is out on 4th June from Raging Swan Press 😃

Read the preview at Raging Swan
Here’s what happened in our first session of Hoard of the Dragon Queen yesterday.

Each PC earns 400 xp, enough to reach 2nd level.

Introducing Our Heroes

  • Crake Crozier, human rogue, charlatan

  • "Flotsam" Rosie Fleisch, half-elf warlock, pirate (sailor)

  • Gwastdyn Strakeln, shield dwarf druid, outlander

  • Turin Elinast, moon elf bard, entertainer

  • Ug St. John Smith, half-orc paladin of Ilmater, acolyte

10th Mirtul, 1490 DR

After travelling for several days across the Greenfields, guarding the wagon of optimistic merchant Samardag the Hoper, the PCs arrive at the town of Greenest at sundown, only to find it under attack from a dragon. Ug rushes into town to investigate; the others follow, leaving Samardag and his wagon at the side of the road.

Ug charges down the main road, closely followed by Gwastdyn; Rosie, Crake and Turin are more cautious and decide to follow the stream to the south into town. The half-orc and the dwarf soon run into a family being chased by four kobolds. It’s too late to save the woman, but the pair kill the kobolds and rescue her husband and three children. Meanwhile, the other group have encountered a second band of kobolds accompanied by an ambush drake. Turin and Crake go unconscious, leaving it to Rosie to stand alone. Fortunately Crake rolls 20 on her death save and comes round, then Gwastyn and Ug arrive to help. The druid heals Turin, Crake stabs the drake through the head, killing it, and the party are able to defeat the remaining kobolds. They hide in a house with the farmer Cuth Swift and his three children and have a short rest. Cuth tells the PCs they need to try and reach the safety of the keep.

Sneaking though the brush by the stream, the PCs lead Cuth and his kids towards the keep, with Ug carrying the body of Linan. Open ground lies between their position and the castle, so Turin uses his disguise kit to make the children look as much like kobolds as he can while the rest of the party and Cuth pretend to be cultists. The group are challenged by a patrol of raiders but manage to bluff their way past to reach safety. The doors of the keep are barred shut behind them as soon as they are inside.

Governor Nighthill is up on the parapet at the top of the keep and fills the party in on what’s been happening. The governor asks the PCs to open up the old tunnel which runs from the cellar to the stream so it can be used as a secret route in and out of the keep. After some persuasion, he gives them a potion of healing to take with them on their mission, and suggests they try and bring back a prisoner to interrogate. The party are taken down to the cellars by the castellan, Escobert the Red, and given the keys to the tunnel doors. The PCs battle two swarms of rats in the tunnel, then open the grate at the other end. They encounter a group of cultists and kobolds by the banks of the stream, defeating them quickly and taking one of the humans prisoner.

The PCs take their prisoner back to the keep where he is interrogated – Escobert and Ug take it in turns punching him until he tells them all he knows. The party learn that he is a member of the Cult of the Dragon, the raiders are in Greenest to collect loot "for the great hoard that will usher in the reign of the Queen of Dragons”, and they are led by a woman called Frulam Mondath. The dragon flying overhead is an ally but not under her command.

By now it is midnight and the governor sends the adventurers to rescue the townsfolk trapped inside the temple of Chauntea which is under attack from three groups of raiders. The PCs sneak through the bushes alongside the stream to reach the church without being detected, then use the smoke from the fire the cultists have started at the back door to provide concealment as they attack with surprise. Crake picks the lock on the door and the party goes inside. After some shouting they manage to calm down the panicking townsfolk with the help of Eadyan Falconmoon, the priest, and get them through the door to safety before the raiders manage to smash down the front door.

Back in the keep, the governor again asks the PCs for help – this time he wants them to stop the attackers burning down the town mill. This time, the party what kind of payment they can expect in exchange for their services. Governor Nighthill is a bit disappointed but gives them a second potion of healing and promises them a reward when the town is saved. Satisfied our heroes head for the mill but when they get there and see that the building isn’t really on fire, they are suspicious. Rosie scouts ahead and spots a pair of cultists lurking on the upper floor. Deciding it’s a trap, the PCs return to the keep as they can see the dragon is now circling around the tower.

The PCs hurry to the roof and make a few ineffective ranged attacks on the great blue dragon as it swoops in to breathe lightning on the defenders. Luckily, the party are unscathed, but several brave town guards are killed instantly. Rosie – who has experience of firing a ballista from her time as a pirate – shoots at the terrible beast, scoring a critical hit! The dragon decides that it’s not worth tangling with the adventurers and maybe getting wounded again. He flies off, leaving Greenest. Relieved, the adventurers go back downstairs for a much-needed short rest.

Making My First Numenera Character

For the last few weeks, I’ve been reading the Numenera core rulebook. This is one of a number of RPG books I’ve bought in PDF in the last year, often at sale prices from drivethrurpg.com or via Bundles of Holding, and I’m slowly working my way through reading them. I don’t think I’ll get the chance to play or run Numenera any time soon, so thought I’d create a character.

One of the cool concepts behind Numenera is how your descriptor (the adjective that describes your character),  type (character class), and focus (what your character is all about) combine into a sentence like this:

Rafiq is a mystical (descriptor) nano (type) who explores dark places (focus)

So if another player asks you to tell her about your character, you’ve got this sentence to sum him or her up. Very neat.

Each of these three elements gives your character some abilities as you’d expect:

The nano is the Ninth World’s equivalent of a wizard or sorcerer, so Rafiq knows about the numenera – relics of past worlds that can be found while adventuring – and gets to use esoteries – magic-like special abilities that fit in with Numenera’s science fantasy setting. I picked Ward which gives Rafiq +1 armour – handy as I don’t think he’ll be wearing any – and Onslaught which allows him to attack an enemy he can see with either a ray of force or a mental blast.

Being a nano also determines Rafiq’s stats. There are only three in Numenera – Might, Speed and Intellect. Each has a starting value and I get 6 points to divide between them. Rafiq has 9 Might, 11 Speed and 14 Intellect. I also choose a nano connection for Rafiq – he studied at a school infamous for its dark, brooding instructors and graduates. He’s not going to be a jolly soul.

The Mystical descriptor gives Rafiq +2 Intellect, bringing his pool to 16, and gives him another esotery – Hedge Magic – pretty similar to prestidigitation in D&D. He can also sense “magic” around him but his moody, introspective nature makes it hard for him to make friends – tasks involving charming and persuading others are one step harder. Rafiq’s descriptor adds to his background too – I decide a dream has guided me to wherever the first adventure starts.

Each PC's focus is meant be what’s unique about him, so there shouldn’t be another PC who Explores Dark Places in Rafiq’s party. His focus makes Rafiq’s esoteries dark – almost silent, and any visual effects are shadowy. Cool. He’s trained in climbing, balancing and jumping, as well as searching and listening, and gets some bonus gear including an explorer’s pack. Handy for anyone who likes poking around in dangerous ancient ruins. I need to choose another PC as a former adventuring partner and Rafiq will get +1 to die rolls when the two of them collaborate on a task or attack the same foe.

Rafiq is obviously going to wear a black, hooded cloak over dark clothes; I choose a rapier as his weapon. He also gets three cyphers and two oddities from his type and descriptor. Cyphers are very cool one-use items, bits of ancient tech that can be found in ruins and other locales throughout the Ninth World. Rafiq can only bear three of them at any one time – the game activley encourages players to use these, rather than hoarding them.

Rafiq has a psychic communique (a metallic disk on his forehead which allows him to send a one off, one way telepathic message of up to ten words to anyone he knows), a temporal viewer (a wristband which shows, in sounds and images, events that took place at the current location up to a year ago), and a visual displacement device (a belt which projects holographic images to confuse attackers).

Oddities are like 5e’s trinkets, interesting little items that don’t have game effects. Rafiq has a lightning bug in a glass globe and a rose made of nigh-indestructible glass. Maybe he’ll find a use for these items on his adventures, or will be able to trade them with someone?

And that’s it. Character creation was fun and straightforward, and I’ve ended up with an interesting PC with some nice background elements to think about and a handful of cool abilities and one-shot items to use in the game. I've still not got my head round Numenera's rules system, but making a character has certainly got me excited about the game.

So, when do I get to play him? ;)


Village Backdrop: Red Talon

It's not a Parsantium book, but if you like my stuff, why not check out Village Backdrop: Red Talon, the pirate village I wrote for Raging Swan Press?

Village Backdrop: Red Talon

Here's the blurb:

Huddled in a sheltered cove at the base of lofty cliffs, the tiny village of Red Talon is inaccessible by land for all but the best climbers. Its folk are insular and vague rumours lay cannibalism and devil‐worship at their door—with good reason. Founded by the vicious pirate captain Hagruk Stormrider Red Talon hides a vicious, depraved cult dedicated to the unholy, cannibalistic worship of the little-known Ukre’kon’ala.

Adventurers often come to Red Talon—not to battle the hidden cult—but for the pirate booty said to lie in the waters just off the coast. Twenty years ago, Hagruk and his entire crew went down with his ship and now rumours of glittering treasure yet lying among the wreck of his galleon bring many to the village. Few leave… Village Backdrops are short, richly detailed supplements that each present a single village ready to insert into almost any home campaign. Perfect for use as a waystop on the road to adventure, as an adventure site themselves or as a PC’s home, Village Backdrop present the details so the busy GM can focus on crafting exciting, compelling adventures.

You can also read an extract at Raging Swan's site.
Here's what happened in last night's final session of the Ongoing Adventures of the Juma Gang. Each PC gets enough xp to reach level 21 and the epic tier.

The Juma Associates climb the ancient paved road towards the ring of stone pillars. Hrothgar checks his map of unseen lands: ahead is the vast snow-covered peak where Vrishabha lies trapped in the ice, waiting to be freed. A great stone arch crosses the road, guarded by three rakshasas. Hrothgar charges in, followed by the others, and they are quickly dispatched.

From here, the road leads steeply upwards to a large round stone platform about a hundred feet in diameter. Nine great rock pillars, over 40 feet high and irregularly-shaped surround the platform, forming a circle of stone. Within the ring of pillars are eleven rakshasas – some have the heads of tigers and other great cats, others are foxes or vultures – and Gyeltsen, a yakfolk sorcerer.

These rakshasas are led by Avishandu (the Fourth Tribune and Boss of All Bosses); also present is the infamous Heinsoo, Aurius Kalothese (Tribune of the Imperial Quarter) and Mardinuya (once the deva Samael who discovered that Srivatsa’s Bow and the Arrows of Hanuman could be used to free Vrishabha).

Avishandu mocks the Juma Associates for their naivety and stupidity: “Before we kill you, I’d like to thank you for freeing so many of our servants from the curse that trapped them in bovine form. You really have made things so much easier for us. Now, prepare to die in agony.” Hrothgar responds with a bloodthirsty threat of his own and battle is joined!

Heinsoo shoots Hrothgar with his poisoned crossbow, then Juma is bloodied by a hail of arrows from the rakshasa warriors standing between the pillars. Gil takes down two of these archers with magic missile, then brave Juma charges in, only to go down from multiple sword attacks from Mardinuya and Aurius. Hrothgar also charges the rakshasas, despite being slowed by the poison, and Jenma attacks an archer with acid orb, while Ulthar moves forward to heal Juma. Unfortunately, Avishandu’s misleading visions send him reeling backwards and the Urskovian warlord’s carefully planned tactical sequence is in tatters. He does manage to heal the genasi but not much – Aurius’ deadly aura of doom prevents healing magic from functioning at full strength.


Vashnawi and Gil kill two more warriors, but now Hrothgar is in trouble, falling unconscious to attacks from Mardinuya, Heinsoo and Aurius. Marduniya’s cloying words dominate Ulthar but fortunately Jenma is on hand to slap the warlord in the face and snap him out of it. Still bloodied, dazed and prone, Juma teleports away from the rakshasas; he’s hit by Gyeltsen’s withering staff and weakened. Wisely, he decides to use his mask of the impish grin to hide.

As Ulthar goes to heal himself, the dagger with a gold dragon’s head hilt he’s been wearing on his belt for months, transforms into its true form – that of a snake-like raktavarna rakshasa – and bites him in the leg. The nasty creature’s mindbite again throws his plans into disarray and he growls in frustration, before pulling himself together and smashing the raktavarna to a pulp with his great axe. Meanwhile, a dao blademaster appears from the stone, summoned by the yakman, and attacks Vashnawi. The pair continue to fight each other at the edge of the stone platform for the rest of the encounter.

Jenma is pulled towards Aurius with his phantom lure and attacked, but the dragonborn turns one of the rakshasa’s sword blows back on him with chaos echoes. Gil casts ice storm to create his signature zone of icy terrain around the rakshasas, then follows up with furious immolation on the following round to burn Aurius, Mardinuya and Gyeltsen. “Bring me my great axe” rings out in the mountain air, and Hrothgar is healed as Heinsoo steals the escalation die with reversal of fate. The gnoll enters the hydra rage, his axe darting and biting like the hydra’s many heads as he attacks the rakshasas.


Aurius has been bloodied but Juma unbloodies him when he rolls his gambler’s die. Then, Mardinuya bloodies Jenma, allowing her to strike back with aspect of the dragon. At the end of the round, Ulthar attacks four opponents in turn with path of storm, killing Avishandu and Aurius. Gil turns to stone after being hit with Gyeltsen’s diamond bonds, while Juma is tricked into attacking an illusionary duplicate instead of the real Heinsoo. Hrothgar falls unconscious and is dying again. Jenma slays Mardinuya with twin bolt.

Ulthar heals everyone, rallying them to his warlord’s banner and grabs the Arrows and Bow from the stone altar. Next, he unleashes his warmaster’s assault and Hrothgar and Juma charge Heinsoo as the Urskovian takes down Gyeltsen. With her master slain, the dao vanishes.

Only Heinsoo is left standing, but not for long as Hrothgar uses his final confrontation to slain the party’s arch-nemesis.

With the rakshasas vanquished, Vashnawi leads the PCs in an hour long ritual to destroy the Arrows and Bow. As they sustain their om chants, dark storm clouds gather overhead. Suddenly, a bolt of lightning flashes down, striking the altar and blowing the two weapons into smithereens!


Now the final adventure of the Juma Associates is over, our heroes go their separate ways.

Gil returns to Forathin to his father Paelias, in the hopes that his magical knowledge and prowess will at last impress him.

Hrothgar travels to the Great Grass Sea in search of a legendary totem which will unite the gnoll packs of the steppes under his rulership as Khan of All Gnolls. A confrontation with Urgedai the Kinslayer seems inevitable.

Jenma tracks down her sister Sora and persuades the paladin to go on a new adventure with her.

Juma steals the secret formula for Parsantine Fire but Ulthar persuades him not to give it to Sheikh Babak al-Hasid. As punishment for his failure, Juma is forced to serve as a pleasure slave among the nomads for a year and day.

Ulthar goes into politics with the ambition of becoming the first Urskovian to sit on the Inner Council. The Old Quarter tribune, Murad al-Rumi vouches for him, and Juma helps his comrade’s political campaign behind the scenes with a few dirty tricks.

Pics by Gog Magog
Here's what happened in Sunday's game – the penultimate session in the campaign. Each PC gets enough xp to reach 20th level.

11th December (contd)

With trepidation, the Juma Associates enter the fiery temple of Imix beneath the ground floor of the Mosque of Blistering Atonement. Here, they are confronted by Simsek (fire genasi Chosen of Imix), Dhalal (efreeti flamestrider), a conflagration orb and four azer. The Chosen urges Jh'od to side with the Eternal Flame. When this is ignored, he summons harginn (fire) grues in front and behind the party, which burn the PCs standing next to them.

Ulthar manoeuvres around the back to get into a flanking position while Hrothgar charges in, and is quickly surrounded by azer flamewards, taking 97 hp damage in a single round of attacks. Gil teleports on top of a plinth, taking position against a temple wall, while Jh’od casts his thundering vortex on the azer pyromancer and the flying conflagration orb.

The relentless attacks on Hrothgar drop him below 0 hp but uses his deathless frenzy to keep going, then Ulthar heals him before he has to make a death save. Meanwhile, Gil uses the handglyph the party found in the geomancer ruins in Sampur to blast his enemies with thunder and lightning. As the battle rages, he spots another azer sneaking around the fringes of the battle behind the party – only afterwards do the Juma Associates realise this was Heinsoo in disguise, searching for Srivatsa’s Bow.


Jenma’s azure talons inflict a critical hit on the efreet who is now bloodied, as is the azer pyromancer, but all of the PCs’ enemies are still standing. Then, the Chosen’s fiery orb knocks Gil unconscious; luckily, Ulthar’s martial healing powers bring him round and provide much needed solace to everyone else.

Hrothgar has got the (fire) horn so he blows it, making the genasi, efreet and azers no longer immune to fire damage. He kills the azer pyromancer but is surrounded again and out of surges. Gil is down to 5 hp; he uses his burning transformation to go insubstantial and hopefully take advantage of the horn’s magic to damage Imix’s cultists with his fire spells. Unfortunately, all of them make their saving throws at the first attempt, and are immune or resistant to fire again. Ulthar is bludgeoned unconscious by the efreet; Gil stabilises him, but with only one enemy down, the PCs decide they need to flee for their lives.

The Juma Associates make a run for it as efreeti and fire archon patrols close in. Gil is struck by a flying scimitar from an efreet and also goes unconscious but Jh’od grabs hold of him and they carry on running. Managing to reach the golden-feathered roc they spotted before they entered the Mosque, Jenma intimidates its firenewt handler into letting them climb on the giant bird so they can fly to safety.

As the huge bird takes to the air, ballistas are fired from the towers of the Furnace – one strikes the firenewt, killing him instantly, but the great roc flies on to the Bazaar of Beggars. Here, Gil is revived by Hrothgar with a healing potion; the mage casts the Planar Portal ritual to bring the PCs back, beaten and bruised, to Vashnawi’s tower in Parsantium’s university.

While Hrothgar and Gil collapse exhausted next to the unconscious Ulthar, Jenma and Jh’od go to find Vashnawi in her bedchamber. The naga is tossing and turning in her sleep and babbling in tongues, clearly having terrible nightmares. When the PCs wake her up and explain what’s happened; she relates her vision: the rakshasas and yak-folk had the Arrows and the Bow and were performing the ritual to curse both holy items so they can be used to free Vrishabha from the ice. There is no time to waste: the party must come with her to the Vale of Descending Stars in the Pillars of Heaven Mountains, stop the ritual and destroy the weapons.

Reluctantly, the naga agrees that the Juma Associates need a full rest before she teleports the party to the mountains.

12th December

In the morning, Vashnawi opens a portal to the Vale of Descending Stars, teleporting herself and the Juma Associates. They arrive in the middle of an ancient ruined town, high in the mountains. Strangely the air is warm and the lush foliage more like that found in the jungle.

The PCs don't have much time to take in their surroundings as they are ambushed by rakshasa archers and yak-folk sorcerers hiding in the ruined buildings who rain down ghost arrows and cast evil spells of Visions of Things that Should Not Be on the party.

Gil casts stormstone fury to attack the archers on the balcony, while Ulthar smashes down the door to one of the buildings and charges in to engage a yak-folk sorcerer. The yikaria withers the warlord's arm with his necrotic staff but the weakened Urskovian manages to kill him with help from Hrothgar. Meanwhile Juma attacks the other sorcerer while the spellcasters and Vashnawi dive for cover – Gil and the naga duck behind a crumbling wall, Jenma runs into the trees.

Hrothgar charges the second yak-man, teaming up with Juma; the gnoll slays his shaggy opponent, but not before both he and Juma are also weakened by necrotic damage. Juma is actually bloodied for one of the few times in his entire adventuring career! Ulthar heals the wounded, dons his shadowform cloak and flies towards the balcony.


Jenma and Gil kill one rakshasa with their spells; then Vashnawi kills a second after its true location is revealed. Ulthar lands on the balcony, joined by Hrothgar, who finishes off the last one. As the bodies of the rakshasas dissolve, the Juma Associates realise that these are just three of the forty-nine they freed from their imprisonment as cows.

A worn, paved road leads up the mountain....
Here’s what happened in last night’s game. Each PC gets 6,000 xp, so you’re all still 19th level.

11th December (contd)

Now inside the Furnace, the Juma Associates race through the streets to the Mosque of Blistering Atonement. As they hurry along, evading archon and efreeti patrols, Hrothgar and Gil spot a huge golden-feathered roc, hooded and tied to a stone pillar, attended by a solitary decrepit-looking firenewt. Perhaps the giant bird could provide a means of escape later?

The PCs approach the nightmarish-looking mosque, its walls made of black basalt and its domes sheathed in corroded green copper. Entering through the great brass doors, the party surprise the occupants: three fire giants and a fire titan. At first, the battle goes our heroes’ way – Gil casts ice storm in the centre of the temple, immobilising Olostro, the priest of Imix, and slowing the other giants while the others gang up on one of the fire giants. Hrothgar charges, Ulthar unleashes his hail of steel and Jenma finishes the giant off with acid orb.

Then, Olostro activates the crystal idol of Imix, trapping Hrothgar inside – his fur starts to sizzle and burn. Hrothgar tries to smash his way out, to no avail. The other PCs attack the second fire giant warrior, but before he can be taken down, he retreats to the mirhab to use its healing magic. Ulthar throws an axe at him and Gil casts magic missile but the giant is able to make it there on 1 hp and heal some of his wounds. He’s still bloodied, though, and Jenma is able to kill him with another acid orb. Gil’s next magic missile takes down the priest who has been clobbering Jh’od and shoving him into the blistering pillar.


Meanwhile, Hrothgar is still trapped inside the crystal idol, trying to smash his way out. Ulthar arrives to free him but realises he doesn’t have the necessary arcane knowledge. Jenma tries to help rescue the gnoll too but also fails; Hrothgar finally escapes of his own accord and charges the titan.

Ulthar uses his warlord’s banner to rally and heal the party before unleashing his war master’s assault, giving everyone a basic attack against the fire titan. But the Urskovian is down to 21 hp and he falls unconscious when the huge giant hurls fire at him. With the rest of the party ganging up on the titan, it doesn’t last long, and the Juma Associates are able to revive Ulthar so he is conscious on 1 hp.

Ulthar and Gil swap magic boots so that the warlord is able to sneak around like an elf, hopefully avoiding taking any damage, and the PCs explore the rooms leading off from the main hall of the mosque. There they find several potions of cure critical wounds which Ulthar swigs down enthusiatically, as well as a magical fire horn.

Low on surges and daily powers, the Juma Associates have no alternative but to head downstairs in search of Srivatsa’s Bow. Ahead is a fiery temple where a fire genasi priest of Imix and his azer and efreeti acolytes await the party....

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