Our last session was certainly full of grim surprises. Play resumed with your party still standing in the hall of statues, smelling the seared flesh of your fallen companions, and contemplating the fabulous diamond that you had just won at so dear a price. Eager to convert the gem into spendable coinage and badly in need of new recruits to replace your lost numbers, you decided to take the two day journey back to Null's Harbor.
The journey passed without incident.
Back in town, the surviving members of the party spent the night drinking and relaxing at The Green Griffin and it was there that they made the acquaintance of several new adventurers who had also been drawn to the port town by rumors of possible treasures to be had in the Stony Brow Hills. The party's ranked were thus filled out with new meat. The following day, Thimble the Thief, Goram the Dwarf, Fizbon the Magic User, and Pipistrelles the Monk lost no time in selling the gem to Janzal the Jeweler, but were surprised when Janzal urged the group to keep their possession and sale of the diamond as secret as possible. The adventurers were puzzled by the merchant's emphatic desire for secrecy, but the mystery would soon be cleared up.
Back at the Green Griffin tavern, the rest of your party was relaxing and enjoying a leisurely breakfast of homemade biscuits and salted cod when they were approached in the tavern by one Rayas, an acolyte of the temple of Wee Jas. Rayas expressed a keen interest in knowing as much as possible about the Witchspyre Hill anomaly and even offered to pay for valuable information. Seeing an opportunity to make a little extra coin, Igmar Houndhaven lost little time in turning a tidy profit by selling Rayas the copy of "A Theory of Gateways and Inter-Planar Rifts" by Judge Ofic Gundap that you recovered from the mysterious tower atop the hill.
Not long after Rayas took his leave of you, those of you in the Griffin were approached by yet another figure, a wiry shifty young man who introduced himself as Max. Max claimed to represent a local organization dedicated to the protection of merchants and tradesmen from the predations of criminals and wrongdoers. For the small fee of five percent of all wealth recovered from the Hills, Max guaranteed that his organization could protect you from any unfortunate acts of violence or criminality that might otherwise befall you. Quickly inferring that you were in fact dealing with the local Thieves' Guild, you agreed to pay Max his tithe from your sale of Gundap's treatise, but were very glad to have kept the recovery of the diamond a secret. Slightly unnerved by the encounter with the Guild, your party decided to leave town that day and head back to Witchspyre Hill in the hopes of winning more wealth and riches.
The first day of your journey back to Witchspyre Hill passed without incident, but on the morning of your trip's second day, things began to turn ugly. You arose on the morning of May 2 to find the hilly terrain of eastern Gnut shrouded in a dense, virtually impenetrable fog. Pressing on and closely following the steadily rising road you discovered an ominous sign, an abandoned turnip cart, stained with blood and left on the side of the road. You did not have to wonder for long about the answer to this puzzle. About an hour later, the zombies attacked. With little warning, a gang of the mindless walking dead came lurching out of the mist and attacked. Fortunately, the party's cleric was able to call upon the benevolence of his mysterious deity and drive the horrid walking corpses with the sheer power of his faith. Shaken but undaunted, your party pressed on, climbing upward into the rugged and craggy Stony Brows, finally arriving at the foot of the Witchspyre just before nightfall. Needing rest, you decided to sleep atop the steep sided conical prominence, just beneath the shadow of the mysterious tower. The setting sun shone weakly through the mists, hanging like a drop of blood in the murky sky as you set up camp.
The night did not pass well.
Shortly before midnight, the moaning sounds of the walking dead arose from the cold fog that cloaked the rocky slopes below your campsite. This gave little warning and, almost before you knew it, the zombies were upon you, lurching into your ranks, mindlessly driven by their obscene and unholy lust for living flesh. Within moments, Fizbon the magic user was slain. He had barely sat upright in his bedroll when one of the fiends bit into his throat and tore out his jugular. Perhaps the hen-pecked mage finally met something more frightening than his wife. The party's hirelings, Dent Footknocker and Filthy Pete, fell next, cut down while they impotently fumbled for their weapons. Beric called upon the power of his mysterious and unknown god once again, but alas, this time the power of his faith was not enough to turn back the shambling figures lunging from out of the fog. At this point, some in the party began to retreat to the shelter of the tower itself while others, Augran (sp?) the Dwarf and Biter the Fighter girded themselves with their tools of war and turned their steely faces to confront the undead menace. Unfortunately, their bravery was not enough to carry the day, and moments later, the rest of the party watched their last two fighters vanish forever beneath a grasping and clutching wave of putrefied flesh. Alas, the groans of the zombies could not drown out their screams. The rest of the party thus closed the tower door on a scene whose description is probably best left to the imagination.
The rest of the party, now consisting of Igmar Houndhaven the Magic User, Beric the Cleric, Thimble the Thief, and Pipistrelles the Monk spent a nervous night barricaded within the mysterious tower, keeping one eye on the outside door and the other on the stairway leading to the monster haunted under-realms below. Shortly after dawn, they nervously peered out of the tower, expecting the worst, but finding instead that the zombies had withdrawn, perhaps lured elsewhere by other, less fortunate prey. Lacking fighters, the most prudent course of action was to try and return to Null's Harbor and recruit more muscle. The journey back passed without more combat, but the distant moans of the walking dead occasionally met your ears as it drifted wraith-like through the dense, miasmic fog that still blanketed Northern Thrang.
When you arrived at the town gates on the evening of May 5, you learned from the guardsmen that Gnut had indeed been the victim of a zombie outbreak. While the walking dead often do wander from out of the Wargwood Forest to the north, occasionally they come in far greater numbers than usual. The last three days had witnessed just such an onslaught. Nevertheless, they reassured you that this outbreak was deemed minor by the kingdom's inhabitants and that King Haldric had swiftly ordered troops to quell the menace. The situation was supposedly already well in hand.
Once in town, the party decided to lay low and struck out for Sorrowside, the town's westernmost neighborhood frequented by adventurers, mercenaries, and other miscreants. You arranged lodging at Thumbless Jack's, a rowdy but friendly tavern, and put out the word that you were seeking swords for hire. The evening passed without incident for most of the party with the exception of Igmar and Beric who decided to hit the town and spend some of their newly acquired loot on wenching. This led to mixed results at best. On the morning of May 6, Beric awoke stark naked and penniless in the temple of Father Dagon, a sea god of sorts worshipped mostly by fishermen and sailors throughout the Thrangian Kingdoms. Apparently, deep in his cups and unaware of what he was doing, Beric generously donated all of his wealth and worldly possessions to temple. Frantic negotiations with the chief cleric of the place failed to rectify the situation and Beric was forced to return to Jack's Place to rejoin his comrades and nurse his hangover. Hopefully, he now has the favor of Father Dagon. Meanwhile, Igmar awoke as a prisoner, locked in a cell, in one of the western guard towers. He learned that, in a drunkenly belligerent state, he had argued with the watch over some trivial matter and had even attempted to ensorcel a guardsman. Needless to say, this was mightily frowned upon and the guard promptly clapped him in irons. Fortunately, the town watch is used to such shenanigans, especially in Sorrowside, and the rest of the party was able to secure his release with some smooth talking and the payment of fifty gold pieces to the officer on duty.
Back at Thumbless Jack's, the party secured the services of two new henchmen, Steng from Goat's Alley, a drunken, shifty eyed fellow with a horribly burned visage and Doobin Bungbolt, a strapping brute missing his two front teeth. Deeming it best to wait for the zombie outbreak to fully subside but still thirsting for adventure, the party decided to tentatively explore the ruins of Leng's Tower, an abandoned ruin in the town's burnt patch. Not much exploration was done, however. You descended to the entrance room of the tunnels below the tower looked around and decided to hold temporarily. This is where we left off. All in all, I thought it was a fun, if somewhat blood soaked, evening.
225 experience points each go to Igmar, Beric, Thimble, and Pipistrelles
Our second session began on April 26, with your party hundreds of feet below the surface of Witchspire Hill, peering into the monster-haunted gloom of the under passages that have appeared there so recently. Over the course of the next three days, you cautiously and methodically continued your exploration of the vast labyrinth searching for hidden treasure and attempting to make sense of the enigmatic structure.
Thus far, the dungeon has been reluctant to give up its secrets. Undead seem to predominate, though other vermin like monstrous centipedes, rats, and stirges appear to be in abundance as well. The complex also contains a variety of traps in the form of pits and dead falls, as was discovered by the much missed fighting man , "Murder," who had the misfortune of tumbling headlong into one such engine of death. The party did discover evidence that there may be more intelligent inhabitants of the under-realm as well. The corpse of a bipedal, toad like humanoid, clad in chain mail and a scarlet cloak was found, for instance. The identity, or even species, of this mysterious individual has yet to be determined.
The party also managed to translate the curious red leather bound book recovered from the upper tower, learning that it was a treatise entitled "A Theory of Gateways and Inter-Planar Rifts" authored by some one named Judge Ofic Gundap. The book was written in an unknown language.
As the exploration continued, even more curiosities began to be found. Perhaps one of the most baffling came in the form of an immensely long corridor lined with niches containing busts of humanoid heads. No two busts were the same and seemed to depict unique individuals, each rendered in exquisite detail. As if this were not strange enough, you noticed that one of these busts portrayed the startled visage of none other than Raylene Marybegotten, a former member of your party who you had seen slain before your very eyes just days before.
But on the morning of April 28, you discovered at the end of this hall of heads what was perhaps the dungeon's most memorable horror thus far. An enormous diamond hung suspended in mid air atop an elaborately carved pedestal bearing a sculpture of a leering, laughing devil. Before the pedestal, the floor bore an intricate, but scorched, sunburst pattern. When you approached the pedestal, the devil sculpture animated and claimed the diamond to be shield by a magical force field. In order to lower the field and recover the diamond, it told you, a single individual must stand in the sunburst and answer three riddles, the condition being that only the one in the sunburst may answer. Silas the Magic User bravely stepped forward, uttered a few obscenities, entered the sunburst, and listened to the animate sculpture recite its first riddle. Unfortunately for Silas, Bella the Monk, overcome with excitement that she knew the answer, blurted out a response to the riddle. The party then learned the consequences for answering out of turn as they looked on in horror as Silas was engulfed in a pillar of blinding flame; his screams of agony echoed down the long corridors of Witchspire Hill as his flesh melted from his bones and his eyeballs poached like eggs in his skull.
In response to this hasty outburst, Zizek the Magic User seized Bella and shoved her into the sunburst, demanding that she too answer a riddle. But while Bella knew the answer to the first of the statue's riddles, she failed to answer its second and thus found herself consigned to the same terrifyingly fiery death as Silas. At this point, some among you raised the possibility of leaving this puzzle trap behind and cutting your losses. But the lure of the fabulous diamond, hanging glittering in the air before you, proved too tempting to ignore and you pressed on with the perverse and deadly game. Thus began a grim procession as two more characters - Chalice, priestess of Veccna, and the much loved Brother Coin - entered the dreaded sunburst only to be immolated as those who had gone before had been. Spirits began to sink as the corridor filled with filthy smoke and the nauseating smell of burned flesh and rendered fat until, at last,Goram the dwarven fighter stepped forward and answered the statue's final question thereby releasing the diamond.
This is where we left off. In order to reap full xp for the gem, you must of course return with to civilization, but you are of course under no compulsion to do so.
"Common, standard hirelings are basically the usual craftsmen or laborers taken on by lower level player characters...In general the various occupations represented here are common to most settlements of village-size and above, although each and every village will not be likely to furnish each and every sort of common hireling." (ad&d "Dungeon Master's Guide", 1979) p. 28.
A careful (and at times even overly analytic) exploration of the traditions of "old school" fantasy roleplaying by two former d&d apostates who have recently returned to the game's roots. All advice and any suggestion is welcome.
Expect a particular focus on the retro-clone of OD&D, Swords & Wizardry as well as the occasional session recap from ongoing games. In our games we steal unabashedly from the great OD&D blogs linked to below.