November 8, 2014


So I haven't written here in a while. I still have the last D&D Next session to finish writing up (if I can scrape together what happened) and then perhaps we'll do a Microscope session to wrap things up, now that it's been months since the last play session.

I started a Tumblr: Write Some Shit. It holds the daily writing prompts that I signed up for from Sarah Selecky. Who I found doing a Google search for daily writing prompts. It's been 40 days since I started doing them, and I've found I've really enjoyed playing around. The 10 minute limit helps me keep things short and since they're writing tasks, I end whenever I feel like. It's the fun of setting something up, giving the promise of something interesting and then fading away into the mist. No real pressure to actually think of something cool happening. Just hints and sad musings.

Work on the book has somewhat resumed. It's a little crazy to think it's been a year already and I've only added about 4k words since Nanowrimo last year. I think the outline structure isn't working out for me, when I look at it, even though it's only for the next chapter or so, it feel like a task list instead of something exciting and surprising. I think similar to your first trip somewhere, it always feels longer because you don't know where you're going. It feels even longer when you map out bits and pieces and can feel how long it'll take to get to those pieces and then think, that's just a part of the whole way.

The plan is still to keep on chugging away at it, but these daily writing prompts have been fun and some interesting pieces have come out of it. A secondary goal is to spend extra writing time, after I've been warmed up on the writing prompts, to write a bit on the Novel and try and ignore the small outline. Then, finally, to finish the D&D Next write up! I hate having unfinished projects.

March 9, 2014

Hackfinder - Pathfinder with a Story Gaming Emphasis

This was my first experience with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Previously, I played 4E D&D for 4 1/2 years. Since we played "Hackfinder", a version of Pathfinder that Jerome Virnich created that involves more roleplaying scenes with NPCs, I didn't really learn that much about the difference between Pathfinder vs D&D. Two of the players were Pathfinder veterans and they work for Goblinworks and Pat (who's also in the D&D Next game) had played Hackfinder before.

Before we launched into it, we each created several NPCs that ranged from Timmy, Velt's 10 year old son, various Guild heads, Frey, a cult leader, Yana, a brothel mistress, and Simeon, a snake oil salesman. Much of the information gathering was accomplished by having scenes with NPCs that were played by anyone who wasn't in the scene as a PC.

During two of the smaller battles, half of us who weren't in the battle played the NPCs that they were fighting. It was fun to be involved in the scene and we weren't so invested in our PCs that we felt like we were being traitors. However, for me, who had a bit of hard time reading the NPC sheet stats and how to do battles, it was somewhat of a challenge.

Jerome Virnich - GM
Me - Velt Render, male, pampered rich Halfling who ran away from the Mainland, learned how to be a rogue by paying for lessons.
Pat - Lok, female, born in the lost colony settlement, grew up feral, works as hired muscle.
Stephen - Doc Splody, male, traveled around the world to learn more about alchemy.
Tork - Chetan, male, 3rd incarnation, works as bookkeeper for the shop.

The settlement of Ardis was founded by people who were escaping the mainland for religious reasons, entrepreneurs looking to profit from exporting the various goods of the area, or just people who were looking to make a new start. The surrounding forest was extremely dangerous, full of large kaiju and a mysterious madness that seemed to befall anyone who spent too much time in it. The four guilds that make up the settlement are:

  • the Vice Guild, who maintain the black market and the hired muscle, 
  • the Alchemist Guild, who supply the drugs, other remedies, and explosives, 
  • the Fish Mongers Guild, who treat the ocean and nearby river as their personal playground, keeping the settlement supplied in fish and the fish extract needed to make a popular drug.
  • the Blacksmith Guild, who make the weapons and build the structures that make up the settlement.
  • the Quarriers Guild, who manage the quarries.

Velt, Lok, Doc Splody, and Chetan all work for the Alchemist Guild at Rainbow Remedies. Velt gathered information, Lok was the muscle, Doc Splody was the shop owner, and Chetan kept the books.
Rainbow Remedies Shop Sign
Image created by Stephen Cheney

Several rumors had been floating around and as is their wont, everyone congregates at the local tavern to suss out the truth from the falsehoods. The most tantalizing rumor, that the Vice Guild was throwing a big party, turned out to be the rumor that was verifiable, and everyone manages to secure entry into the exclusive event.

At the party, the Vice Guild unveils their newest product, moss ale. Moss, gathered from within the forest, is one of the drugs used within the settlement and is a popular export. Simeon, the snake oil salesman, claims to be able to cultivate the moss to make mass production feasible. The moss ale is delicious, light, and produces ecstatic euphoria. Several people have problems that they need help with and in return, they mention interesting tidbits of info.

  • Catherine, the caterer, needs to impress as many people as possible with the food because her business is not doing well. Unfortunately, she stained the front of her dress. Magic is used to "clean" her dress for a few hours and she mentions that she saw a fire burning on the surface of the water some ways down the shore.
  • Lucretia, head of the Alchemist Guild, wants to know which consortium one of the merchants is from. Lok intimidates him into telling her and Doc Splody confirms it by recognizing the merchant's monocle. She told them that she heard that the Vice Guild set up a camp deep in the woods, at the outskirts of the abandoned settlement.
  • Yana, the brothel mistress and Velt's date at the party, wants to hook up with one of the merchants. Velt begrudgingly helps her make an introduction, and she mentions that one of her girls was hired by a merchant and might be investing lots of money into the Vice Guild if the moss ale pans out.
  • Fal, a hired muscle, wants to steal a barrel of the moss ale to sell it. Lok unwittingly helps him but in the morning, he's found floating in the port. Before his untimely death, he tells her that one of the ships that sailed into the settlement for the party was filled with a small mercenary company of rangers and survivalists that disembarked down the coast and were equipped for a long stay in the woods.
  • Anton, friends with Velt and head of the Vice Guild's muscle, needs help to kill his brother, who is the head of the mercenary company, Velt falsely promises to help him. Anton tells Velt that the Vice Guild wants to expand their operation in the settlement and are going to level the Low Quarter (the slums of the settlement) for their land.
  • Simeon, the snake oil salesman, is being praised for his method of cultivating the moss but he wants help with a get-rich-quick scheme. He tells them that he just gave the Vice Guild a plant growth potion and he has no idea how they're cultivating the moss.

After the party, the Vice Guild floods the market with moss ale. However, it seems like people are starting to act strangely, seeing things where there is nothing. And this is affecting even those who haven't touched any moss ale. Mother Comfort, a healer/wise woman of the Low District, fears for her district and wants the moss growing operation to be stopped. Meanwhile, Frey, leader of the Cult of the Dark Tapestry, has been trying to recruit Lok the whole time and wants them not to interfere with the moss growing. Timmy, Velt's son, comes down with a touch of the madness and Velt and Doc Splody decide to go to the Low District to find Mother Comfort, who might be able to cure Timmy. Lok and Chetan stay behind at Rainbow Remedies to look after the shop and Timmy.

When Velt and Doc Splody arrive in the Low District, they find it ablaze. They manage to defeat fire elementals and chase off a Bloodfire sorcerer though Velt was sadly unprepared for a fight with fire and had to resort to using his slingshot with apples scrounged from a nearby market stall. "How do you like them apples?" might have been said.

Back at the shop, Lok and Chetan successfully defend against looters though the percentage of spiders increased exponentially. When Lucritia, head of the Alchemist Guild, hears about the fire, she's convinced it's the work of the Vice Guild. Velt, Lok, Chetan, and Doc Splody are dispatched to the rumored mercenary camp to investigate and put an end to their whole operation. The camp is a four day march away.

Along the way, they run into a group of fungal apes and fungal badgers, all seemingly acting weirdly slow and breathing madness spores all up in their faces. They make it to the Dark Shrine without any further mishaps. Six obelisks make up the shrine and the moss growing and harvesting is happening in the middle. The mercs look like they've been constantly fighting off the kaiju. As if on cue, a fungal T-Rex crashes through the forest and starts stomping and eating the mercs. Everyone but Lok, feral as she is, thinks it's a good idea to watch the chaos from their safe vantage point, but Lok immediately climbs down and joins in on the fight. It's a little painful, but they manage to take everyone out, including the T-Rex, who is a bit clumsy and has a hard time keeping its balance due to some conveniently placed grease by Chetan. Yeah, we had a T-Rex on its back, flailing around for a while.

Unfortunately, almost immediately after the T-Rex is finished off, there's a low rumble from the middle of the Dark Shrine and a fungal Frey bursts out. Looks like she's some sort of extraplanar queen now and starts doing some dark evil eldrich fungal zombie shit on the dead mercs.

Everyone is low on the healths, except for Lok, who manages to get mind controlled by Frey and starts going to town on her allies. Chetan is taken out. Doc Splody spends most of the time on the verge of dying while being tentacle hugged by Frey. He's double-fisting potions and throwing all sorts of defoliant, and whatever else he has in the bag at the fungus that's penetrating his skin. Velt scampers around, sling-shotting whenever possible, and manages to turn invisible at last minute, the edges of blacking out creeping in his vision. Luckily, this breaks Lok's mind-controlled mission of attacking her allies and with a rage that would quell the sternest of hearts, she ends Frey with a slash of her great sword.

As the moss is systematically destroyed, the madness recedes from the minds of the townsfolk. It takes some time for the settlement to fully recover, and everyone is more wary of the moss from then on, but with the Cult of the Dark Tapestry destroyed, it seems like the world is safe for the moment.

February 23, 2014

Magic: Not for the Faint of Heart

D&D Next with Ben Robbins.
Start from the beginning: Slave Galleys Suck
Previous Session: Communication is Hard

The residents of Port Halke were wary, paranoid, angry, distrustful, and at times fearful. None of which made getting the answers about what had happened easy. Apparently, the relationship between Port Halke and the natives had always been rife with tension and an uneasy truce. However, that truce (if it ever existed) was recently broken when a forging group encountered a particularly hostile group of natives that forced them to retreat back into the relative safety of Port Halke's stockade walls. The residents of Port Halke vowed to not be pushed around by the natives so they mounted a counterattack, which turned into a bloodbath. One of the fallen was Rusbach, a knight-captain that had been in charge of the military at the Port. The natives were so enraged that they managed to storm the stockade walls and set fire to a number of the buildings. Some of which were still smoldering when the Osprey landed.

Visage was able to determine that their irrationally hostile behavior towards the crew of the good ship Osprey was because of some magical tinkering that was afoot and that had tainted their minds. Only time would be able to wear down the effects that were affecting the townsfolk. In the meantime, the crew, Kelti, Visage, and Titus settled in at the Shorehouse, while Master Peleus and Korlav stayed with Salazar, an important personage in the Port.

One thing that piqued the trio's attention was mutterings of the especially odd behavior of the resident wizard, Morrow, who had not been seen by anyone for several days after being more erratic than usual, which was a surprise to everyone that it was even possible. The townsfolk were a superstitious and grumpy lot that reacted astoundingly negatively to the trio's offer to investigate Morrow the Wizard's dwelling. The trio decided to go have a look anyway and use the cover of night to hide their intent.

It wasn't difficult to find the wizard's hut, which was well built and had a door that was magically locked. They each tried their hand at getting inside, but to little effect besides a slightly bruised shoulder on Titus' part from trying to break down the door. They had neglected to bring any implements for light so Kelti went back to the Shorehouse to grab a lantern. In the meantime, Titus and Visage decided to wander over to the town square, where a group of men had gathered and were heatedly discussing whether or not to go back out into the woods to seek revenge on the natives. They kept on mentioning that someone named "Wallach" wanted to mount an attack, but several wanted to wait for Gephart, the magistrate, to weigh in with his thoughts before taking action.

Visage, on the off-chance that they would be able to get into the wizard's hut, decided to go back to the Shorehouse to see if any bags could be found to hold any useful things they found. When they all met back up at the hut for their second try, this time armed with useful tools, Kelti decided to put her acrobatic tumbling past to the test and attempt to slither down the chimney, which looked to be their best point of entry. They were hopeful at first that Visage, with some light, would be able to undo the magically locked door, but it was quickly determined that the runes on the door handle would take Visage several days of study to make heads or tails of it. Titus went up on the roof with Kelti, just in case she got stuck. Luckily, the weeks of jungle living had primed Kelti for this particular task and without too much trouble, she made it into the hut, covered in soot, but without any other mishap.

When all three were inside, a quick look around made it obvious that the wizard had gone to great lengths to appear as normal as possible. Titus noticed a well-placed rug (what type of person would decide to bring a rug purely for decorative purposes in a Port hundreds of miles away from proper civilization? Certainly not anyone as practical as a wizard) and upon further investigation, there was conveniently a trap door hidden under the rug.   

Titus went down first and Kelti passed the lantern down towards him. As the lantern reached Titus, it seemed as if the light shone not quite as far as it had above ground, though he shrugged it off as a trick of his imagination. He also thought he saw movement in the room further in, but again, chalked it up to a trick of the light and wisely decided to wait for the others before venturing any further.

Once all three were safely in the small underground alcove, Titus and Kelti started forward into an inner room. Visage hung back, taking a quick look at the odds and ends stored in the shelves built into the walls of the alcove and more wary than his compatriots of the dangers of a wizard's secret lair. As soon as Kelti and Titus set foot in the inner room, they both felt a wave of unbridled fear and unease wash over them, but, foolhardy as they were, they were able to clamp that shit down and continue further into the room, which appeared to be where Morrow did all of his magical study and work.

And where Morrow still was. Unfortunately he was also dead. He sat sprawled in a large and heavy high-backed chair, an expression of extreme terror distorting his face. Titus and Kelti shouted for Visage to come and take a look, but the moment that Visage stepped foot into the room, he knew beyond a doubt that going further into that room was the last thing in the world that he wanted to do. An overwhelming need to get the hell out of dodge consumed him and he was barely able to let out a strangled yelp before rushing out and up the trap door without a backwards glance.

Kelti and Titus looked at each other for a second before immediately springing into action. Titus patted Morrow down but found nothing of note, while Kelti very carefully picked the largest and most ornate book on the wizard's table. Titus was not as delicate, using one of his large and muscular arms to quickly sweep as much of the wizard's stuff into a blanket that they had fashioned into a crude carrying bag. All manner of books and scrolls and mysterious powders and jars tumbled into the bag.

Visage, the minute he saw his companions' heads appear out of the trap door started towards the door, stammering incoherently about the danger that they were in. Only when they were across the street did he take a deep breath and stand shaking like a leaf with his hand covering his eyes for several moments. Kelti and Titus looked on, dumbstruck by his reaction but deferring to his magical expertise. When he finally looked up, he looked startled and asked them if they had been followed out. He was met with confusion and some amount of pity, neither of them noticed anyone, except for the extremely dead body of Morrow. Visage blinked several times before slowly telling them that he saw someone look out the door of the hut before the door closed of its own volition.

They carried their awkward bundle of loot from Morrow's secret wizard lair back to the Shorehouse, and tried stowing it under the cots, where it was painfully obvious. Luckily, the crew of the Osprey were preoccupied with their discontent at being kept in a ill-fated port and spared them a few weird looks, but kept to themselves. Visage needed somewhere quiet to look unmolested through the loot and make sense of it, so they decided to offer to take the next shift at standing guard on the ship, where they knew they would not be disturbed.

Their plan would have worked without a hitch except for the fact that Titus and Kelti both fell soundly asleep and were only woken when the next group of sailors came to relieve them of their shift. They were unable to warn Visage, who had holed up in Master Peleus' cabin to study the books, scrolls, and journal that they had recovered. Visage, once he realized what had happened, cursed his luck and looked around him. The cabin smelled strongly of chemicals and various strange colored powder covered the table and ground. He tried his best to clean it up, but wizards are not particularly good at being orderly. A glance at the jumble of loot made it obvious that stumbling out of the cabin with his arms full of a misshapen lump would appear highly suspicious so he resorted to hiding the majority of the loot and taking only a few of the most important books.

Before he opened the door of the cabin, he steeled himself to put on a masterful performance and at the same time guide the books using Mage Hand around the ship to the dock. His performance was indeed masterful, successfully convincing the sailors that he had fallen asleep studying, but it ran a little too long, as evidenced by a splash that could be heard from the side of the ship. The sailors turned quizzically and with some amount of fear and trepidation towards the splash, and Visage quickly tried to assuage their concern by attributing the splash to dolphins.

Dolphins? At this time of the night? But the sailors, knowing they were in unfamiliar waters, shrugged and were all too eager to accept Visage's innocuous explanation. Kelti and Titus, after 20 minutes of anxiously watching the ship for signs of Visage, were about to head back to the ship and try to smuggle him out when they saw him walking with a defeated expression down the dock towards them.

When he confessed to what happened, they both looked at him like he was crazy and Kelti said, "You mean, the best magic stuff is in the ocean, and you left the crappy stuff safe in the cabin?" She shook her head in confusion and threw up her hands in disgust. Wizards...they operate on some weird logic.

Before they turned in for the night, Visage recounted what he had found in Morrow's journal. It turned out the wizard was an alchemy scholar and made very neat detailed notes about all of the various metals and elements that he had found on the island, all of which was dry as shit, but near the end of the journal, right around the time that the townsfolk mentioned his weird behavior, was an entry that was scrawled in unfamiliar cursive handwriting. A chill fell over them as they listened to Visage recite the journal entry from memory even though the tropical night air was pleasantly warm.
"Voices in the jungle
Black beacon burns
I close the shutters, but the dark comes in
I pressed rags in the cracks but the dark comes in
No candles. No candles or they will see the light"
The next morning, Kelti decides to comb the beach to see if she can find the books, convinced that they float, even though Visage told her that they were pretty heavy and had metal capped edges. Titus, agreeing with Visage, decided to swim around the boat and try to find the books on the ocean floor.

For once, Kelti was right and she proudly brought Visage the tattered and waterlogged remains of the precious magic books. Visage pales when he catches sight of the ruined books, but doesn't have time to properly despair at their condition because a crowd of townsfolk ran by them at that moment and someone tells them that they found someone who died mysteriously overnight, a look of abject terror etched on their face.

Visage, Kelti, and Titus looked at each other, each asking the unspoken question - did they unleash something that was now literally terrorizing the Port?

Next Session: Death Becomes You

February 6, 2014

Communication is Hard

D&D Next with Ben Robbins.
Start from the beginning: Slave Galleys Suck
Next Session: Magic: Not for the Faint of Heart

Titus, Visage, and Kelti spend the next three weeks with the tribe, who they eventually learn are called Bari (BAR-ee). Communication is incredibly difficult, so much so that they only have about a dozen words that they've learned and can only speak in two word sentences.

From the GM:
The natives are on average a few inches shorter than humans, lean and wiry, with dark eyes, short flat noses and thin lips. Their skin is brick red. And of course they have four arms. They number about three dozen.
Language is a serious impediment (see below). They refer to themselves as "Bari" (BAR-ee) but it's hard to tell if that's a race or a tribe. The Bari are friendly and seem quite comfortable with the newcomers, even though they're strange outsiders who are missing two arms. It doesn't seem to phase them at all.
The tribe does not sit still. They only spend a few days in one place before the whole tribe picks up and moves a mile or two before setting up a new camp. So, everyone does lots and lots of walking. Lots of gathering and foraging and hunting small game.
Their camp is screened by woven mats strung between trees, creating walls that give the camp a modicum of protection against things wandering out of the brush. The mats are light and tough and roll up into surprising small bundles. The "walls" provide a huge psychological benefit -- you feel like you're indoors and protected. You don't feel like you have to keep looking over your shoulder and watching the bushes. Could something jump down on you from above? Sure.
The tribe seems to stick to the long strand of jungle between the mountains and the sea on the north-eastern shore. They show no interest in approaching or crossing over the mountains (aka the direction you came from). They seem to view the mountains with an air of prudent caution, like "why would anyone smart want to go over there?"
The Bari seem to think that Kelti is in charge of your group. It's unclear why. They totally get that Visage has magic. They watch him constantly and are always waiting for something new and interesting to happen. There's some social structure within the tribe that's hard to put your finger on.
When you first encountered the Bari, half the tribe was out in a party (which you met) while the other half was back at the camp. That seems to be unusual because you never see it happen again. The whole group migrates together, but only small groups hunt (5 at most). Why that big group then? Who knows.
There is some running joke about you guys picking things up. It takes a while to realize it and you're not sure if you're being pranked or what, but the Bari seem unusually fascinated with watching you pick things up. They will set up situations just to get you to pick something up and then slyly watch you do it, then break into a big discussion about what just happened. It is very interesting to them.

The twelve words that we know:
  • Food, Water
  • Hello, Thanks
  • Yes, No
  • Help, Danger
  • Show, Look
  • Sorry, ! (curse word)
One of the leader-ish Bari (Wet Blanket Bari), who Kelti interacted with during the shadow cat incident, is grumpy towards them ever since that kerfuffle with the shadow cat meat. Kelti, with her traveling troupe background, eagerly soaks in their songs and dances and spends most nights entertaining and being entertained by the Bari.

Titus catches the eye of a young shapely Bari and the two of them strike up a shy, tentative romance, full of glances and quiet, meaningless conversations (in this case, literally). She's obviously crushing hard but Titus takes it slow, it's nice just having someone to talk to, even if they don't understand a word you're saying.

After a few weeks of constantly being on the move, in a random migration, one morning, half of the Bari ready themselves to go on a long trek towards the mountains. There is a heated discussion on whether or not to allow a teenage Bari to go with the group for the first time. Eventually, it's decided that he's allowed to go, but when Titus, Kelti, and Visage attempt to go with them, they are emphatically against it. So much so that when Kelti tries to follow them, they all stop, turn around and are as clear as they could be about the fact that she's not allowed to come.

Later, when she decides to go for a walk in the forest, a teenage Bari is tasked with tailing her. She very easily gives him the slip and watches with great amusement as he freaks out, two hands holding his head and the other two flailing around wildly as he panics and cringes at the thought of having to go back having failed at his task. As he turns dejectedly to run back to let everyone know, she puts him out of his misery by stepping out and shouting. He turns around with the most relieved and happily surprised look on his face, which lasts but a moment before the realization dawns on him that Kelti must have known the whole time that he was following her. They walk back to the tribe in silence, Kelti inwardly laughing and the teenage Bari sullenly walking beside her.

When the group returns, they look like they've been marching long distances, but no one appears to be harmed. Surprisingly, they also come back empty-handed. A large meal has been prepared in anticipation of their return, and the atmosphere is one of a job well done, solemn, and momentous.

The days and nights are starting to blend together. The trio recovered physically from being half starved and the nightmares of crazy, sharp-toothed monkeys were starting to come less frequently. While communication with the Bari was still a struggle, bordering on futile, they were finally getting the hang of the life that the Bari had created. Titus brings up the topic that they've all been avoiding once they noticed that they've settled into this new life.

"This isn't the life that I had in mind for the rest of my days."

Visage nodded in agreement. Kelti, on the other hand, having tasted what being part of a welcoming and accepting community was like, was of a different mind. They eventually came to a compromise. They'll visit the ocean, which the Bari avoided camping next to, and get a better feel for if they were truly on an island or not.

The next day they set out with lunch and several teenage Bari who decided to tag along, as well as Titus' love interest. They spend the day running along the sand, playing in the water, and in Titus' case, making out with the Bari on a lovely log a little bit in the forest from the beach, within earshot, but not within sight of the others. Kelti collects several seashells scattered along the beach and when they get back to the tribe, she tries to give some to the Wet Blanket Bari, who stares her down and points to her and says "Danger". He then gives the teenage Bari who went with them a very serious talking to.

From then on, the young Bari don't hang around them as much. It's obvious that Wet Blanket Bari has issues with them and no one feels this more keenly than Kelti, who now knows she will always be seen as an outsider and distrusted by a contingent in the tribe.

The next day, the tribe is in an uproar because the teenage Bari who went on the mountain trek was attacked by a shadow cat and is in grievous condition. They carry him into camp and when Visage runs forward, they part and all look at him expectantly. The Bari is still bleeding out from his fresh wounds and no one in the trio has any formal knowledge of first aid or healing. They use their limited words to shout "Sorry" "Help" and point, which, after a bit, the crowd realizes means that any sort of magical healing was not forthcoming, and they step in to bandage him up.

Shaken by the event, they realize that their position in the tribe was more unnecessary and useless than they had previously let themselves believe. Embarrassed by how little they were able to help the injured Bari, they decide to spend some time away from the tribe and take a longer trip to explore the coast.

Gathering up gourds for water and some food, they try in vain to let the Bari know that they'll only be gone for a few days, as shown by the amount of supplies they're taking. Titus' love interest tries to come with them but he tells her, "No, Sorry." She's heartbroken. They turn to leave.

The second day out, they see dark, foreboding cumulonimbus clouds off in the distance. Titus manages to find the perfect spot to wait out the storm, which rages on for a whole day, complete with deluges. When it finally stops, in the middle of the night, it is eerily quiet except for the constant dripping. In the morning, the forest and beach look like someone broke in and overturned everything in search of valuables. But beyond the mess of fallen branches and seaweed, the air was so clean and crisp that it was like biting into a snowball.

They stretched their legs and enjoyed a moment of awe at being alive through all of their trials and tribulations, before they suddenly noticed, almost at the same time, the miraculous sight of a ship off in the distance from where they had come. They all break into a run and run for several hours straight. Titus notices that Kelti is having the hardest time with the running. Whether it was because her body was trained for short bursts of acrobatics, or that some piece of her heart was still yearning for the Bari life, he couldn't tell, but he takes her spear and gourd wordlessly.

By the time they arrive where the ship appeared to be headed, sweat was pouring from their bodies and their chests heaved with exertion. And they were met with disappointment. The ocean was clear and no sight of the ship could be seen. Defeated, they rest for a moment before walking further into the forest, hoping against hope that the ship might have sailed further in.

As they peer through the forest to the next stretch of beach, their hearts leap into their throats. There in the cove is the ship they spied from afar. It looks like a modestly small ship, slightly battered from the storm and it looked like they arrived right in time as they see a longboat being rowed into shore. They decide to play it safe and hide in the forest until they can better discern the sailors' intentions.

The sailors look uncomfortable with their cutlasses and are lead by two men, one who is unarmed and another that appears to be the shipmaster. Before they get too close to the forest line, the trio reveal themselves, three weathered shipwrecked souls, clad in grass skirts, with gourds and spears. Needless to say, they were met with suspicion but the shipmaster, named Master Peleus, upon hearing that they were shipwrecked by krakens, shakes his head as if to ward off such misfortune and says gruffly, "No sailor worth his salt would leave a shipwrecked person behind, we have at least that much humanity in us. Welcome aboard the Osprey."

The unarmed man, Korlav, has an eye patch that has golden threads sewn through it. His white hair was tied up in a pony-tail and he had a charming, profiting air about him, due in no small part to his threads, which were a sizable step above what the rest of the sailors wore. Titus, Kelti, and Visage, by an unspoken pact tried to leave any mention of the Bari out of their discussion with Korlav, but it was obvious from the glint in the old man's eye that he saw much more than they said.

That night they dined with him on the Osprey. Before the meal, the trio discussed what should be said about the Bari and Kelti wanted to give as little away as possible. Titus and Visage agreed, but their methods turned out to be at odds. Their meal was nothing special, but salted meat and wine were things that came from more civilized worlds and it reminded them that there was much more out there than this small slice of island that they had been stuck on for a month. Perhaps it was the wine, but Visage disclosed more about their time on the island (known to be called Aucanthus) including the ruins of the city that they had passed. Korlav in turn off-handedly let them know that some of the sailors jokingly referred to him as a "slaver". He was quick to explain that he thought of himself as more of a collector of oddities and rare treasures from far away locales and that he had undertaken this long journey because he had heard rumors of natives that had four arms. Kelti had heard enough and promptly left.

Later, when they had a chance to discuss matters alone, Visage revealed that he wanted Korlav to make his intentions plain and thought there was little harm in mentioning the ruins, which seemed to have no bearing on the Bari. Kelti thought that no information was the best strategy, but the two of them reached common ground on wanting to protect the Bari from the greedy and unsavory nature of Korlav.

In the morning, after repairs had been made, they set out for Aulothus island, which held Port Halke. Titus, always eager for new experiences and for the heights, offered to take a shift at manning the crows nest and had the good fortune of sighting land first. However, as they drew closer to the port, it appeared that the port had been recently attacked and a large crowd of silent and armed citizens lined the dock.

The Osprey slowly but surely came closer to the dock and the ominous crowd. Before getting too close, they stopped and Master Peleus shouted, "Is this Port Halke?"

The answer back was hard but not riotous, "Aye. And who are you?"

"The Osprey. We are looking to dock at your port."

At the mention of docking, it seemed to rouse them from whatever stupor they had been under and they shrugged and moved slightly away from the edge of the dock. From within the stockade, several fires could be seen that were still smoldering, but none of the several dozen people gathered there made any move to put them out. Titus, Kelti, and Visage looked at each other and their eyes asked the question that was surely on all of their minds, "What happened here? And were perhaps the Bari somehow involved?"

January 18, 2014

Forced Marches are Exhausting

D&D Next with Ben Robbins.
Start from the beginning: Slave Galleys Suck
Next Session: Communication is Hard

The morning after the bloody monkey throw-down, Titus and Kelti checked on Visage, and while he was conscious, he didn't look much better. Having a monkey tearing you apart really doesn't do much for one's complexion. After patching him up to the best of their ability in the light of day, they decided to continue hiking in the stream to get some distance from the monkeys, just in case. By mid-day, they reached a clearing and could see off in the distance, between two mountains, a strip of blue water and what looked to be a sailboat. Buoyed by the idea that there might be civilization, and consequently rescue, from this savageness just yonder, they decided to go check it out.

They went back into the jungle to forage for food and then set out in the general direction of the mountains. Everyone was paranoid that they might get lost, so they each employed their own method of trying to stay on track. Titus used his ax to make notches in the trees, especially whenever they stopped, pointing in the direction that they were headed. Visage used rocks to create orienteering circles with arrows and Kelti carried a long stick that she dragged on the ground to mark their progress.

When they settled in for the night, Kelti dug a hole to put the stick in, to prevent any accidental bumping of the stick, but as soon as they closed their eyes, they realized that it was nearly as bright as it was earlier. The moon was shining through the trees so they decided to break camp and force march by the light of the moon. Unfortunately, an hour later they were all bone tired, apparently being slaves for a week, not getting enough food to eat and being attacked multiple times in the last few days of being shipwrecked was not super conducive to forced nighttime hikes. They managed to find a smooth rock and promptly fell upon it and slept the rest of the night without incident.

In the morning, Kelti realized that she had forgotten her stick in the excitement and subsequent exhaustion of the night. When they looked around at their surroundings, more of the smooth rocks were scattered throughout the forest, definitely ruins of some sort, overgrown with the jungle but still stately. The lasting nature of the rocks hinted at skilled masonry in an era past.

At one point, they were walking between two walls that were still standing and after a few moments, it started getting darker even though it was in the middle of the day. They hadn't noticed that the walls led into the side of a hill and became a tunnel of sorts. Not quite foolhardy enough to explore this dark tunnel (Visage was not the sort of wizard that had a Light spell), they backed out and soon enough came upon a steep hill covered in brambles and bushes.

They all tried climbing up the hill, with varying degrees of success, Kelti, more used to scrambling up ropes and not forcing her way through thick foliage, had the worst time of it, though Visage managed to get quite a ways up before getting stuck and had to climb back down. Titus, determined to get to the top, decided to somewhat recklessly start using his ax one-handed to hack away at the bushes. In this fashion, he managed to get to the top of the hill and after a yelled discussion with Visage and Kelti who were still at the bottom of the hill, he scouted the area.

The top of the hill was covered in the same brambles and bushes and as he was pushing through a particularly thick clump of them, he nearly lost his balance as it parted to show a large crater directly in front of him. The crater looked to be man-made with what appeared to be an abandoned city in its center, with buildings and roads that had a similar look and feel as the ruins that they had passed. Similar tunnels were spread throughout the crater walls, and it was possible that the tunnel they had accidentally entered earlier might lead there.

Titus went back and told Kelti and Visage what he had seen and they decided that the only way everyone would be able to effectively climb the hill would be if Titus hacked a path down. As Titus was working on creating a path, Visage and Kelti both set out to find water and food. Neither were successful, but Kelti stumbled upon a freshly killed carcass that looked like it had been mauled by a large beast. Shaken by what she had seen, she tried to find her way back and got lost. Half an hour of terror and frustrated yelling later, she finally found her way back to the base of the hill. Visage appeared from the jungle at the same time but before the two of them could set out together to forage for food, Titus spotted a familiar movement at the edge of the jungle and yelled down a warning.

Neither of them wanted to go up against another horde of monkeys so they stayed put and Titus, the path 2/3 finished, booked it down double time. He stood guard as Visage and Kelti struggled to climb the hill but as soon as they both safely reached the path, he started up the hill again too. Titus couldn't help but take one more glance behind him and he saw the chilling and ominous sight of a solitary monkey sitting in the middle of the clearing, staring up at him.

Titus led Visage and Kelti to the crater city that he had found and they walked through the jungle around the crater. When they approximated that they had gone half way around the crater, they cut back in to look at the crater city and get their bearings. This time they noticed a public square of sorts in the middle of the city that had a large rough and unhewn rock as its centerpiece, which was mysterious but not enough so that anyone wanted to venture into the city to find answers. The sides of the crater were extremely steep and there was no visible ways to get out.

They eventually made it to the top of the saddlebow and spent the night. The next morning, they continued towards the two mountains but it wasn't long before they spied a group of about 20 locals, marching in single file. They were armed with spears, so they decided to follow them stealthily. Kelti led and was so focused on getting as close as possible to the group that she didn't notice that for the last several moments, they had been stealthing in parallel with a large puma-tiger-like beast.

The beast slowly turned its head and noticed at the same time that there were three scrawny humans alongside it, others had died for less, so it started raising its hackles. Kelti froze and started backing away slowly. Visage tried to intimidate the beast by casting an illusion of large feathered wings on Kelti, but it only served to infuriate the beast further.

It lunged towards Kelti and managed to swipe her across the chest, ripping a not unattractive slash in her ragged shirt. She yelled out and Titus leapt forward next to Kelti and swung his ax, but in his haste, underestimated the largeness of the beast as well as how tired his arms were from the hacking that he had done the day before and the swing went wide. Undeterred, he used his momentum to swing again on the way back, catching the beast on its shoulder. They dodged and closed in on the beast, who in turn swiped and tried to take bites out of them, but in the end, Kelti managed to dart in and bury her frog shiv in-between the ribs of the beast and carve her signature into it.

The beast gave one last dying roar as it slumped over to its side. Titus, Visage, and Kelti caught their breath and only then noticed that the group of locals had overheard their heated battle and were gathered around, their spears slowly lowering and expressions of awe and disbelief on their faces. They started talking excitedly amongst themselves in a language that was unrecognizable to Titus, Visage, or Kelti and waving their four arms around.

No one had much experience with trying to communicate with people that had no common language, so their attempts at being understood were met largely with confusion and quizzical looks. Visage at one point tried to use his illusions to depict a small version of himself cooking the beast and eating one of its legs. While the illusion was extremely accurate and well-made, the locals erupted in a frenzy of astonishment, fear, and distrust at the display of magic. Kelti, after multiple attempts, managed to get across to the leader that she owned the beast, but wanted help in carrying it. They latched the beast to a few spears and made their way to their village, which was walled in with thatched mats, but no dwellings had roofs.

The locals fairly mobbed the newcomers but once it was apparent that they would all be feasting well that night, everyone settled down. Kelti watched as the beast was skinned and made motions that she wanted to keep the skin. The leader seemed slightly taken aback at her need to make such a declaration, and made a show of deferring the pelt to her and bringing over an old woman who promptly started preparing the hide for tanning.

Soon the mouth-watering smell of roasting meat filled the air and Kelti performed a song and dance for their entertainment while they waited to feast. The leader made a show of cutting off a choice bit of meat and offering it first to Kelti. They agreed that it might be a good show of commoderie if she split the meat and offered half of it to the leader. But when she did so, he was extremely hesitant to accept the offered meat and seemed to do so out of social obligation rather than thanks. He lifted his portion into the air to show everyone, and the crowd murmured quietly. They looked at each other and shrugged, apparently some social faux pas had been committed and only time would tell what had transpired.

Next Session: Communication is Hard