Kingmaker. Frogs. And Cloudarc Monastery.

23 April, 2012

Field Notes – 2012-1904

Travelling north, the woodsman’s companion wolf flew overhead to find the location of the boggard village. (I should mention that his companion seems to be a half-celestial). Having located it, he and I went to investigate.

The village was at the shores of the hooktongue, surrounded by copses in which sentries were stationed. We approached and infiltrated one of the copses and proceeded to knock out the two guards that were present. I had a Dimension Door spell ready, but the recipient must be willing. Or at least – not un-willing. Rainor seems to know one or two martial art tricks and kept the two guards in the copse silent by way of knocking them a blow that kept them busy for a few seconds. Eventually one of them fell, but not before the other managed to sound an alarm call. But no matter, for I teleported the three of us out.

Prior to waking up our captive, I performed a Share Language spell on it. That done, we woke him and began to interrogate.

The tribe is named M’Butu, which translates as “They who swim in blood”. Their leader – one “Sepputu” – appeared to be a shaman of Gogunta, a frog demon of sloth and (I belive) poison. I rather felt that interrogating this captive was pointless – what would he tell us that we basically didn’t know? But I had figured without His Grace’s notions of warrior-like honour. Duke Jope told the captive that he would fight Sepputu, which our captive seemed to accept, actually using the words “trial by combat”. We announced that we would be there dawn the next day, and released him.

Next morning the entire tribe had turned out. A mass of a score or so ordinary tribesmen who I judged were there to observe, four warriors which were distinctly larger, and the shaman himself. I stepped forward to herald our challenge. It seemed that I had judged quite wrongly. As I stepped forward, the entire tribe simply rushed our position.

From which we can observe a number of salient facts.

The warriors and their chief led from the rear. That is, they control their society by fear – by punishment rather than by reward or by example. Their tactics were calculated to save the lives of their elites: they were prepared to use their commons to wear us down, at whatever price. And they acted without honor toward us – unconcerned by any possibility that by defeating us in such a fashion their commons might think less of them.

In short: although the notion of “alignment” is subject to cultural misinterpretation, without a doubt the culture of the boggards is what we would generally call “evil”. Not that this is in any way inconsistent with their veneration of a frog demon.

It’s is also worth noting that Share Language is all very well, but it doesn’t bypass the need for cultural understanding. The words “trial by combat” might have been the closest approximation to what the boggard meant, but it was a mistake to suppose that it implied chivalry or honour or varuous such things. I suspect he said “trial by combat” rather than “find out who is strongest by fighting” because our language offers a short phrase that was close enough.

To return to the narrative: at the charge of the entire tribe towards us, I managed to get off a Haste spell before nipping back into position.

His “position” was well behind everyone else. This guy is definitely turning into Professor Lockhart.

At this juncture I should mention a certain item owned by His Grace. It seems that during his liberation of the kobolds under the mountains (an amazing story), they gave to him the skull of a certain red dragon whom they venerated as their protector. This skull is mounted on a pole, and His Lordship bears it as his standard. It is quite magical, and I had a chance to see it in action.

A wave of dragon-fear came out of the standard, and almost all of the common tribesmen turned to flee. In response to his Grace’s war-cry “Faciat me ad magnus”, I cast Enlarge Person on him, and he proceeded to carve a path through them to get to the shaman. Bloody, but better to kill three of them than twenty.

In the next moment, the four warriors rushed forward to engage us. But again, the standard of Fredonia spoke, this time bellowing a gout of fire, neatly incinerating (or nearly so) three of them. His Grace ignored the warriors and the tribesmen, and accompanied by the knight ran for the shaman at the rear.

It was rather more bloody than that. As the regular boggards fled, Andrew took all of his attacks of opportunity. Jope was enlarged, with 10′ reach and wielding a great flail. Rainen and Klael also took their attacks.

On another note, it was nice to see Andrew’s quest item get some use, and in the precise situation that the item was conceived as being for: a mass attack by mooks. It worked perfectly and in-game mercifully saved the lives of 20 or so dudes who would have been killed if they hadn’t been frightened off.

In a moment, it was over. The shaman dead, three of the four warriors dead, and a mass of commons hiding below the surface of the hooktongue. I cast Share Language on the (now) biggest boggard about four times, he shaking the effect off each time, before asking Rainor to kindly knock him out for me. Rainor did so, I cast my spell, and our Knight revived him.

His Grace said simply “You are chief now. Stay and live here. If you attack pink skins on the road again, we will come back and kill you all.” Harsh, but a correct reading of the culture, I fear. Our Knight was concerned about their veneration of Gogunta. He insisted that they no longer worship her, which I think might be a trifle tricky to enforce. Nevertheless, we took down their idol. A pity we could not transport it to the museum, but circumstances were not favourable.

But, speaking of which, I took a moment to examine one of the dead ones, to settle a question that has caused some controversy – amphibian or humanoid? I required a little help to actually locate the heart of one of them (medicine is not my strong point, I am afraid), but I can verify that it was indeed three-chambered. Expect a paper soon.

Having trouble finding Zack’s “voice” here – is he making personal notes? Writing a letter?

The people of Fort Drellev were pleased to hear that the boggards of the south hooktongue had been pacified, although how long they stay passive for remains to be seen. While His Lordship and the knight engaged in politics, the woodsman and I fell to discussing Cloudarc Monastery.

Cloudarc Monastery! Lost for – ooh, who knows how long. A myth? A ruin? If there were such a place, it’s entirely possible that is is still going, although only if there were a few females. Rainor possesses a map indicating direction from the island in the middle of the mere. Somewhat helpful. But more interestingly, it seems there is a ruin above Giacomo’s Rest with a panorama also indicating the monastery. More than enough to triangulate, and only a few day’s travel away as the crow flies. Rather more than that as the mountaineers mountaineer.

Still. I’m keen to go, as swamp really doesn’t suit me. Winter is coming on. If we go, we should go now. His Grace is agreeable. It seems Rainor is a mystic as well as being a very fine archer, and an old comrade. We are preparing a small expedition – one or two items will be necessary. A wand of Endure Elements most notably, but easy to procure in Freedonia. There was discussion of the problems of dealing with mountains. I have not yet had occasion to demonstrate an old Ninjitsu trick I learned a few years ago, and it slipped my mind.

Bard with “Archaeologist” template. Means you get rogue tricks. One rogue trick is to get a Ninja trick. Most Ninja tricks require a Ki point. One of the ones that does not is “Wall Climber”. Not quite as good as having Spider Climb – doesn’t work on overhangs or on perfectly smooth surfaces. But mountains? Piece of cake. A halfling’s climb skill sucks, on account of their low strength. With this hack, I deal with it.

In any case, we set out as soon as we may.

Yay! Finally doing Cloudarc, which Brett has been waiting patiently to do for yonks. Sorry we made you wait so long dude – hope it’s mega cool.

Kingmaker – a new hope

19 April, 2012

Farewell, Switch. You are now an NPC, if Dave decides that family Verdant wants to dabble in the Dark Arts. Rather than the usual monument, Jope has named the forest to the NE of Fort Tuskwater “Verdant Wood”, or wilderness, or something. I regret mainly that I never got to level 12, never got to roll 27d6+30 on a scorching ray (3 touch attacks 4d6, 5d6 sneak attack each, 2 points per sneak attack die from the sniper goggles. Second level spell :O ), never got to drop a 5th level spell. She would have rocked. I can empty my dice-bag of d6s – won’t need them now.

I have built my new character. 20 point buy, rather than 25 – a penalty of dying. Cramps my style a little. But there you go – it’s all game. Bard with the Archaeologist option. Chrarisma/Dex build. Actually a better rogue than a rogue, but without sneak attack. Seriously useless in a fight, except as a buffing caster. But that’s what the party needs, so cool. The “take 20 twice a day” knowledge check make it easy for the DM to do exposition. And he has a decent UMD.

I have tricked him out with AC boosting magic items. Bards can use light armour and sheilds with no spell failure chance, so +3 shield and +3 mithril chain. Amulet of natural armour, ring ‘o deflection, dodge feat. His AC is 33.

A halfling. I imagine him as a half-sized Harrison Ford. His name, his name is Zack Jackson.

Perhaps I should let him tell his own story. I’m sorry that the quality of his writing is not really up to academic standards. But hey – it’s fantasy. These are field notes that he’ll polish later.

My name is Zack Jackson. Explorer. Adventurer. It was I who recovered the lost writings of the Xeth from the barrows of Artemis. I who first saw, for the first time in a mortal age, the ruins of Agrippa. I have also loved several women, but this is not that kind of memoir.

And it is I, Zack Jackson, who am currently looking for a patron and hopefully tenure. Somewhere with a decent library and a relaxed attitude to mud on the carpet. And so, Freedonia.

Freedonia! The very name! They have reclaimed the so-called “stolen lands”, made peace with the Nomen centaurs, conquered vast stretches of territory. Formerly inaccessible mountains are now a stone’s throw away, the fabled “Lake Silverstep” is (perhaps a little sadly) a tourist resort. The possibilities for academic research are endless. And this lord, Duke Jope – they say that after defeating the Stag Lord, the first thing he built was a castle, and the second a library. He recovered the cyclopean tablets from the lich tombs – invaluable artifacts which will keep academia busy for decades.

My kind of place.

His Grace is not the sort to finance purely archeological expeditions, but it hardly matters. He is engaged in extending his lands, and cannot help but encounter things of interest as he does. He seems pleased to have along someone with a bit of historical and geographic knowledge, and so I have finagled an invitation to his various military and acquisitional excursions.

It should be productive. I will almost certainly be fun. And there’s definitely a paper or two in it.

12-14-11. Field Notes. Lake Hooktongue.

While His Grace attended to affairs of state, certain of us organised an expedition to clear lands around Lake Hooktongue for purposes of integrating Fort Drellev more closely into the duchy. Our expedition was myself, General Rainor – an outdoorsman and archer, and Klael – a fighter of one of the local religious orders.

We commenced west of Tatselford, northwest and counter-clockwise about the lake. The terrain was boggy and difficult.

At the northern extremity of the lake, we were subect to an abortive ambush by Boggards. Boggards are frog-like humanoids, well suited to wetlands environments. Little is known of boggard society, other than that it appears to be tribal and small-scale. Little also is known of their biology: whether they are frogs that have become humanoid, or humanoids that have become froglike.

They were organised enough to set up an ambush. They had put a snag (logs, branches) across one of the major streams draining into the Hooktongue, arranging matters to make the snag look like a viable causeway. They also attempted to use the terrain, aware that we would likely find the going difficult in a swamp. However, Klael’s mount is fitted with Horseshoes of the Zephyr, and our Archer does not require mobility.

Examination of the barrier demonstrated evidence of tool use, not to mention the fact that they were swinging clubs and flinging spears. Overall, they demonstrated a level of sophistication usual for savage humanoid tribes.

TODO: secure physical samples, particularly of the heart. Amphibian hearts have three chambers, mammalian and humanoid hearts have four, so that should settle the question – there’s a monograph right there. Also secure skulls. Of little real interest, but it gives the taxidermists something to do and they look cool in a display case. Also the measurements pad out a paper nicely. Send wax casts to Dr Maskin – I owe him a favour, and he’s a keen phrenologist. He’ll want a cast of the inside of the skulls. Male and female, juvenile and adult. Not entirely sure how to sex. Cloacæ, or something more mammalian?

12-14-11. Field Notes. Lake Hooktongue.

We continued around the shore of the lake to Fort Drellev. On the western shore, we encountered an extremely odd creature, or group of creatures, which snared their prey by imitating sounds. Our religious fighter was completely taken in and ran off while on watch to deal with them. We were roused by the woodsman’s wolf companion. I moved us to the site of the battle, but by the time we arrived the creatures were killed.

Dimension door. Two castings buys you a quarter mile of movement in the space of two rounds. Nice of Klael to run off and leave everyone undefended. Grr.

I forget what the things actually were. And I’m drunk. So you will have to pretend that Zack Jackson said something faux scholarly about them.

After this, we were joined by His Grace and continued on to Fort Drellev.

Reprovisioned, we explored the southern border of the Hooktongue. At the southernmost extent of the lake we discovered a set of crude piers, a small wharf which had been camouflaged. We were not able to uncover who built them, or why they were hidden.

On the following day, we encountered an oddity. An organised party of boggards were heading towards a depression in the ground. I and the woodsman investigated.

Rolled a 20 for stealth. +10, for being invisible and moving. Plus dex, skills, and size bonus came to 52.

A few of the boggards – I believe the younger warriors – proceeded into the bowl of the depression, which seemed to be a small hot mud caldera. The mud formed itself into semiformed figures which then attacked. I am guessing some sort of earth elemental.

The boggards were not faring well against the elementals. I decided at this stage to attempt to make peaceful contact with the more senior of the troupe, who had not entered the caldera. I used haste in the warriors, reasoning that this would a) demonstrate our bona fides and b) even up the fight so that there would be fewer of each should we be forced to attack.

I approached the chief, hands raised, but he elected to initiate hostilities. I attempted a Share Language on him, but he fought off the effect of the enchantment. At about this time the noisier members of our party, who had circled around the back, made their appearance. As the attempt to parley with the chief had come to nothing, His Grace elected to skewer him. He, the knight, and the woodsman made short work of the other boggards, and somewhat less short – but still successful – work of the elementals.

I believe we may take our earlier questions – who built the pier and why was it camouflaged – as answered. The boggards appear to have built it, and it was camouflaged as an eminently sensible precaution against the civilised races. Then again – why would boggards, who are aquatic, need a pier?

With respect to the caldera, if it is not in the habit of spawning elementals on a regular basis (that is, if those present were “left over” from a previous event), then His Grace may choose to make a health spa of it, something of a sister to Silverstep spa. “Hooktongue mud springs and wetlands eco-tours”, perhaps. Any name would do, provided the word “swamp” is avoided. The traffic would advantage the nearest large settlement – Fort Drellev – considerably.

As to the Boggards, our woodsman believes that the troupe came from the north, from the shores of the hooktongue (we were somewhat inland). His Grace has decided that we proceed there, and either make peaceful contact or eliminate them as a possible military threat.


17 March, 2012

We change watch: Klael goes to watch the hostages, and Rainor joins us. There are doors to the north and southwest. I think. I am getting a little turned about, which is unnerving.

This dungeon is quite large, and Dave was mapping out the rooms by drawing them wherever we could fit them on the sheet. As a result, it was tricky for players to keep track of where things were, which nicely mimicked the disorienting effect of the Guards and Wards.

To the north is a cavernous room with pillars arranged as stepping-stones. A test of balance – another barbarian test, but one more to my liking. I step across. The pillars are rounded at the top and a little slick. Jope will not make it across here without a little help. I see some movement below. On the other side a short passage and a door which I do not open.

I head back to join the group – Rainor watching my progress. On the final pillar I become overconfident and fumble the jump. My ring of Feather Fall catches me, but below I find what is causing the movement – swarms of ants. Big ones. I cast Spider Climb from a scroll and flee, but I have several of the things on me, and thousands follow me up the wall.

I put up a Wall of Fire to burn them off. It helps, but not enough. Jope’s standardbearer uses the standard (a dragon head on a pole) to breathe fire. After a little longer, I manage by dint of rolling about to crush the remaining ants. But I need a fair bit of help from Ovthen to deal with the bites and stings.

The southwest corner is where the hag-priestess map indicated that the focus of the complex is, and we open that door.

Beyond is a temple, really. And barring our passage a human of indeterminate age. He and Jope chat a little. It seems that he more-or-less administers the test, and is not terribly pleased that Jope needed help to get through it. He is a priest of Gorrum, it seems – the chaotic god of fighting a lot. After a moment more of banter Jope simply attacks him. The fight might have gone on longer, but Rainor managed to stun him with a splendid shot to the temple, then – taking advantage of his momentary distraction – I got him with a Scorching Ray that arced up and transposed our positions. Although this sort of misfire can be a disaster, in this case it meant that he was teleported 30 feet away from his weapon. The next few seconds, well, nothing out-of-the-ordinary happened.

Yeah, we mugged that poor bastard. Three crits – two from Brett, one from me. We use the GameMastery deck, so it’s always a little more fun.

I open the next door. Beyond is a man who has sort-of half transformed into the hero (?) in the statues around us. With him are a squad of undead. The man attacks me rather than Jope, springing in and away. The undead move in. I drop a Glitterdust on the group, and retreat.

The man and the undead warriors pour through the door, I am hit again, then Rainor, then another one takes a swing at my ne…

I shall remember you, Verdant-daughter. To any who wears me I will tell your story too among all the others.

And so ends the story of Seldryn Verdant. She died looting a tomb – low on spells, out of action points. If she had cast Improved Invisibility rather than Glitterdust, it might have turned out differently. As it was, she was overkilled by 15 points – a definite character death.

Dave is not keen on respawning, and I don’t really want to bring her back nerfed. I had a look through Ultimate Magic, and two options have caught my eye so far.

First, there’s the question of her family ring: Thought and Memory. We could bring back her cousin who was present during the owlbear attack as a Magus, a gish class who probably can benefit from the T&M bonuses.

The second option is that it seems that this “hero reborn” business involves a certain minor artifact sword, dedicated to Gorum. I am thinking Oracle of Steel, which is an option for Oracle in UM. Chaotic Neutral, of course. Oracle of Steel gets Disable Device as a class skill. It leaves us short of an arcane caster, but like any team that’s been working to together a while the only way to seamlessly replace Switch would be to make a Switch clone, which we don’t want to do.