Tuesday, 29 November 2016

The Road to Cauldron Keep

July 4 to July 14–18, 3430, Age of Kings

Once inside the church the party was greeted warmly by an elder priest who led them into the main hall. Once inside Lorentz spoke to the priest about Brother Shamus, who was currently in the church's study. While the priest was fetching Brother Shamus for the group, they were led downstairs to a simple dormitory where they could leave their gear before returning back upstairs to the dining hall to have a meal of pottage, bread and wine (and ale for Broak).

Eventually a heavy-set priest came in and greeted the party as Brother Shamus. They laid out their plan to him (without giving too much away) and they enlisted his help after a small donation to the church.

They then went to bed for the night, enjoying the modest comfort and protection of the church.

*   *   *

The next morning, after breakfast, they went out to find their horse and mule fed and watered, and their carts washed. They said their goodbyes to the priests, and set out north up the road with their new traveling companion.

*   *   *

The next few days saw better weather and an empty road. After three days of travel they saw the forest to the west start to become withered and dead looking. Eventually and old road broke off from the main road, marked by several iron cages with the long dead remains of prisoners inside—this was the road heading up to Cauldron Keep. In the distant forested foothills a small plume of smoke could be seen rising from the thick forest ahead.

They made their way west up the old road, although there wasn't heavy traffic, Ander was able to find several groups of tracks, only a few days old moving up and down the road towards the forest. They past by several more cages with their grisly contents, and the occasional sun-bleached skull on a stake along the road. 

As they entered the forest the two elves noticed an unnatural aura about the forest—the trees seemed to be dying, or in a perpetual state of autumn, there were no birds chirping, and there seemed to be no sign of wildlife, but they pressed on.

As they got closer to the keep and the sun passed below the mountains, they thought it best to move off the road and make a plan. While they did this, Ander scouted ahead and made his way to the keep, where he saw the old keep, and a handful of sentries armed with crossbows walking the walls. Not wanting to risk detection, he returned to the group to pass along what he had seen.

When Ander returned the party noticed torchlight flickering between the trees coming up the road. They swiftly moved back to the road to flank whomever was coming up the road towards the keep, waiting for a signal from Boots if they should attack, leaving Gerhardt and the carts back at their camp.

After a short wait a large group could be seen making their way up the road. Leading the way were four armoured mercenary-types armed with swords and crossbows, three bugbears (two of which were pulling a wagon laden with goods, and three tied-up humans with bloody sacks over their heads), followed by 12 filthy, crazed-looking men dressed in tattered robes, all carrying massive flails, all muttering to one another. Ander could make out the bugbears speaking in Goblin to one another about "not trusting the pale-skins," and "asking Grakk what he thinks they should do."

Greatly outnumbered, they decided to hold back and let the train pass by in the dark.

Once safe, the party took their time marching around to the rear of the keep—which seemed to be the least guarded area. Grabby and Ander silently climbed the old stone wall and made their way onto the parapet where they kept low to avoid detection. They then secured ropes for the other to climb up and join them. Once everyone was up they carefully opened the door to the nearby sentry tower.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

A Bulette to the Head... and Every Other Part

July 4 to July 12–14, 3430, Age of Kings

Our intrepid band of adventurers continued to push on northward down the road in the rain. As they walked the could feel slight tremors in the ground throughout the day, but never seeing or knowing what could be causing them—were they natural, or something else?

*   *   *

As the sun dropped beneath the mountains to the west they headed off the road and set up their camp. Lorentz informed them that in the next couple of days they should come across a road-side temple, The Church of His Eternal Glory.  There, they may be able to enlist the services of a Brother Shamus, a cleric Lorentz had worked with in the past, to join their band.

After eating dinner, the tremors persisted and seemed to be getting stronger. Suddenly a blood-curdling squeal of a boar could be heard off in the darkness. As they grabbed their weapons and rose to their feet, two giant boars rushed into their camp, wild-eyed and full of fear. They came to a sudden stop at the edge of the camp, seemingly surprised to run into the party—but willing to fight their way through them!

Ander backed off to cover to launch a continuous volley of arrows into the boars, while Lorentz and Grabby engaged one, and Audrey and Broak flanked the other, while Gerhardt stood with the pack animals to keep them calm, tied to a tree. At one point Broak dealth a stagger critical hit to a boar, causing him to relive his horrible past, stunning the boar and causing him to scream and cry, falling to his knees briefly.

As they fought on, the rumbling in the ground began to grow. As they were wearing the boars down, the ground shook violently, and the tree the pack animals were tied to cracked, rocked to the side and was uprooted in a cloud of dust and leaves. The horse and the mule were wrenched onto their sides, and Gerhardt was pinned beneath a tree branch and the thrashing mule.

The boars, equally surprised by the sudden uprooting of the tree, were caught off guard and the party slew them both, just as a massive shape emerged from a hole where the tree once stood: a land shark! The beast leapt through the air, coming down with horrible force on Audrey, dealing a massive amount of damage. Several of Anders' arrows bounced off its thick hide as the other party members rushed into the barbarian's aid.

Grabby climbed a nearby rock outcropping to gain height over the beast, but the wind shifted and wafted the delicious scent of halfling to the land sharks nostrils—it's favourite meal! Excited by the prospect of a halfling morsel, it once again jumped high into the air, landing on the rock outcropping, but Grabby managed to avoid the brunt of the attack, and rolled off the rock, and into the shadows below where he briefly hid from the hungry beast.

In his weakened state Grabby moved around the camp in an effort to stay away from the land shark while the others continued the attack. Lorentz switched to his crossbow which he quickly broke the bow string with a critical fail.

GM Note: Audrey's player was also rolling for Lorentz this session, and she rolled miss after miss, with several critical fails for both characters, leading to much frustration for her that night.

As they wore the beast down it manged to deal a devastating attack to both Audrey and Broak, leaving them bloody and unconscious on the ground. But within moments the others managed to bring the creature down, and they managed to finally help Gerhardt get out of his tight spot between the tree and the mule.
Audrey and Broak were eventually brought around, and had their wounds bandaged and they made it though the rest of the night without incident.

*   *   *

The next two days of travel saw nothing but rain and a grey sky. Late in the day they came to The Church of His Eternal Glory (a church devoted to St. Eliah), and entered past two rigid-looking paladins guarding the front gate...

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

A Giant Battle

July 4 to July 10–12, 3430, Age of Kings

GM's note: this report is a few weeks old in my memory, and it's the second time we played it through. We discovered that gaining advantage while flanking became too powerful during fights with single adversaries. This battle and the next are both do-overs with adjusted rules.

After much squabbling over what to do with the nine-fingered bandit, the group decided to let him wander off into the darkness. But before he could get to said darkness, Ander notched an arrow and let it fly, striking the bandit in the back and killing him.

After even more squabbling, they opted not to search for his bandit camp, and press on with the journey at hand.

*   *   *

The next morning the set off as weather got colder and rainier, and over the next day the rain was they only thing they encountered.

*   *   *

The next day, late in the morning, through the drizzle they could see a scene of carnage ahead on the muddy road. As they got closer they were met by the remains of a very one-sided battle: two bodies violently smashed into the ground, one on top of the other, making difficult to determine right away how many corpses there were. Ander found the tracks of several sheep nearby, and some very large humanoid footprints moving further down the road. 

Ander scouted ahead and found a hill giant resting upon a rock outcropping, happily tearing into the bodies of dead sheep for lunch. He went back and alerted the others, who all decided to attempt an ambush on the giant, while Gerhardt and the carts stayed back.

So they crept through the rain (except for Boots, who decided strolling down the middle of the road would be a better approach) towards the feeding giant. Quickly noticing Boots, the giant stood up to engage the intruder as his allies attacked from all angles.

Ander stayed across the road firing arrows at the giant while Lorentz also kept a safe distance and attacked with his crossbow. Broak and Audrey took a more direct approach (as barbarians and fighters do) and Grabby struck from behind with hit-and-run tactics, while Boots supported with magic from the road.

During the battle, Audrey took quite a pummeling from the giant's stone hammer. Eventually Boots cast a cloud of daggers leveled with the giant's head, keeping his allies out of harm's way. Which eventually led to the giant charging out into the road after Boots.

Eventually, after many arrows, bolts, bruises and cuts, the hill giant fell into the mud, dead from his many wounds from the puny party.

And on the lighter side:

Broak, about to take one for the team... that's just his finger, perverts!

Saturday, 13 August 2016

A Lousy Dwarf Sentry

July 4 to July 10, 3430, Age of Kings

With their hired help ready to go, the party set out on the road heading north out of Leedshire. After the first day of travel they spent the night in the hamlet of North Leedshire where they decided to carouse and spend some money. Money was won, money was lost, and Broak found himself waking up next to a very large woman in a brothel the next morning.

After Broak met back up with the others, they set back out on the road. The long journey ahead to the area where Cauldron Keep would take about another ten days, with Church of His Eternal Glory being the only point of civilization along the way. The further north they traveled the less frequent they saw other travelers on the road—but it was an otherwise uneventful journey for several days.

*   *   *

On the sixth day of their journey they set up camp as normal and Broak took the first watch. Just an hour into his first watch Broak noticed three rather rough looking men coming down the road towards their campsite. As they approached on said called out, "Well, well, weel, what 'ave we 'ere?" in an intimidating manner—bandits. 

As Broak moved to put himself between them and the camp he noticed several more bandits armed with crossbows creep out of the shadows surrounding the camp (they rolled a very good stealth check to sneak up on the group).

The bandits wanted to take the party's horse, mule and two carts, as well as some coin. Naturally Broak wasn't about to let this happen. Audrey, Lorentz and Grabby were roused by the commotion (Gerhardt remained soundly sleeping). With their crossbows leveled at most of the party, they knew any sudden movements would be answered with a crossbow bolt.

Not wanting to give the bandits anything a melee quickly ensued with Broak making an attempt at the first attack against the bandit leader. Boots remained motionless with a bandit just ten feet from him, but Ander, Grabby, and Audrey leapt into action, risking injury. Even Lorentz the sell-sword rolled over, grabbed his shield and leapt to his feet to combat the threat.

Several bolts were fired at the party and Ander worked his way around the camp firing off arrows at their foes, while Broak and Audrey moved in to attack the leader and his two henchmen. Broak suffered a terrible bleeding wound at one point during the battle. When their numbers were whittled down, one bandit made an attempt to steal the horse and escape, but was promptly shot off by a well placed arrow from Ander. Boots cast a sleep spell which managed to put one bandit to sleep.

Without his armour, Lorentz was taking a beating from one of the bandits but eventually managed to best him with some assistance from the party.

Eventually the bandits and their leader all lay dead—and one lay asleep.

Surrounding the lone bandit with their weapons at the ready they woke up the rather frightened man. The party started to push him for information on the whereabouts of the bandits' camp, which he refused. Eventually this led to Ander wanting to resort to torture, so he cut off one of the defenseless man's fingers to get answers, which made Grabby and Broak feel like this was getting out hand. The nine-fingered bandit then gave up that his camp was to the west, through the mountains in Toln Swamp...

Now I need to read up on alignment and torture.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

The Dwarven Columbo

July 1 to July 4, 3430, Age of Kings

After dispatching the bugbears, goblins and ogre, the party took a quick rest, and Broak caught up from sleeping in, and Boots decided to head back home (ie: his player was away, and will be for a while). Sweating profusely in the midday sun Broak joined his friends and they headed on to Leedshire.

After two more days of travel in the unusually hot weather (I have a random weather generation system) they arrived in Leedshire in the evening, found an inn, then got some dinner and some sleep.

*   *   *

The next morning they decided headed over to Gower's manor to help track down hi missing item. After being let in they were greeted and offered wine and Gower told them how:

An elf, dressed like a flouncing dandy going by the name Aladnaril, put me under a spell and compelled me to bring him the key. I’m afraid if that key falls into the wrong hands... I had no idea... this whole time...

He then asked a sagely looking old man surrounded by books and scrolls that was sitting at the table to show them an illustration in a book: a goat headed man in robes holding a ceremonial dagger of a nude body on an altar. From the body, three streams of blood flow down the side of the altar, then converge before flowing into the carvings all over the key, out of the key and towards a gaping hole in the ground spewing flames, and dark shaped of demonic creatures emerging.

Feeling this was some sort of Orcus cult at work with Hiller, they knew they'd have to track him down—fast. They continued to feign no knowledge of the key's location as Gower told them he believed the key may still be in Leedshire. The party also questioned one of the guards that encountered the imp the night the key was stolen to keep up appearances, as well as the old sage, to see if there was anything he could tell them where a cult of Orcus may be operating from on the island.

After leaving they discussed where they might find someone in town that could help them. Broak decided to head to a church of Saint Eliah in hopes a brother of the cloth could help. He found a helpful priest who pointed him in the right direction: an old man by the name of Englehart Neff, who once worked at a place called Cauldron Keep to the north—a prison where heretics and cultists were incarcerated and executed for their crimes that now lays in ruin. Broak thanked the priest and gave some coins for the collection plate and met up with the rest of the party and headed to a tavern—where he was told they could find Englehart.

After asking around they found out that Englehart frequented The Rusty Crown Tavern. The quickly found the old man, placated him with food and drink and he told them his story:

About 50 years ago I was soldier who was shipped out here, and my first post was at Cauldron Keep, way up north on the island. It was a terrible place, it’s where all the traitors, heretics, demon-worshippers and the worst of the worst were sent to meet their fates. At the close of the War of the Fiend, many of these ner-do-wells fled the mainland to avoid the purge that was coming and came to Leeds. But, wanting to protect the kingdom’s interests, the military presence was increased here.

The keep was converted into a prison—a small prison, no one sat in a cell for very long. Bounty hunters, watchmen, mercenaries from all over and anyone who could find these vile folk rounded them up and brought them up to “The Pot”—as we called it.

In the courtyard of the keep was a massive iron cauldron, filled with boiling oil that hung over an iron grate. We tossed them in the pot, we poured it on them, we cooked ‘em night and day. Vile odour, it was.

A lot of people died in that courtyard. The captain at the time, Captain Tendler, started stringing up the corpses along the road up to the gate, so the prisoners on their way up could see what was waitin’ for ‘em.

I was there for a good six years, and as time passed we had less and less to feed The Pot with. Then, around 3377, a strange old man purchased the keep from the king. Most of the guards were let go and replaced by this old guy’s guard, me n’ a few others stayed on for another few months before we left of our own accord—there were strange goings on down there.

Last I heard the place has fallen into ruin, people avoid that place, the bodies are still strung up as far as I know, the place reeks of death. ‘Lotta folks say the place is haunted—wouldn’t surprise me.

Now, the old codger that took over the keep looked ancient, and his skin was pale and tight and he never seemed to speak to anyone—except for the head of the guard—and I think it may have been his son, or maybe grandson. That captain, he was a mean bastard, him and that vile son of his... Hiller was his name. Now his son, maybe 10 years old, he’d pull wings off birds, beat dogs with irons.

Some nights we heard what sounded like chanting from deep in the dungeons. Now I was never permitted past the second level of the dungeon, but I heard there a few more that went deeper.

They got some vague directions from Englehart, thanked him and decided they had make their way to the north of the island after Hiller and his men, and hopefully get to the key before he could do anything evil with it. The party quickly assembled their gear, and decided to hire some hands to help them for what lay ahead.

At Mercenary Square they found their old friend Gerhardt, who now had a mule and cart (with ale!) that they hired to join them. They also hired an irritable sell-sword named Lorentz Becken. Once their payments were secured, they headed out of the town up the road to the north in the afternoon to track down Hiller...

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Another Job

June 29 to July 1, 3430, Age of Kings

Eventually Boots made it back home and got himself cleaned up. The next day the group decided to head into West Leedshire late in the day to hand the key over to Captain Hiller. They set off without Broak—he slept in (and so did his player).

When they arrived at the village's garrison they were welcomed in and sent right up to see Hiller. After a brief discussion about why Yarrick wasn't delivering the key, they handed it over to Hiller, who was very appreciative of their success. They celebrated with a glass of brandy, and saw a friendlier side of Hiller that they had never seen before.

Soon after, Hiller wrapped the key in a piece of canvas and handed it off to one of his men, instructing him to "go and get things prepared." He informed the party that he would be leaving the next morning to head north to deliver the key to his employer. He explained that he would be leaving Sergeant Clauberg in charge in his absence, and to talk with him if Ander's bounty problem should come up.

After meeting with Hiller the party headed back home for the night. As they left the garrison, they saw several of Hiller's men loading up horses for the next day's journey.

As they approached their property, they saw a horse tied up outside, and a man loitering nearby. As they got closer they recognized their old friend, Willem—one of Albrecht's guardsmen. Willem greeted the party and then told them why he was there on Albrecht's behalf:

"A friend of Albrecht's named Gower in Leedshire had something very valuable stolen from him the other night, and he'd like to hire you to help track down the thief."

After informing the group that he didn't have any other details about the theft (obviously, the party knew exactly what it was), Willem gave them a small purse of silver for advanced payment on behalf of Gower. Being late, they invited Willem to stay for the night, which he did.

Away from Willem, the party discussed their options and decided to speak with Sergeant Clauberg in West Leedshire in hopes of finding out where Hiller was going, track him down, and steal the key away from him to return to Gower, all without—hopefully—implicating themselves in the theft.

*   *   *

The next morning they parted ways with Willem after telling him they would pay Gower a visit and then headed to the garrison in West Leedshire. When they arrived, they spoke with one of Hiller's men, but Clauberg wasn't there. The guard they spoke with didn't seem to know where Hiller was heading, so they made up a story about a death threat against Hiller and they needed to warn him. But the guard didn't waiver as he really didn't know where Hiller was heading, and informed them that Clauberg would be available later in the day. Realizing they weren't getting anywhere, the party decided to head to Leedshire to speak with Gower.

As they headed east down the road in the midday heat, they came across a broken down and looted cart. The remains of two men and their horse lay dead on the road, butchered. The contents of the cart seem to have been removed, just a few sacks of grain, torn open and leaking their contents remained. Ander quickly found some fresh tracks on the road: several humanoid creatures, larger than a man had slaugthered these people.

Cautiously moving down the road they crested a hill and saw, about 200 yards down the hill was a motley group: An ogre, 4 bugbears, and a giant boar pulling a supply laden cart. Leaving their horse and cart behind, they stealthily moved down the sides of the road to intercept the creatures.

* Please note: I'm writing this two weeks after the game, so this will be a short battle report *

Before  they could get close enough to attack, a goblin leapt out from the roadside to warn the ogre and bugbears about the party's approach (there was a goblin scout ahead and behind the ogre and bugbears, the one trailing them managed to roll high enough stealth checks to avoid being spotted by the players). 

Once they realized they were made, they began their attack. Ander managed to hang back from a great distance (with his faithful dog, Skrapeth) and continuously pelt the creatures with arrows. Audrey dove into the fray, working herself up into her barbarian frenzy to deal a lot of damage, as well as soak a lot up herself.

Boots was able to use his new spell, Cloud of Blades, on some of the bugbears, and Grabby attempted to cast a Sleep spell which was completely ineffective. They managed to bring down the ogre first, but the bugbears proved more problematic. Using some ruins as cover, Grabby played a game of cat-and-mouse with two bugbears, but was eventually rendered unconscious and dying on the ground. Boots had a similar experience as he was swarmed by the goblinoids (and an uncharacteristic move of moving in to help Audrey fight off her attackers). Another goblin archer (the scout that was ahead of its party) eventually made his way back and also engaged in the battle.

During the battle, the giant boar became agitated and took off down the road. Eventually all the bugbears and goblins were also dispatched, but at the cost of Boots and Grabby becoming terribly wounded. Audrey managed to stabilize Boots, and Ander rushed in to save Grabby.

* Please note: Because of people away visiting family, trips to Vegas, etc. the game probably might not resume again until late May/early June/and possibly now July *

Sunday, 17 April 2016

How (not) to Make Friends and (negatively) Influence People

 June 28–29, 3430, Age of Kings

After Grabby got washed up, the party retired to the inn for the night.

*   *   *

The next day they decided to set out and search the town for their contact, Yarrick. Knowing there was a bounty out there, Boots thought it might be best to slip away back to their manor and await his companions. But as he stepped out the doors of the inn, he saw three watchmen making their way down the street, being a 6'7" elf, Boot knew he wouldn't blend in on the street, so he quickly made his way back to their room. 

Grabby and Broak set off to find an armourer to purchase a set of splint mail for Broak (which he would buy with his gambling winnings from the night before).

Audrey and Ander went to The Wealthy Rest Inn in hopes of finding Yarrick, whom they had no idea what he looked like. On their way there, they noticed a heavy presence of the town's watch everywhere, and instead of patrolling in pairs, they were now in teams of three. Also being an unusually tall elf, Ander drew many stares from the watchmen, but none acted on their suspicions—but three watchmen did follow them through the streets to the inn, unbeknownst to them.
After several hours in the tavern, a group of three watchmen entered and stood near the entrance, obviously interested in Ander.

Audrey decided to approach them, they showed her Boots' bounty sheet and wanted to know more about Ander. She gave them very little to go on, and eventually Ander entered the conversation. They asked about "Aladnaril" to which they both claimed ignorance. When asked about where they were staying in town and for how long, Ander spoke truthfully. They gave them each a bounty sheet, bid them farewell and left. Audrey and Ander stayed in the inn a bit longer, discussing what their next move would be.

Returning to the inn, they found the three guards they spoke to waiting outside the entrance, they nodded knowingly to them as they passed by. Returning to the room where Boots was sulking, (Grabby and Broak had already returned at this point) Audrey and Ander entered to warn Boots about the guards outside. 

Casting a glance outside the window, Ander noticed more guards outside on the street—they seemed to be surrounding the inn. Knowing the guards were coming, Boots heroically hid his nearly 7' foot body under a bed as the other discussed what t do next. Just then there was a knock on the door, "Watch of Leedshire, open the door!"

Audrey opened the door a crack to see three guardsmen (not the ones they had met previously) who tried to push their way in, but Audrey pushed back. Realizing she would eventually lose the shoving match she backed away and the three guardsmen burst into the room. They immediately locked eyes with the Boots who was still under the bed. "It's him!" they shouted as they leveled their spears at the party. Before anyone could react, the guard standing in the back drew his sword and leapt forward, impaling one of the guards and dropped to the floor on top of his dead body. The other guard, shocked by the sudden attack couldn't react in time as Grabby cast a magic hand spell to quickly close the door and from under the bed Boots cast an eldritch blast which knocked the guard off his feet... and a blasted a hole through his chest, killing him instantly.

Their guard savior was, of course, Yarrick, who took some time berating the party on their inability to keep a low profile. He quickly informed them the town was on high alert because of Boots' actions, and added, "...should I even ask about the demon that was seen fluttering around the next night!?" He paused for a moment, trying to think of a way to smuggle them out, and eventually asked everyone but Boots to leave and to not draw any attention to themselves and that they would now have to be the ones to deliver the key to Hiller. And they complied. Yarrick went to the room next door and used his watch authority to kick out the patrons within, and moved Boots into their room. Yarrick then wounded himself in the shoulder and explained to Boots that he would return to the other guards and tell them he was alone in the room and attacked them, killing the other two guards, then teleported away. He then instructed Boots to remain in the room until he returned for him later that night.

The rest of the party left the town within the hour, as they were also informed that the gates would be closed after night fall. They managed to make it through the gate without problems and made a safe journey back to their manor.

*   *   *

After dark, Yarrick returned to the inn and smuggled him out the back once the guards in the area had dispersed. He led him down back allies and unoccupied side streets to an open grate that led to the town's small sewer system. He told him to follow the passage north where his contact would be meeting him and expect payment to lead him out. With that, Yarrick wished Boots luck and left, leaving Boots to the dank, dark (and smelly) sewers.

After a short walk in the dark he saw torch light up ahead and approached a figure standing there waiting for him. When Boots came into the torch's light he was greeted with, "Ugh, one of you?!" It was Greenan, the leader of a band of thieves they had had encountered when they were stealing a map for Albrecht (and Ander shot him in the ass with an arrow). 

Greenan immediately got down to business and asked for 50 shillings. Having the money on him, and being physically incapable of challenging the thief, Boots decided to intimidate Greenan into a lower price—which simply confused Greenan, "the price just went up to 75."

That was a price that was now too much for Boots, so he offered him "...an amazing spider that can do tricks!" (all this time Yattering had been a spider on Boots' collar.) Greenan took the spider and immediately crushed it and pressed Boots for the money. Boots handed over his 50 silver and then claimed poverty. After Greenan pressed him for more, Boots did what Boots does best, and made the situation worse and cast charm person on Greenan—which he was fortunately successful with.

With Greenan now his friend, Boots was led out of the sewer and hoped to continue on his own, but being a loyal friend, Greenan refused to let his friend wander through the wilds on his own. After lying to Greenan about where his home was, Boots resorted to simply running as fast as could away from the helpful thief.

Monday, 4 April 2016

A Dirty Lil' Halfling

June 27–28, 3430, Age of Kings

We're back! (Finally!)

Under the cover of a moonless night, Grabby set off with Boots from the inn through the drizzle to Gower's home in search of the mysterious "arcane aura" from the nearby house. Once there, Boots hid himself in a nearby alley while Grabby kept to the allies behind the manor house.

Audrey went out to feed Gerald the horse, only to have him stomp on her foot, sending her limping back to her inn room for the rest of the night (this is also why Audrey's player was away tonight).

After the previous day's theft, security was heightened: two pairs of sentries circled the perimeter, one stood guard on a second floor balcony, and three more walked the yard with a pair of mastiffs. Grabby was able to slip between the shadows and silently secure a grappling hook to the manor's roof and scale to the top without being noticed. He crested the peak of the roof, and in the darkness was just barely able to make out the shape of a large, 30 pound iron key wedged between the roof and the chimney.

Unbeknownst to him, Grabby was being watched by Boots' imp familiar, Yattering, who circled silently high above. He carefully picked it up the key, and rather than try to fit it into his pack, it might be best to toss the key over the top of the roof and down into the alley below, where the mud and garbage of the alley—additionally softened by the light rain—should stifle the sound of the key landing.

What could go wrong?

With a mighty heave, Grabby launched the key over the peak of the roof... and came up short. The key landed on the roof's shingles, breaking some and sending others sliding down the steep roof. The key itself loudly slid down the roof and came to rest on a gable. This, of course, alerted all the guards that something was afoot.

Thinking fast, Boots sent his imp to fly to a nearby home in the opposite direction, materialize and start throwing tiles off to create a diversion. Soon the mastiffs were barking, the guards in the front ran to see the commotion that was happening caused by the imp, while two more headed to the alley to see what the initial disturbance was.

After quickly stuffing they key into his pack, Grabby cast a minor illusion of a woman in the alley below him to distract the guards. Sure enough, they saw her and called after her and began to pursue her. One guard kept on the pursuit, while the other stopped when he noticed the rope dangling from the roof.

Having to move from its rooftop cover, Yattering flew into view over the shocked guards. Dropping their spears and pulling up their crossbows, the stunned guards scrambled to fire at the small demon now fluttering overhead. Stunned by the sight of the demon, another guard in the yard ran for the alarm bell and began ringing it madly. Unfortunately for Yattering, the sentry posted on Gower's balcony was already armed with crossbow and fired a bolt which landed squarely in the imp's chest, nearly killing him. Calling Yattering back to safety and to once again become invisible, Boots began to move down the darkened alley away from the action, all the while listening to the imp's curses telepathically.

At this point Grabby had to keep moving to get away from the commotion, from the din of the guards, dogs and the alarm bell, lights from within homes nearby began to flicker to life, and the yells of watchmen echoed down the vacant streets. He leaped down to the street below, tumbling prone. Once he was back on his feet he made a dash across the street to another alley—hastened by the sound of a guard yelling, "Go get 'im!" and the sound of a barking mastiff breaking into a run.

The Yattering safely back with his master was quickly banished for the time by Boots as he slinked back to the inn to return to his allies while Grabby was left to fend for himself.

Charging down the dark alley, Grabby managed to find a pile of garbage against a wall that he dove into and proceeded to cover himself in filth and refuse to hide from the angry mastiff and his handler. Luckily, the stinking garbage and darkness shielded Grabby as the mastiff ran down the alley and past the halfling. Not wanting to take any chances, Grabby continued to lie in the pile of filth for an hour until the commotion died down, occasionally having to brush rats away that were crawling over him to find a meal.

Eventually he pulled himself up from the rain soaked pile of trash and mud and made his way back to the inn. Once safe inside the inn he was quickly kicked out and told to wash off in the stables—inn keepers don't take kindly to soaking wet, garbage encrusted halflings.

The rest of the party went out to find Grabby stripping down and washing himself in a horse trough, triumphantly telling them the story of how he found the key they were after, and claiming to even sense a "magical aura" emanating from the rooftop (this was role played, and strengthened further by possibly a D&D first—Grabby failed an insight check against his own deception roll to see if he truly believed that he saw a magical aura). Confused by Grabby's ability to sense this arcane force, and fact that the very key they were after was mysteriously planted on a rooftop, the party had a better idea what was going on when Grabby blurted out, "I sensed the magical aura, just the same as Mr. Boots!" In addition, Ander had recently checked a bounty board to look for any new postings and found a fresh bounty for Boots posted, which he brought back to the inn.

This squarely put all suspicion on Boots, along with the bounty sheet Ander produced from his pack...

Saturday, 27 February 2016

A Long Absence

Just to keep any followers in the loop, the group hasn't disbanded, we just haven't been able to play due to birthdays, events, and Hawaii.

Hopefully we'll be back swinging swords and stealing other people's things soon...

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Friends and Thieves

June 26–27, 3430, Age of Kings

Once in Leedshire, the party found beds and food at The Fanciful Anchor Inn to rest for the night and stay there until their task was completed.

*   *   *

After breakfast the next day, they headed out to get a look at Gower's residence and make a plan. They easily found the the collector's home mid-morning: an inn converted into a single family home. A short wall surrounded the grounds of the large manor and had a separate cottage for guards and hired hands. They spotted two groups of two guards—one with a guard mastiff—patrolling the grounds. On one of the exterior walls of the manor was an alarm bell.

Boots stepped away to summon his imp in a nearby alley. From there, his imp, Yattering, transformed into a raven to take a closer look at Gower's manor. Looking in through windows inconspicuously, the Yattering was able to get a basic layout of the home, and saw that much of the large estate was filled with antiques, art and various bric-a-brac. 

After circling the grounds they returned to the inn to formulate a plan. Knowing that Hiller's men would remove the threat of interference from the local watch they decided that Ander and Grabby would break into the home via the roof of a neighbouring building, while the rest of the party provided support from outside if things went south. (The bell was a point of great concern which took up most of the conversation)

Once their plan was worked out they decided to spend the rest of the day tending to menial tasks—including Grabby and Audrey gambling down in The Fanciful Anchor which netted them both a nice profit for their efforts.

During this time Boots decided to investigate the manor himself. Sending Yattering to the manor again he spotted Gower and another man sitting at a table eating and drinking. Through Yattering Boots cast charm person at the two men, charming them both. Once this was done Boots approached the guards at the gate and requested entrance to see "his old friend Gower." After some back and forth with the guards, and introducing himself as Aladnaril, he managed to convice one of the guards to get Gower to come to a window to see that his old friend was at the gate.

Eventually Gower came to a window and waved to Boots, an elf he had never seen, but somehow knew he was a friend. Boots entered the manor, introducing himself with his new alias and joined Gower and his friend at the table.

After niceties were exchanged, Boots led the conversation to an old, large iron key that was in Gower's collection of rarities. Shortly Gower and Boots were in a cramped room filled with ancient weapons, armour, statues, books and shelves overflowing with all sorts of items so Gower could dig through the mess to try to find the key. Within minutes (and Gower rolling a natural 20 to search) Gower found the key and brought it back to the table so they could discuss it—which quickly became about Boots purchasing the key.

Despite "Aladnaril" being an old friend, Gower wasn't about to part with this key for pennies without knowing its true value. Gower could have another expert take a look at the key to get a better idea of its value the next day, but knowing his spell would only last for about another half-hour, Boots tried to pressure the sale.

Gower decided to meet him in the middle and go upstairs to his study in an attempt to find some information on the key. Taking the key with him, he went upstairs. 

Getting nervous as time passed, Boots went upstairs to continue to pressure Gower as he pulled stacks of books off a shelf. Opening a window to "get some fresh air" Boots let in a now invisible Yattering to keep an eye on the key. Knowing his spell would end within minutes, Boots gave Gower a quick excuse to get going and made a hasty exit from the manor, leaving his imp familiar in the room with Gower.

Finding a secluded alley nearby, Boots waited, maintaining his psychic link with Yattering to view the scene through the imp's eyes. Sure enough Gower came to, now aware that a starnge elf had charmed him, he ran out into the yard yelling at his confused guards to "find that elf!" Enraged, Gower ran around the yard to assemble more guards to join in the search and called fro the town's watch. 

During the chaos, the Yattering materialized in the study and grabbed the heavy key, lugged it to a window, and with great effort manged to fly out the window to the roof of the manor next door to wedge the key behind the manor's chimney. His task completed, Yattering returned to Boots and they two headed back to the inn.

Back at The Fanciful Anchor Boots managed to (easily) convince Grabby that he had returned to the manor to further scout out the area and sensed a "strange, magical aura" on the roof of the house next door, and that he should sneak up to the roof to investigate it. 

"After all, it could be worth money!"

And Grabby was in...

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Shadowy Dealings and a "Friendly" Ogre

June 25–26, 3430, Age of Kings

As a group, the party decided to return to West Leedshire and confront Cpatain Hiller. Once they arrived at the garrison they were informed that only Audrey and Ander could enter to see Hiller. Reluctantly the two entered while their allies waited outside.

Once inside Audrey and Ander surrendered their weapons and entered Hiller's chambers. Inside they were met by Hiller and two of his lackey watchmen. Offering them a drink they sat down to discuss the situation.

Hiller used Ander's current status as a wanted criminal as leverage his position, informing Ander that, at the moment, he was intercepting his bounty postings, and that only he and his closest men were aware of the situation. If Ander and Audrey were willing to act on his behalf to perform certain duties that would be frowned upon coming from a watchman, he'd make sure that no bounty board in the area would see Ander's bounty sheet. Apparently Captain Hiller also has operatives in Leedshire that would intercept the sheets as long as Ander and Audrey cooperated.

With that, Hiller told the two what he needed done—or rather what his employer needed done, never revealing who that was. A wealthy collector of rare and ancient items living in Leedshire was in possession of a large, ancient iron key. He showed them an artist's rendering, as well as an actual charcoal relief of the key itself so that Audrey and Ander knew what exactly they were looking for. Hiller didn't give them much more information other than where the collector—a man by the name of Gower Taubert—resided in Leedshire, and that on the 27th he'd make sure that his men in the local watch would be on patrol in the area. He reassured them if they saw any watchmen in te the area they'd turn a blind eye to anything that they might have to do to gain entry into Gower's guarded property.

Agreeing to the conditions Audrey and Ander left Hiller's garrison and returned to their waiting allies and filled them in on what was going on then headed back home for the rest of the day.

*   *   *

The next day the party woke to a raging rain storm. Despite the terrible weather conditions they decided to set out to make the day long journey into Leedshire so they could spend a day scouting the area out. Loading into their cart, pulled by their faithful old horse Gerald, they set out onto the muddy road to Leedshire.

*   *   *

At about noon, as Gerald slogged through the mud and rain, a large figure flanked by two man-sized could be seen standing on the road ahead of them in the hard rain. Realizing this was most likely trouble, those on the cart leapt off to find cover—but walked right into an ambush.

As Ander moved to the side of the road to find cover, he was greeted by a goblin's arrow. Suddenly, several goblins armed with short bows leapt from bushes and tree branches firing down on the party. Once the attack started the ogre and his two orc allies rushed down the road towards the party to engage them.

Due to the heavy rain and strong winds, most ranged attacks were futile, but one arrow managed to find its mark: Gerald the horse. Gerald's legs buckled as he fell into the mud, slowly dying from the wound.

Grabby managed to engage some of the goblins by sneaking up on them and cutting their throats while Ander, Audrey and Broak engaged the other in melee. 
Broak took the ogre head-on. As the ogre swung its massive mace at Broak, an orc moved into flank the dwarf. As the ogre was staggered and off balance from his attack, Broak saw an opening and manged to strike the ogre in the side of the head with a critical hit, stunning him. But due to the nature of Broak's warhammer, he once again experienced the killing blow to his lover, falling to his knees screaming in emotional anguish. Now, in the middle of the battle, both Broak and the ogre stood stunned before one another.
Once close enough, Boots cast a charm person spell on the ogre, taking over the brute's simple mind as it recovered from Broak's stunning blow—and then quickly ran behind the ogre to get cover and commanding the ogre, "Old friend! attack those orcs and the goblins! Protect us!" Which it did.
As an orc engaged Ander in combat, the ogre rushed up behind the orc and slammed his mace into the unsuspecting creature, killing it instantly. 
At this point only a single goblin remained, who quickly leapt from his tree and dashed off into the wilderness defeated.
Ander quickly moved into heal Gerald so the horse could continue the journey into Leedshire. Boots thanked the ogre for his service, wished him well and sent him on his way as they departed for Leedshire.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Dwarf Sleuths, Ghostly Girls and Crooked Captains

June 23–25, 3430, Age of Kings

Audrey and Ander managed to make their way back to their manor on the outskirts of West Leedshire, making sure to avoid heavily traveled areas, and  met up with Grabby and Broak who had already made the trip back.

While Grabby and Ander spent a few hours washing their mud and filth soaked belongings, Boots made his way out of his cellar study to greet his companions and hear of their heroic tale of sucker punching a woman in the face and getting into a scrap with the local militia.

The rest of the day was spent resting up and recovering from the morning's events.

*   *   *

The next day, as everyone was meeting for breakfast on the main floor, Grabby slept in late upstairs. He was suddenly roused from his slumber when he heard the voice of what sounded like a little girl whisper into his ear:

"Wake up!"

Sitting up, Grabby glanced around the empty room expecting to find someone right next to him only to see nothing. Then, a glint of steel caught his eye in the folds of his blankets. There, lying at his hairy feet, was Mr. Shiney, his prized magic dagger. He grabbed it and ran downstairs (wearing nothing but the hair on the tops of his feet) proclaiming he had found Mr. Shiney. No one believed his "mystery voice" that woke him, and the rest of the party assumed Grabby had simply left the dagger at home...

After eating, the group discussed their situation and decided that Boots and Broak would head back into West Leedshire to see if they could gain any information on the previous day's events. Making their way to the village's militia garrison, they were greeted by two guard who would not permit them entry, but said they could come back the next morning for a meeting with a Captain Hiller.

So the two left the garrison and split up. Boots went to see if he could get any information, using his imp to peek into windows and homes, but returned with nothing. Broak headed to the Pale Lamb Barroom to see what he could learn. 

After eating another breakfast, Broak learned that a local man named Mertin Hoch was the most recent person go missing (as you may recall, there was a posting for missing people in Mercenary Square from very early in the campaign). Finding Mr. Hoch's residence, Broak was greeted by Mertin's wife, Mariora.

Through some Columbo-esque detective work, Broak was able to find out that Mertin had been meeting recently with a certain Captain Hiller about a possible job with the village's watch. She gave Broak a small wooden chest that had arrived a few days before Mertin's disappearance from the Captain. The chest was empty, with no other clues, Broak left with the empty chest to meet back up with Boots to return home.

*   *   *

 The next day Broak and Boots returned to the garrison for their meeting with Captain Hiller, a middle-aged man with some fresh scrapes and cuts on his face from a recent altercation. They entered his chambers where he was accompanied by two of his watchmen, both had a very casual manner to them—which Broak felt was odd considering they were in the presence of their superior.

After the initial greeting Broak and Boots asked questions about Mertin's disappearance, and seemed to hint at the Captain knowing something about it, which did not go over well. They only information they were told was that the chest contained a tabard for the village's watch as Mertin was to soon begin training with them. Before tensions could rise much higher they were asked to leave, which they did.

Once at home they told their allies about their encounter with Captain Hiller. Later that evening Ander spotted a horse and cart accompanied by a group of figures moving towards their manor through the thick fog that had fallen on the area earlier in the day. As they got a little bit closer he could make out the livery of the watchmen from West Leedshire.

As they approached Boots came outside to greet them, and once again met Captain Hiller and six of his men. The two exchanged pleasantries and Captain Hiller asked for the whereabouts of an elf named Ander and a "north woman" wanted for questioning in an assault on a citizen and an assault on himself and other watchmen from two days ago. Boots responded saying that they used to live in the manor but left abruptly the other day, where, he didn't know.

At that, sensing deception, Captain Hiller feigned regret for having missed them and handed over Ander's bounty sheet, informing Boots that if he did happen to see Ander that he should report to his garrison within the next 24 hours to "clear up this mess." The captain then went on to make some veiled threat against the rest of the party (particularly to their manor house) and threatened them that he may have to get Albrecht involved. Clearly, Captain Hiller was not the most upstanding citizen his position conveyed.

With that, he gave Boots a smug grin and returned to the cart where he and his men returned to West Leedshire.