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A few weeks later, upon returning to the Rock of Bral, Straxius sent Ra-Jareez, Sumner, and Ragnar out to hire a proper crew for Sea of Stars. Meanwhile, he and the rest of the officers decided to go to the Laughing Beholder to see if they could catch up to Seravos the Golden.
As they disembarked from their ship a messenger ran up to Straxius with a letter:
You pledged to aid us.
Dark forces conspire to break the shackles holding the World Serpent at bay.
We call upon you to fulfil your oath.
(It looks better in the stoney, runic-looking font I used on the actual note)
After a brief moment, they remembered the giants with whom they traded to acquire the crystal of ice for the Arcane, so long ago. Since they were already on the Rock of Bral where the man believed to be in possession of a piece of the Wand of Orcus was, they chose to retrieve it from him first, and then swing by Eorôe in Patria Sphere on the way to their next destination.
They hung around the Laughing Beholder for a bit as Rune tried to tell Luigi the Beholder a joke. After the joke Luigi declared he was changing the name of his bar to the Sad Beholder and all that was good in life was now gone. About then, a lithe, golden-haired elf walked in, ordered a drink and sat at a table, alone. Luigi confirmed it was Seravos the Golden.
One failed negotiation later (Seravos was not willing to part with any piece of his collection) and they began to develop a plan to acquire the piece of the wand through extra-legal means. Luigi counseled Straxius, telling him that they should not feel guilty if they needed to remove the evil object from Seravos’s possession; the elf was not troublemaker, per se, but neither was he a good person. They decided on a plan that would have Zinni scope out his home and potentially pilfer the wand’s shaft given the opportunity.
Seravos’s house was in a middle-class part of town, and appeared to be an unremarkable building on a street of row houses. Through the windows, the interior looked dark and cluttered and Zinni was unable to find a back entrance. There was enough pedestrian traffic on the street that she didn’t feel comfortable picking the lock in broad starlight, so she returned to Straxius and the other officers.
They waited until night, then returned to Seravos’s house as a group. Before taking the step of breaking in, they decided to knock on the door. It swung open as they rapped upon it. Inside, the house was unlike its streetside appearance. It was much larger and round, more like a tower, than a humble single-story house.
From inside, the crew heard the sounds of battle. An apprentice lay slumped over a desk in the vestibule, a pool of blood spreading from his body and dripping onto the floor. They climbed the tower, dealing with both Seravos’s clockwork minions and the invading undead until they reached the top floor. A coffin and a corpse drained of blood gave away Seravos’s true nature, yet he was nowhere to be found. They did spy a hatch in the ceiling above a fallen ladder. They smashed the coffin and climbed.
On the roof, they found Seravos the Golden. Frothing with rage, he declare no one, not the crew of Sea of Stars, not the Ghoul King, NO ONE would have his prize. After a brief battle, the crew put the rampaging vampire down. Seravos tried to flee in his gaseous form, and Straxius summoned an air elemental to take the wispy vampire on a ride.
The shaft of the Wand of Orcus lay on the roof. They picked up the penultimate piece and pondered their next move…
This is really late because not only did I have a mad rush to get two books to the printer (Scars of the Sundering, book 3: Salvation and “Burble’s Big Day,” both of which will be available at Gen Con), but two author events back-to-back right after this game. I’m sure I left out details. Oh well, I think I got the gist of it and I’m sure if there is anything crucial missing, one of my players will chime in in the comments.
During a recent conversation on Twitter, a question was asked: What RPGs do you own, but have never played? I literally could not answer that question in 140 characters. I came up with twenty-plus titles, depending on how you count.
So many games, so little time.
Games Owned, Never Played
Gods of the Fall
Cypher System Core Rules
Are these one game, or three? Should I even count the Cypher System Core Rules? I’ve played Numenera, so it could be argued that it’s close enough and these don’t count. On the other hand, they’re each self-contained and have their own twists on the Cypher System rules.
Deadlands – Hell on Earth: Reloaded
Interface Zero 2.0
I’ve played Savage Worlds, both in pulp games and in a Space: 1889 game. I even ran a Realms of Cthulhu adventure, but like with Cypher System, I think all these variants have enough of a twist on the rules that they count a games in their own right.
This would be a great game if I had kids or a group of friends really into Anime, or both. I’m still keeping it around because it’s so charming and well-done.
Feng Shui 2
Hong Kong Action Movie Fu! When I read this, I immediately thought of the ways I could essentially run a Shadowrun game with it, but without all the baggage of the Shadowrun system.
A classic… that I’ve never played. I like running wacky, off-the-wall stuff at conventions, though and I found these mint condition books at Half-Price Books for a steal, so I couldn’t afford NOT to buy them.
Mad Max meets Fallout! Seriously, if you ever read these rules, that’s exactly the vibe you get. The V8 system the game uses maps almost exactly to the SPECIAL system the Fallout CRPGs use and it’s easy enough to bolt-on perks, if you like. Plus, there’s a robust set of vehicle rules in case you want to die historic on Fury Road.
Middle-Eastern themed sci-fi with a heavy dose of spirtualism. It looks very cool and it lets the PCs configure their own ship. You could probably play a less gonzo/grimdark version of Rogue Trader with this with a bunch of mysticism on the side.
Mutant: Year Zero
This game reminded me of the settlement building portion of Fallout 4, but without the frustration of using a set-up that was not designed for a left-handed person to change the controls. Sorry, that’s a rant for another time. Post-apocalyptic goodness that’s more Fallout Shelter than Mad Max.
This has dual rules for Savage Worlds and Call of Cthulhu, which is why I didn’t put it up with the rest of the Savage Worlds stuff. It has a real “First Ten Minutes of the Hellboy Film” feel. Nazis, Eldritch Horrors, what’s not to like?
Pulp action using the BRP rules (aka the same system Call of Cthulhu uses). You don’t even have to use the Mythos to do proper Indiana Jones-style pulp action/adventure with this game. It’s a close race between this and Hollow Earth Expedition for my preferred pulp game, though that may change once I play it (Savage Worlds does pulp well, too)
Shadowrun 5th Edition
Shadowrun is the setting I love most couple with a game system I like least. 10 – 15 years ago, I’d probably be all over it, but as I’ve gotten older, my interest in complex, fiddly system has diminished. I had hopes that 5th edition would reduce the complexity I grew to dread in 4th edition (which I played several times), but alas… DIS-A-PPOINTMENT!
Green Ronin’s Age system intrigues me, but I’ve yet to run it. D&D 5E does everything I really want a fantasy game to do right now.
Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea
Pulp Fantasy (like the original Conan stories) meets AD&D, but with a more standardized system. Seems to be popular with the crowd that likes Old School, but wants bit more modern rules than a retro clone could provide.
The 77 Lost Worlds
I think this is the ONLY RPG my wife has played that I have no. James Ward playtested this at Gary Con for several years and she really enjoyed it. If I recall, it’s like a far-future sci-fi RPG where society has survived by building domed cities, each of which is themed, sort of like a theme park. So you might have the Medieval Europe dome over there and the Ancient Egyptian dome over here, along with 75 others.
Shadows of Esteren
This is a French horror-fantasy RPG I’ve been acquiring mostly because my wife loves the art and production values.
Star Trek Adventures
I have the PDF, but the print version is still en route. I’m going to count it anyway, even though I haven’t counted any other games I own solely on PDF.
Owned – Played once or twice, Back in The Day
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Forget the cartoon. Forget the films. This game is based on the Kevin Eastman comic. I played it once on a bus during a school trip. I remember having a lot of fun, but it is a Palladium game, so who knows if I could even get past the system now.
Top Secret, SI
I haven’t played this since the height of the Cold War. It’s the action/James Bondian version where the original Top Secret was more about the espionage. The new TSR is currently running a Kickstarter for a modern, third version (Top Secret: New World Order — written by the original Administrator, Merle Rasmussen!), which I’ve played the last two years at Gary Con (and I played the original Top Secret the previous two years at Gary Con, once with Merle, which is why it’s not listed here).
Marvel Super Heroes
I remember liking this more than it’s contemporary, DC Heroes. I’m still looking for that perfect Supers game that has rules I can grok along with enough inspiration within that I don’t have to wonder, WTF do I do this session that isn’t a variation of the last game? Maybe the Sentinels Comics RPG will do it for me. Of course, now you look at Aunt May’s stats (Feeble in just about everything) and you look at Marisa Tomei and have severe cognative dissonance.
Buck Rogers XXVc
AD&D 2nd edition if it was a pulp sci-fi game “based” on the Buck Rogers comics. The history of this game basically boils down to a cash grab by the then-owners of TSR since they also owned the Buck Rogers estate. No funny Mel Blanc-voiced robots or hawkmen here, but there was a heavy dose of transhumanism and solar system exploration. It was actually a really well-done game, as I recall.
I think making a character is the best part of this game. You can literally tell the story of a character’s entire Starfleet career during character creation (you’re supposed to stop when you get to the point at which your game starts). It’s really a solo game all to itself.
I knew about The Doctor and Jelly Babies for decades before I actually saw the show, because of this game (not strictly true, I rented Pyramids of Mars on VHS from the base video store, but only had vague memories of it until I started watching the show in earnest sometimes during the 10th Doctor’s run). FASA really need some better quality control because the black & white photos used to illustrate this game are DARK.
Did this post need pictures? I feel like I should have tracked down box art for all of these games… but dang, that’s a lot of pictures and I only have so much time in the day!
After an attempt at evasion, it was clear the Man-O-War intended to confront Sea of Stars. Captain Straxius ordered everyone to battle stations, but did not order an attack, preferring to let the elves, if that’s who they really were, make the first move.
A projection of the Elven captain appeared on their deck. He introduced himself as High Captain Larethon and informed the crew of Sea of Stars that they were in restricted space and demanded to know their purpose.
Captain Straxius explained who they were and that they were ignorant of the restriction on the space above Brintannia. Captain Larethon had heard of a Straxius Farseer, Captain of Boccob’s Barge, a ship currently implicated in a rash of pirate attacks. Straxius explained that ship had been stolen by a lich and his undead minions, then Queen Garria blurted out that they were on a sacred quest to defeat Orcus, much to the chagrin of the superstitious among the crew who believes saying the Demon Prince’s name invited ruin.
Upon hearing this, Captain Larethon invited the officers to convene aboard his ship. Captain Straxius accepted the invitation, but cautioned his crew to be wary of any attempt by the elves to deceive them. The elves served wine, then they got down to business. Straxius explained their quest in detail and the elf explained piracy enacted by ships crewed by the undead were increasing and there were signs that Orcus’s minions were involved. Captain Larethon told them he was authorized to help anyone working against the Demon Prince of Undead and would send word to their armada in The Grinder that they were to share whatever intelligence they had on these attacks, and the whereabouts of the pieces of the Wand of Orcus.
He wished them luck. Captain Straxius bartered a case of wine from him and Sea of Stars parted ways with the Man-O-War with a new destination: Greyspace.
The journey to Greyspace was uneventful and they navigated their way to The Grinder, the vast sphere of asteroids and planetoids surrounding the inner planets of Greyspace. They navigated their way through the tumbling rocks toward the Elven Armada. Passing between two particularly close planetoids, they were attacked by a void worm, a wild space-dwelling cousin of the dreaded purple worm. Fortunately, Captain Straxius had a polymorph spell handy with which he reduced it to a snail, allowing them to pass with minimum damage to the ship*.
After receiving permission to dock, the crew exited Sea of Stars and met with the commander of the Elven Armada, Lord Corellon. Having been forewarned of their arrival, the Elvish Lord had all the information pertaining to various divinations they’d performed regarding the Wand of Orcus as well as information from the Elvish navy’s vast network of spies. They had narrowed the shaft of the wand down to four possible locations. He dismissed the possibility that it was in the hands of the Kingpriest of Istar immediately; both the location and the man were destroyed ages ago. They determined it could be in the possession of a Dwarven collector of rare oddities, Belgar Blisterstone, a resident of the nearby Ironfist Citadel. Another possibly location was in the possession of Keraptis, in his mountain of power. Unfortunately, the mountain moved at seemingly random intervals. It was last known to be on Reorx, in Krynnspace, but Lord Corellon warned it could very well move before they could get there. Lastly, another collector might have it: Seravos the Golden, last known to reside on the Rock of Bral.
When their business with the elves was complete, they set off for the first of their possibilities: Ironfist Citadel. They found the Dwarven citadel in the Grinder, less than a day away. The dwarves allow them to dock and they were directed to Belgar’s shop. Unfortunately, he was no in possession of the shaft to the Wand of Orcus, though he was more than happy to show them his other wares and trade with them.
Rune cast a divination, attempting to learn from his god what the best investigative option was. Based on those answers, rather than seek out Keraptis’s mountain, they chose instead to plot a course back to the Rock of Bral to next seek out Seravos the Golden…
*Don’t you hate it when players completely bypass a detailed encounter that had a bunch of cool details that were going to be TOTALLY AWESOME? Of course, I still gave them full XP (except for the follow-up encounter that never happened as a result of short-circuiting the void worm encounter). I’m just glad I didn’t bust my butt painting the miniature that didn’t really get used in this encounter. 😀
I must remember their predilection for polymorph when designing future encounters.
The fungus folk, myconids, though aloof, proved helpful to the crew of Sea of Stars. They described the route to the fortress of the Shadowlords, but warned the crew they’d have to pass through a realm occupied by creatures not of this world who swam through stone as easily as a fish through water. The myconids also warned the crew of the Shadowlords’ servants of metal and stone.
During their discussion, the crew decided they would stick to their goal of rescuing Queen Garria without confronting the Shadowlords, if possible. (The PCs learned at some point that the Shadowlords were not, in fact, in their fortress at the moment, though I no longer remember where they learned that information and it’s not really important.)
After resting, they set off toward the Shadowlords’ fortress once again. Not long after leaving the mushroom kingdom, they encountered an odd, three-armed, three-legged creature emerging from stone. Straxius, with his breadth of knowledge was able to communicate with the creature and they exchanged metals and gemstones for safe passage and a guide. The creatures, xorn, were eager to help those who offered them such refined food.
The Xorn guided the crew to a massive stone bridge over a river of lava. On the far side was a stone monolith: the fortress of the Shadowlords. Creatures of fire swum in the lava, and across the bridge, the entrance was guarded by two massive winged statues. The crew assumed the statues were, in fact, gargoyles, and decided they would defy all the guardians by striding boldly onto the bridge.
Elementals and lava guardians in the river of fire turned their attention to the bridge, but did not approach. The gargoyles, however, had no such compunctions and challenged the crew. Straxius informed them if they wanted to live, they would let them pass. The gargoyles declined but accepted an alternate challenge: single combat versus Veya.
Veya easily beat the gargoyle who challenged her and the other stepped aside, its desire to live outweighing its loyalty to its masters. They descend into the fortress, making their way through ancient crypts defaced depictions of Brintannia’s deities of Truth, Love, and Courage, and tombs unremembered; mysteries for others to discover.
They found their way to a ritual chamber and were able to eavesdrop on an exchange between the image of a goat-headed demon and one of the Shadowlords’ servants. Orcus congratulated them on capturing his old nemesis and ordered them to kill her and bring her skull to him for his throne. The servant responded they would do so and they would continue to hunt Hrothgar the Penitent no matter where or who he was reincarnated as, until the end of time, if need be. Orcus then ordered them to also bring the heads of the ones behind the servant, those would who “save” Hrothgar.
A pitched battle was fought, but the crew of Sea of Stars was victorious and freed Queen Garria. Straxius made use of the contingency escape he prepared before they entered the Underworld and teleported them back to the Cathedral of Truth. Queen Garria confirmed their suspicions: “It’s true. I am Hrothgar the Penitent. I was reincarnated into this form you see before you. It’s not the first time, and until Orcus is vanquished forever, it won’t be the last. Destroying his wand will sever his connection with this plane for a time and will give me a long enough reprieve to enjoy a lifetime, perhaps even two or three. If only I could find the thing…
“For two-and-half-thousand years I’ve been hounded by his agents. Cut down and killed, whenever I was unable to withstand their assault. I know not how many of my skulls decorate his throne by now.”
She agreed to accompany them to find the rest of the wand and destroy it, but first, she needed to spend a day or two to set her affairs in Brintannia in order. Once she gave her allies the information they needed to vanquish the Shadowlords, she left with the crew and the Sea of Stars once more took to the sky.
I had not intended for Queen Garria to be a damsel in distress in need of rescue, in fact, I was going to have her escape on her own and meet up with the PCs in the Underworld and then they all defeat the Shadowlords togethers. The best laid plans of mice and men…
My players weren’t really biting the hook of defeating the Shadowlords, and honestly, the PCs didn’t have a good reason to stick their noses THAT deep into Brintannia’s problem. Finding the Queen was paramount, and most because they suspected she had ties to their main quest (at least I dropped those hints well enough).
I wasn’t feeling the whole Underworld diversion anyway (and neither were they), so wrapping it up quickly and getting everyone back on the ship was for the best I think. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I failed somewhere in the execution. Frankly, I should just stopped at the tournament and figured out some other way to clue them into the fact that Queen Garria was the reincarnation of Hrothgar the Penitent and they’d need her to actually destroy the Wand of Orcus.
Part of GMing is learning from one’s mistakes. So, these were still valuable sessions for me, but I guess I can’t put off painting those catapult miniatures I bought for the ship any longer.
After sleeping on it, the crew decided to follow the path into the narrow, twisty tunnels. For days they followed this path, dealing with sheer drops, treacherous under hangs, and ropers. Eventually, they arrived in a vast cavern filled with bones.
The bones covered the ground in all directions, for as far as their eyes could see. Animal bones, from creatures both familiar and unknown, human bones, and many, many dwarf bones. They crunched through the cavern for hours, taking care to avoid areas where they saw undulating motion in the bones. Eventually, they came to a carved, stone doorway. Beyond, lay what appeared to be an ancient library.
Most of the tomes were crumbling or unreadable, written in an ancient dwarven dialect no one could translate. Exploring deeper into the library, they came across an automaton browsing the stacks. It greeted them, despite their suspicious bearing. The automaton introduced itself as Rune; a construct of the dwarves, perhaps the last survivor of their civilization.
From their conversation with Rune, they learned it knew of the Shadowlords’ lair, but nothing of Queen Garria. It asked to accompany them, and after a brief discussion, they agreed. They set out, back into the cavern of bones and Rune led them to passages which took them deeper into the Underworld.
Rune’s guidance took them out of the cavern and down into caverns full of giant fungi. They had entered the Demesne of the Mushroom King….
Rune will be taking the place of Sumner in the coming sessions. Sumner’s player felt the minotaur warlock/paladin was overlapping in abilities with too many other party members and the lack of a dedicated cleric was hampering them somewhat. He’s going to play both characters until the party returns to the surface, then Sumner will retire to the ship. This has the added bonus of keeping the ship in the hands of someone more trustworthy than Ra-Jareez (“Ra-Jareez has done nothing! This one is innocent of these crimes!”).
Before venturing into the cave system, Kagark presented Straxius with a box and letter given to him by Valen the Ponce while the rest of the crew were acquiring provisions. The letter summarized research The Ponce had done prior to their departure. He also gifted them with the two prizes they failed to win in the tournament: elemental gems and an instant fortress. He said since all the prizes were from the Order of the Sacred Flower’s vaults, he considered the gifts an investment in the success of their quest.
The crew wandered the dark tunnels beneath the catacombs for hours. They navigated using marks left by Grigori. After a while, it became clear they were being followed by some creature. They stopped to confront a trio of carrion crawlers intent on making a meal of them, then continued on their way.
At some point during their wanderings, they found a partially collapsed tunnel and the remains of a hapless explorer. They found some old coins and a couple of notes in the explorer’s possessions that indicated they were not the first to go into the Underworld seeking the Shadowlords. They kept the notes and the money and pressed onwards.
Sometime the next day, they found a sinkhole at the end of Grigori’s trail marks: the entrance to the Underworld. They descended into the depths.
The passageways of the Underworld led them along twisting paths. Zinni and Sumner scouted ahead, narrowly avoiding a cloaker ambush. Once the abominations were dealt with, they continued until the trail split. One direction seemed to lead to an area of vast caverns. The other continued in narrow, twisting passageways. They paused to heal their wounds from their most recent battle before deciding which route to take…
The Underworld is not the Underworld of Greek Mythology, but merely the name by which the world of Brintannia refers to their version of the Underdark. This was a weirdly unfocused session. Those happen from time-to-time. Next time will be better.
We hadn’t intended to take an extra week off, but I ended up with con crud from Gary Con, so there you have it.
The crew spent much of the next day preparing for their journey. After making sure they had the gear necessary for an extended underground excursion, they sought out the one man their investigations revealed might know where to find an entrance to the Underworld: Grigori the Dark.
They tracked him to The Screeching Owl, where they found Grigori preparing to leave Bryttan to return to his home in the south. After a brief conversation, they persuaded him to give them directions to the location where he found an Underworld entrance. He admitted he couldn’t tell them what to expect there, exactly, as he turned back when he found the entrance; he was not equipped for a journey of that complexity. The entrance he found was in a cave system accessed from the Cathedral of Truth’s catacombs. The cathedral itself was far to the north, beyond the Great Forest.
They took Sea of Stars and flew north, cutting weeks off their journey. They found the Cathedral of Truth just where Grigori indicated it would be and climbed down to the astonishment of the two acolytes who saw their ship arrive. The bewildered clerics directed the crew to speak to Keepers Brand or Rosalin.
Inside the cathedral, they inquired of Keeper Rosalin regarding catacomb access. She informed them they were not open to just anyone, and there was currently an undead problem they were dealing with; it wasn’t safe. Straxius offered that he and the crew be permitted to look for the cave entrance in the catacombs in exchange for clearing out the undead. The Keepers accepted the terms and allowed the crew entry into the catacombs.
There was nothing particularly unusual about the catacombs, except for the ghost, specters, and wraiths who attacked them. Despite giving Veya new grey hair, the undead were vanquished and the crew retreated back upstairs to seek healing and restoration. Once rested, they returned to the catacombs with Keeper Brand to seek the cause of the hauntings and try to find the entrance to the cave system of which Grigori the Dark spoke. They found it behind one of the tapestries, a dark crack in the wall leading into the depths of the earth…
Unbeknownst to the crew, but beknownst to those of you reading this, a courier gave Kagark a package just before they departed Bryttan. The half-orc held on to the package, because the strange little red-robed man in the sky made some errors in judgement and execution and needed to set things right.
This post is a wall-of-text because in my excitement over how much work I put in the tournament I failed to take ANY pictures of the table. I had a field with tents, horses, a tavern and everything set out. Nuts.
The Tournament of Flowers kicked off with a speech by Queen Garria:
“Once again, we come together thanks to the generous contributions of the Order of the Sacred Flower.” She pauses for a moment as the crowd cheers for a group of assembled knights with lotus flowers on their tabards.
“May we all compete over the next several days with fairness and grace, that we might earn glory for our peers and ourselves. As in previous years, each individual’s triumphs will contribute to their team’s quest for victory. May the great Wyrm, Morokei Krongrah watch over us as we celebrate victory in his name!”
With that, the tournament began and the crew of the Sea of Stars were approached by Maxim, the tournament scorekeeper and registrar. He introduced the other teams competing: the Order of Truth, Storm Company, the Knights of the Sacred Flower—the tournament sponsors, Companions of the Crucible, and the Free Citizens of Bryttan. The first event was the Grand Melee, a tournament of chivalric, single combat (no magic). Veya and Sumner signed up for that. Zinianna signed up for the Archery Contest. Straxius signed up for Arcane Archery. Straxius signed up for the Joust, and they would all participate as a team in the Urn of Wits challenge and the final Hedge Maze Challenge.
After easily defeating Grinder the Uncouth of the Free Citizens of Bryttan and Jaana the Hammer of the Order of Truth, Veya faced her 3rd Tier opponent, Dupre the Pure, also from the Order of Truth. Meanwhile, Sumner faced off against Shamino the Swift of the Order of Truth, then Grond of the Companions of the Crucible before facing his 3rd Tier opponent, Talos the Elder of Storm Company. Both Veya and Sumner defeated their 3rd Tier opponents, leaving them to face each other in the Champion Round.
That would have to wait a few days, however, to give the tournament participants a chance to rest. Meanwhile, Straxius faced off against Pelgor Quickfingers of the Companions of the Crucible in Arcane Archery and defeated him. Due to a lack of opponents, Straxius merely needed to be Grigori the Dark’s score to advance to the Champion Ship round. Grigori the Dark, of the Companions of the Crucible lost his 3rd Tier challenge to Valen the Ponce of the Knights of the Sacred Flower. Straxius beat his score, then faced Valen the Ponce for the Championship, convincing the boisterous knight that competing drunk and blind-folded would prove their worth. Valen agreed and competed, not knowing Straxius used his connection with his familiar to see through its eyes. Still, Valen’s skill was formidable and he only narrowly lost to Straxius. The Captain of the Sea of Stars was crowned Arcane Archery champion and granted the Earthtender Circlet as a prize (a circlet of blasting).
Sumner geared up for the joust, using his summoned steed after it was deemed that his Celestial Elephant, Stampy, from his figuring would provide him with an unfair and ultimately impractical advantage. (Why yes, I DID buy empty halves of coconut for this.) First, he jousted against an opponent from the Grand Melee, Talos the Elder. He unseated the old man then was challenged by Jaana the Hammer. After defeating her, his opponent was Dupre the Pure. Once again victorious, Sumner’s final opponent was Valen the Ponce. They made multiple passes and with Sumner’s unhorsing their scores were tied! Sumner demanded satisfaction from Valen the Ponce, but was unable to control his rage at the knight’s good natured boasting and the ignorant comments of other participants comparing the minotaur (whose race was unknown on Brintannia) to a bovine. He broke the rules of the contest and was disqualified for using magic to paralyze The Ponce. Valen was crowned Champion of the Joust and accepted the Gweardon Fortress (Daern’s Instant Fortress) as his prize.
Zinni was confident the Archery Contest would be little challenge to her and after defeating Pelgor Quickfingers, Loren Smythe of the Free Citizens of Bryttan, and Katrina Trueeye of the Knights of the Sacred Flower, she faced her final opponent, Garrett the Lame, also of the Knights of the Sacred Flower. Despite his slow, hobbled gait, he proved himself the better, or luckier, archer and limped away with the Champion title and the prize, the Quiver of the Blessed Huntress (a Quiver of Ehlonna).
During the period in which the melee participants rested, the Urn of Wits challenge was held. A pedestal was placed on a large rug in a pavilion. The rug was large enough no one could leap to the center to reach the pedestal. Upon the pedestal was an urn. The object was to retrieve the urn without using magic and without walking on the rug. Heated debates broke out amongst the teams. The crew took knives to the pavilion tent to create a long section of fabric which the placed on the rug to walk on. The challenge proctors called foul and while they were arguing over the wording of the rules, Valen the Ponce knelt down and rolled up the rug to walk on the grass until he reached the urn. The challenge proctors declared the Knights of the Sacred Flower the winners of the Urn of Wits Challenge. This announcement was met with much grumbling by the officers of Sea of Stars.
Nevertheless, the tournament proceeded and, it was time for the presumably rested and healed melee contestants to face off for the Championship. Sumner was reminded in no uncertain terms that magic was prohibited during the challenge and he faced off with Veya. While Sumner provided a bit more of a challenge than her previous opponents, the barbarian powerhouse from Faerun defeated the minotaur from Ansalon (Krynn). She accepted the title of Grand Melee Champion and the prize of an Adamantine Breastplate from the vaults of the Knights of the Sacred Flower.
After a final evening of rest, the last day of the tournament and the Hedge Maze challenge arrived. (I used the Blenheim Palace maze in Oxfordshire, UK as the model for this maze.) Maxim was careful to explain that divination, flying or levitation magic, or any other means to see an overview of the maze by participants would result in instant disqualification. Once the rules were clarified, the challenge began. Luck was with the crew and they entered the maze first. When they estimated they were about halfway through the maze, the skies darkened unnaturally fast and the skies roiled, filled with swirling clouds of unholy color.
Screams from the tournament grounds outside the maze alerted them that the magical storm was not part of the challenge and they called upon their magic to exit the maze quickly. The people in the tournament grounds were panicking while the knights not participating in the maze challenge tried to calm them. After questioning a few people, they learned that Queen Garria was abducted by three shadowy creatures.
The crew set off in pursuit, finding signs of a struggle in a nearby copse of trees and further signs that the three shadow-creatures took to the sky and flew off with the queen. Her majordomo, Lord Blackthorne was reluctant to accept the crew’s help, but finally relented. They returned to the palace and questioned some witnesses. After discussing the issue with others, they decided to go to the Knights of the Sacred Flower and the Order of Truth for assistance.
To their chagrin, Valen the Ponce turned out to be the leader of the Knights of the Sacred Flower. He was all too happy to assist them, however and confided that they had little faith in Lord Blackthorne’s ability to fairly and safely deal with the panicking populace. At the Order of Truth, the crew searched through their library to learn the shadowy creature were, in all likelihood, the Shadowlords. The Shadowlords, three powerful creatures with ties to Orcus, were thought to have been vanquished ages ago. Their lair was located in the Underworld; a dark place of deep caverns to which no one has traveled in decades.
The officers of Sea of Stars began their preparations for a long trek into Brintannia’s underdark….
The tournament went pretty well. I was surprised the PCs didn’t walk away with all the prizes, but at least I feel satisfied that I didn’t just hand them everything without a challenge. I will admit some of the wording for the Urn of Wits challenge could have been better, but I forgot that, when dealing with D&D players, they’re going to Rules Lawyer the absolutely living flesh off the bones of any challenge with in-game rules. I also got so caught up in tracking the challenge results in the brackets I created that I forgot to give out inspiration for some particularly good bits of role-playing. Maybe one of them will see this and remind me at the next session.
Also, I was surprised how quickly they leapt to offer to go after Queen Garria. Damn, that’s heroic!
If I remember when I return from Gary Con, I’ll summarize how I ran the tournament in a separate post. I wasn’t trying to simulate every little detail and I think it worked out pretty well.
The tunnel leading from the tomb meandered through the rocky underground until it opened into a flooded cavern. Gnolls filled the shores of the subterranean lake and quickly moved to attack. After dealing with them, the crew heard chanting from deeper within the cavern, so they circumnavigated the lake and proceeded deeper into the depths.
The natural tunnel gave way to a constructed area; a ritual room of sorts. Three druids were bound, up to their necks in a pool of blood while gnolls snarled and chanted around them, led in their dark worship by warlock bent on summoning some fell creature.
The crew of Sea of Stars leapt to the attack, intent on interrupting the foul ritual and saving the druids. After a pitched battle, the crew emerged victorious and pulled the druids out of their bloody prison. They led the druids out and found the fire fog was gone and the bleak pall hanging over the grove was lifted. The healing could begin.
Back in Bryttan Castle, Queen Garria expressed her thanks at their efforts and invited them to stay a while. The Tournament of Flowers was starting a few days and they were all invited to attend and participate if they so chose….
This may seem brief, and it probably is, but I got caught up in doing final edits and revisions to my next novel and really didn’t have a lot of time to do a detailed synopsis while trying to prep for the next session and finalize preparations for Gary Con, too. I could’ve summed it up in two sentences: The PCs killed all the gnolls and their leaders, and saved the druids. In gratitude, the Queen invited them to attend the Tournament of Flowers being held in a few days.
One of my regular players was out with a medical issue for the last two games, so rather than continue the D&D game (we left off in the middle of exploring a druidic grove), I took the opportunity to play test two adventures I’m running at Gary Con next month.
I won’t go into too much detail in case anyone reading this is signed up to play in those games.
The first was “Recruiting Call,” an adventure for Pelgrane Press’s Timewatch RPG. This was both the first time I’d ever played or GMed a Gumshoe-system game.
Basically, the premise of Timewatch is similar to the Van Damme move from the 90s, “Timecop.” If you haven’t seen it, I won’t tell you to run out right now and watch it, but it does have Bruce McGill, so that’s a plus in my book.
So, time-traveling secret agents on a time-and-location-hopping adventure. It worked out pretty well. I found the system pretty easy to run, one of the easiest to grok from scratch I’ve experienced, in fact. Fate took several play and GM sessions before I felt comfortable with it. I’m still not entire comfortable with Ubiquity (of Hollow Earth Expedition fame), despite having played it at least once and run it twice. My players discovered that violence-based solutions were a poor choice for their characters (it didn’t help that their rolls were crappy all night), so there’s a hint for you if you’re signed up to play in this at Gary Con.
The second game was “Imperial Entanglements,” a Star Wars adventure I wrote and ran at Gary Con V four years ago for West End Games’s d6-based Star Wars RPG (long out-of-print, but never forgotten). I foolishly included a character four years ago that was able to break the adventure in the very beginning so I re-vamped all the pre-gens and fleshed out and expanded the adventure even more (to cop to my mistake, I was woefully unprepared to run it that year and decided then that ad-libbing my way through most of a con adventure was a BAD idea for me).
I may have added too much material, but it certainly went better than the last time I ran it. In addition, the pre-gens I created are much more suited for the type of adventure it is and everyone had a chance to shine over the course of the evening. I didn’t even really need the miniatures I had (though I’ll probably still bring them, because not every group is as good at avoiding combat at my current home group can be).
So, that’s what I’ve been doing. Next weekend we return to our regularly-schedule, but twice-delayed Fifth Edition Spelljammer game.
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