My review of the D&D 5E Players Handbook.
RPG Bugbears video about background noise in G+ Hangout games:
Session 7 of TheRogueDM’s Broken Jade AFF game, in which our heroes find themselves in the swanky surroundings of Prince Betram’s tower.
Mine and Jon Carvell’s regular Sunday ramblings about roleplaying saved in audio form.
Video response to Keith Hershey Jnr’s vid about narrative description.
Review of Tremulus, a lovecraftian horror game using the ‘Powered by the Apocalypse’ system.
I recently ran a session of the Tremulus RPG, a game using the ‘powered by the Apocalypse’ engine in a mythos horror setting (you can find a write-up of the session here – http://reddicediaries.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/ebon-eaves-tremulus-session.html) the game went really well despite having had minimal prep put into it; to show how little prep went into it i’ve put below all my prep notes for the game.
Index Card Map and Character Details
Close-up of Map
As he walked down the corridors of the Academy Philosophica, morning light streaming in through the windows, Athrialix’ attention was drawn to a circle of his peers eagerly discussing matters of import; an elderly scholar was addressing them, a man that Athrialix recognised as Coptarix, a particularly learned (if somewhat eccentric) gentleman. Coptarix was telling his younger colleagues about the ‘Trial of the Magi’, a great tournament that was reputed to be both a test of intelligence and wisdom, it happened only rarely (indeed Coptarix had only known it occur once before in his lifetime) and was the only way to become a magus legally within Arrakis, those who took on the challenge either came back mystically stronger and with the support of the Sorceror King or they did not return at all. Those who took the test were sworn to secrecy and thus no-one knew exactly what they involved although, if rumours were to be believed, the test was different for each person; those who succeeded would appear again (after a suitable period of training) wearing the deep azure robes of a sorcerous apprentice.
Meanwhile, having heard a man in the local cantina discussing that Pharnish agents were behind the recent sabotage on the city’s ancient waterworks, Bloodtide, Hurgen and Tk’Tak made their way to the college, built in a fairly normal quarter of the city, Tk’Tak transformed into a desert firebird on the way, thinking it less suspicious than a Thri-Kreen trying to gain access to the college. Arriving at the gate the Bloodtide explained to the guard on duty that they were here with a special delivery for Athrialix and, after a few moments, the guard sent a porter to fetch Athrialix. Arriving at the gate the scholar accepted the delivery of the firebird and ushered his friends inside to his own quarters, attempting to fetch them some water from the nearb pump, however the barest trickle emerged; Bloodtide showed the locket to Athrialix and explained about the Pharnish sabotage and the green slime that somehow had been used to effect it. Hurgen had notice some of the slime adhering to her boot still and went to scrape it off, she was surprised to find that it had dried out and had a spongey consistency, ash she touched it though the slime appeared to absorb the moisture from her hand, causing her skin to wrinkle and dry, wiping it off she quickly washed her hand under the trickle from the pump and appeared to suffer no further ill-effects.
There was a loud cry from the corridor as one of the academic collapsed, he appeared to be having some sort of seizure, green splotches had broken out on his skin; before Athrialix could get a better look the college apothecaries whisked the spasming man away on a makeshift stretcher, although just to be on the safe side Athrialix advised his colleagues not to drink the water.
Moving to the library (despite some initial problems with the portly librarians ‘no animals’ policy) Athrialix turned to Bloodtide asking “So are we resolved that we’re going to try and solve this water problem then?”
“Yes, otherwise everyone will die” replied the Bloodtide in his usually matter-of-fact way.
Throwing himself into the research Athrialix discovered a reference in an old, badly translated tome pre-dateing the apocalyptic transformation of Athas into the desert world that it is now to something called the Creeping Death, a plant-like organism that devours water wherever it comes into contact with it, using the moisture to reproduce itself and repeat the cycle; Athrialix suggested that the best way to proceed might be to force Pharn itself into providing an antidote whilst the Bloodtide wondered with the Templars did not seem to be doing anything about the current situation. Athrialix took the sample of the slime that Hurgen had scraped from her boot and passed it to one of his colleagues for examination.
In response to Hurgen’s queries about the fate of her people (now that slaves to power the waterworks were no longer needed) Tk’Tak, still in his firebird form, soared high above the city; to the north, outside the wall, a makeshift shanty town of tents had been erected and, under the watchful eyes of the Kings Templar, chain gangs of half-giants were digging huge trenches. As they walked through the streets heading for the northern gates, Bloodtide heard a familiar voice from a couple of streets away, one of his old opponents from the arena the Sultan of Death was addressing a small group of chained half-giants.
Resplendent in his green and yellow robes (strictly this were the colours of Pharn but then the Sultan did play the villain in the arena), the Sultan stroked his enormous waxed moustache and offered the half-giants a place of glory fighting in the arena, saying that instead of remaining as slaves and digging fruitless wells for water that doesn’t exist they could spill blood on the sands and bathe in the glory and accolades of the cheering crowd. Bloodtide had to admit that the Sultan make it all sound pretty good, but he knew the truth behind the gilded lies, kicking a crate out of his way the Bloodtide hurled his sword at the Sultan striking him a glancing blow to the shoulder; in the chaos Hurgen snapped the chains of the half-giant prisoners, who immediately began to attack their jail guards with all their formidable might.
Striding forwards Bloodtide called out the Sultan, challenging him to single combat, the moustached villain responding by striking out with his mace, Bloodtide felt the blow crash upon him and tasted copper in his mouth, spitting out blood onto the sand he grinned and said “Is that all you’ve got?”
As he rushed forward, brandishing his weapon, Bloodtide’s instincts saved him as the Templar rushed in from the side and hurled a bolt of sorcerous energy at the one-time gladiator; hurling himself to one side, Bloodtide impacted heavily with the wall, the eldritch bolt missing him by mere inches. Looking up, he could see that in the chaos the Sultan of Death had made good his escape, howling his frustration the Bloodtide barely registered Hurgan’s voice in the distance shouting “Fight your oppressors!” as she lead the half-giants in a bloody rampage towards the city gates.
Bloodtide took a savage blow from the Templar on his wrist armour, quickly tying his wrist wrappings around the Templar’s arm he pulled his enemy in close, driving his punch dagger into the unarmoured neck of the Templar, the Templar spasmed, gurgled and then dropped to the floor. Seeing that the half-giants were already some distance away and that the Bloodtide (formidable though he was) wouldn’t be able to catch them on foot, Tk’Tak transformed into a Kank, the Bloodtide swung onto it’s back and they raced through the city streets in pursuit of the berserking half-giant mob.
In the chaos Athrialix took the opportunity to follow the directions to the abandoned tunnels that Tk’Tak had given him and soon found himself standing beside an algal green expanse of slime that used to be a reservoir, it seemed as though the slime was spreading, looking around he saw the remains of Bloodtide’s war spade still sticking from the slime and (carefully) grabbing the handle he was able to pull the, now slime-covered, body of the Pharnish saboteur from the muck. Leaning down next to the body Athrialix called on his mystical powers and spoke to the spirit of the deceased, learning that the man had indeed bought the Creeping Death here (contained in a silver locket) to poison the water supply; as the spirit began to fade, Athrialix called on the power of things living nearby, using defiling magic to hold the shade in place longer, discovering that a traitor lurking within the city had provided the saboteur with access to the waterworks.
As he let the spirit depart Athrialix looked around him, a circle of the plant growth had been reduced to ash and destroyed, could defiling magic somehow be part of the solution to this problem?
The rampaging half-giants smashed through the northwest gate of the city, battering aside the guards that stood in their way, outside were more chained half-giants digging what looked like wells under the watchful eyes of city guard and two Templars, one of the free half-giants was hacked down by a Templar as the Bloodtide charged through the ruins of the city gate, leaping from the back of his mount and barreling into the murderous Templar. As the sorcerous soldier attempted bring his eldritch powers to bare against the gladiator, Hurgen chopped the other in half, sending his blood pluming into the air whilst the Bloodtide head-butted his opponent, forced him to the ground and stabbed him with a punch dagger. Looking around they could see that the half-giants had freed their kinsmen and, with reinforcements now fighting with them, had quickly finished off the guardsmen; a young half-giant warrior called Ruusal seemed particularly impressed with the Bloodtide and asked to follow him as an aide, seeing something of his own eagerness for battle in the half-giant’s eyes the Bloodtide accepted.
The half-giants quickly discussed what to do next, the majority of them wanted to make for a dwarven city that was rumoured to be in the mountains far to the north, perhaps they would find some allies or at least respite from persecution there; Tk’Tak agreed to sneak back into the city and buy provisions for themselves and the 20 half-giants that survived so that they could make the perilous trip through the desert to the north.
Meanwhile Athrialix had been attempting to create a ritual for solving the city’s water problem and believed that he could do so but that it would take him several days, he would also require a sample of pure water and help from someone who understood the natural flows of energy; he was relieved when Tk’Tak arrived (thinking that the Thri-Kreen druid could help in the ritual), but was less relieved when Tk’Tak told him about the half-giant breakout and their plans to head north towards a dwarven city. Athrialix agreed to prevail on his uncle Kallisto to get them a good deal on the supplies in return for Tk’Tak’s help getting a sample of clean water from outside the city and his aid in casting the ritual; the mantis-man agreed and, after some haggling with Kallisto (who was not happy that they had still not supplied him with the Rampager body parts as originally agreed) they got most of the provisions necessary for the northwards trip.
Meeting up with the rest of the group they distributed the supplies and began moving northwards, planning to stop off at an oasis that Hurgen knew of nearby (she had rested there after her initial escape from slavery) before continuing, Tk’Tak would take a sample of water from their to Athrialix for use in the ritual and would meet up with the ground afterwards.
The last words that Athrialix had said to Tk’Tak before they parted ways still rang in the mantis-man’s ears, “I have to undertake the test of the magi.”
As the group crested the sand dune, creeping slowly to the top they witnessed a scene of utter devastation, the camp beyond the dunes had been smashed until it was almost unrecognisable, one of the archaeologists lay on the floor, blood staining the sand from a deep wound in his side whilst the Templar was engaged in a pitched battle with a long sinuous creature combining the worst aspects of a centipede and a crustacean, a small crate attesting to where the beast had burst fourth from beneath the ground and attacked. Raising her shield Hurgen charged down the steep side of the dune into combat, Tk’Tak ran forward to assist but lost his footing and tumbled down the dune, open-mouthed the Bloodtide shook his head, seeing that any chance of strategy had now gone and charged after them. Athrialix meanwhile took full advantage of the distraction that his berserking comrades were providing and silently slipped into the ruined camp.
Moving into one of the surviving tents undetected Athrialix saw a microscope, numerous local specimens of fauna and what appeared to a scale drawing showing the size of the rest of the state (assuming that the body attached to the giant obsidian hand held to normal human proportions), he could barely stifle a gasp, the thing was huger than anything that he had ever beheld, a veritable collosus. Rifling through the papers he came across what looked like an itinerary and scratched his chin, it seemed that the original purpose of the dig had been to invest some interesting flora called the ‘Dead Man’s Cactus’ and that the party had only chance across the hand by accident after also being set off course by a sandstorm, the Templar had insisted that they prepare a report and charts for the Sorceror King before returning to Arrakis.
Outside the Templar stabbed at the Ankheg screaming “Thus perish all who oppose the Sorceror King!” Seeing that the immediate danger was past Hurgen offered her hand to the Templar, but the armoured warrior just sneered at the prospect of shaking hands with a slave, before he could utter a biting retort the Bloodtide (having suffered the tender mercies of the Templars before stabbed his punch dagger into the man’s neck killing him. Tk’Tak was examining the tunnel left by the Ankheg whilst Athrialix bought out the information that he had found, musing about an old legend concerning a Giants Graveyard far to the north of the continent and that perhaps it was connected with the great hand, perhaps these ruins were even the remnants of Hazak Simm, the lost city of the giants – who knows?
The sands around the group suddenly burst into life as a dozen or so insectile figures that bore a startling resemblance to Tk’Tak rose from the sands, one of the Thri-Kreen who had irredescent insect wings and referred to himself as ‘the Caller’ stepped forward to speak with Tk’Tak and explained that they were the guardians of the ‘Father of Giants’ set here to prevent him from rising again; he asked them to leave explaining that it was not safe for them here, he pointed at Athrialix and continued “especially not for one such as him.”
Eager not to have to kill the remaining scholars from the dig, Hurgen ordered them to not to go home (since no doubt the Sorceror King’s agents would get the location of the ruins from them), providing them with rations and suggesting that they make for the City of Shades to the east; as they walked off into the distance over the dune, Bloodtide turned to the Caller and said “You do realise that they will tell the Sorceror King and the Templars will be here in weeks?”
Nodding the Thri-Kreen Caller gestured to two of his clutch mates and pointed eastwards after the scholars saying simply, “Kill them.”
Reacting violently to the proposed callous murder of two fellow scholars, Athrialix reached out his hand summoned fourth a wave of magical energy that blasted out towards the Caller, the matis-man leapt nimbly to one sided, raising his own twin sets of arms in return; a huge sharp fragment of rock raised itself from the ground and flung itself towards Athrialix, striking him through the shoulder and causing him to grimace as blood stained his academics robes. Stepping between Athrialix and the Caller, the Bloodtide managed to smooth over the situation by explaining that the man were like the Caller’s clutch brothers, this seemed to smooth things over and the Caller shook hands with the Bloodtide; meanwhile Tk’Tak had transformed into a silt serpent and quickly dragged the injured Athrialix below the sands, emerging behind one the ruined tents, away from the other mantis-men.
Rubbing some healing herbs into his injuries, Athrialix gestured to Hurgen and the two of them headed for the Mekillots, riding northwards away from the ruins, the Bloodtide shook hands with the Caller once more and both himself and Tk’Tak followed after their companions whilst the mantis-men returned to their vigil.
Days later they arrived in Arrakis, the whole city seemed to be in an uproar as they rode through the gates, there was talk that the ancient waterworks below the city had somehow been damaged, Tk’Tak spoke to some passersby who blame everything from ancient curses to the work of Pharnish spies for the destruction of the only stable water supply in the region. The crack of a whip and shout alerted the group to the presence of a templar and five soldiers leading a chained gang of half-giants down the street towards the gare from the city; although she glared at the Templar and worried for the fate of her people if the news of the sabotaged waterworks was true, Hurgen chose not to make a scene, the Bloodtide, having once been a slave himself, was sympathetic to the plight of the half-giants.
Athrialix travelled to see his uncle Kallisto in the merchants district of Arrakis and rote a letter about the mantis-men tribe sacrificing people, the rough location of the ruins and a mention of the obsidian hand, he was interrupted when a half-giant escaped from a chain gang burst in shouting “Help, they’ll kill us all given the chance!” As Templars began to burst into his uncle’s shop, Athrialix decided that discretion was the better part of valour and slipped out of a side door, making his way towards the academy and his dorm as quickly as possible.
Hurgen meanwhile had given Tk’Tak directions to the abandoned tunnels that she had originally used to escape from her slavery in the waterworks below Arrakis; transforming into a small domestic lizard and snuck into the waterworks, however, the normally clanking ancient machinery was silent, there were signs of explosive sabotage and a bloody struggle. Seeing few guards (perhaps because the damage had been done) Tk’Tak returned to where he had left the others and lead them back to the underground caverns full of ancient stone pillars and ruined pieces of the pre-cataclysm mechanisms that had once provided water for the entire city. Heading down to what had once been the underground reservoir they were horrified to find that the water appeared to have been replaced by a sticky green slime, a rough notice was pinned to the water of the tunnel:
“Stay Out, by Order of the King’s Templar”
His eyes drawn to something glinting in the slime, the Bloodtide spotting a body slowly slipping below the muck, grabbing his war spade he sunk it into the corpse and pulled it to shore, as he did so a wonderous sight met his eyes, a silver locket (“metal, real metal!”) tumbled from the Pharnish uniform that the corpse wore, a red ruby was studded into the lid of the locket and inside were traces of a greenish powder. The dead body also had six Pharnish coins showing the image of Jom’Ul Sorceror King of Pharn on them, the Bloodtide sneered, throwing them back into the slim before pocketing the locket.
“We need to see what Athrialix makes of this.”
For a write-up of the first session and the thoughts behind the campaign please see my previous post: http://reddicediaries.com.gridhosted.co.uk/uncategorized/creating-dark-sunesque-campaign-for_10/
Athralix’ uncles Kallisto explained to the group that the iron hard chitin and razor sharp scythes of the ravagers who were a king’s ransom and that, since they always travelled in packs, it was entirely likely that there were some more of the arachnoid beasts lurking in the dunes surrounding the city of Arrakis, he explained that he would pay them handsomely for the creature’s body parts and introduced a guide to the desert that he had procured for them, a mantis-man who introduced himself as Tk’Tak through clicking mandibles. As the group walked through the city streets (having accepted Kallisto’s offer and some money up front as a goodwill gesture) their new guide mused that there must be a reason that the Ravagers were attacking the city; these thoughts were interrupted by a ragged beggar man from the side of the streets shouting that the gods had returned to Athas and that he had seen them with his own eyes, Hurgen shook her head sadly whilst the Bloodtide sneered, everyone knew that the gods had long forsaken Athas, the man was obvious made from the heat. Athrialix and Tk’Tak had both seen strange things in their time though and spoke to the man, who told them how he had been lost in the desert and had seen a huge obsidian hand bursting forth from the sands amidst ancient ruins.
Visiting Sung-Ki, a local trader the group purchased a bull-mekillot to carry their provisions and equipment before making their way into the desert, Hurgen checked their rations whilst Tk’Tak plotted the route and the Bloodtide ranged ahead as a scout; they had been travelling for some days when the Bloodtide spied a tell-tale whirling of sand and wind approaching and shouted back “Sandstorm! Dig yourselves in!”
Tk’Tak concetrated and shed his own form turning into a silt serpent and effortlessly burrowing into the sand whilst the others covered themselves as best they were able; emerging several minutes later it seemed that they had wandered far off course to the south, Athrialix peered curiously at several strange, spikey cactus like growths that dotted the landscape around them, but his investigations were cut short when mummifed hands burst from the sand and ragged, sun dried corpses lurched into a horrifying semblance of life, their hands grasping for the living. Diving backwards Athrialix threw out his hand and a bolt of arcane force smashed into one of the creatures, whilst the Bloodtide and Hurgen drew their weapons, wading into the creatures, smashing them to pieces.
Once the adrenalin of the combat had been spent the party had chance to inspect the (now truly) dead bodies, one of them was dressed in the uniform of a King’s Templar from Arrakis, the uniform was tattered but unmistakable, tucked into the pocket of the uniform was a rough map showing the location of some ruins nearby, there was also a large X on the map with ‘the hand’ written under it in arcane runes. The talk of the hand reminded Hurgen of an ancient myth concerning the father and mother of giants who all other giants are descended from, creatures so big that they blotted out the sun.
Deciding to visit the site on the map the group made camp as it started getting dark, whilst on his watch Tk’Tak heard noise from over a couple of dunes and, sneaking forwards, spotted the signs of some sort of archaeological dig being conducted under the watchful eye of a Kings Templar, they seemed to be excavating the fingertips of a giant hand protruding from the sands, they were so dark in colour that all light seemed to be absorbed by them and they stood out even amidst the darkness of the night. Returning to camp Tk’Tak woke the Bloodtide and told him what he had seen, Athrialix had also woken up, complaining of a bad dream, any further explanation was cut off by an ear-piercing scream from the direction of the dig.