Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Illingael, the Swamps of Woe

In the year NR 352, the western fringes of the Forest of Kyrell and the coastal plains between the Forest and the Frostsea began to sink. By the year NR 403, a vast tangled swampland had consumed the area.

The swamps engulfed old Gorlavan ruins near the coast, abandoned elven ruins in the wood, and submerged the roads and trails that once traversed the area.
Illingael and environs (in Hexographer)

The Valwyn elves of the Forest of Kyrell consider these lands cursed, and vigilantly patrol the edges of the swamps, but will not enter them. They now call the area Illingael (the Swamps of Woe).

The wise whisper that there is a more complicated story at work here...

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Ruins of Granrath

The ruins of the old Onorian city of Granrath lie at the western end of Lake Beranarr, at the point where a small river coming down out of the Telzek Hills enters the Lake. Granrath was the seat of one of the eight Dukedoms of the Elder realm of Onoria. The traitor Dukes of Granrath were responsible for the First and Second Granrath Wars in the 230's and 240's (~470 years ago). These wars were the result of Granrath rebelling against the Onorian King and provoking two civil wars. Eventually, Granrath was ceded to Ithilkar, its ally in the rebellion (in 251), but was destroyed soon after during the goblin and orc invasions of the Rivenrock Wars (circa 270).
Granrath and environs (in Hexographer)

The ruins lie a mere 25 miles east of the modern Castle of the New Dawn. Despite the clerics of the Castle desiring to clear the wilderness and make the region safe for settlers, they are conscientious, and are wary of sending all but the most experienced adventurers to Granrath, which is said to be haunted by the spirits of all the traitorous soldiers that took up arms against their king. Because of their history, the entire city and surrounding lands are said to be cursed.

Some legends say that the ruins of Granrath are still presided over by the spirit of Szorlag III, the last Duke of Granrath. Szorlag is rumored to be a powerful ghost, lich or worse.

Getting to Granrath from New Dawn is easy: go north to the river and follow it downstream until you reach the Lake. The ruins are where the river meets the Lake.

The ruins of the city spread along the coast of the Lake, and include the ruins of the citadel on the high ground northeast of the river. As would be expected of 400+ year old ruins, little remains above ground but the lines of stone walls, flagstone paved roads and plazas, sunken cellars, and the crumbled remnants of the larger monuments and landmarks.
Ruins of Granrath

Adventurers have recently reported young green dragons flying south from the Ravenwood and hunting in the ruins (in pairs or trios).

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


Halep is a town of ~600 on the Great North Road. It is on a remote stretch of road, with the city of Turil 55 miles east and the town of Trillen 80 miles to the west. Halep sits at a point near where the borders of the Elder realms of Onoria, Ithilkar and Gorlavar met in the old days. In fact, the ruins of Prasinia, the capital city of Ithilkar, lies in the Hills of Horeb ~40 miles to the south.
Halep and environs (in Hexographer)

Halep's importance (and existence) is due to its location on the road. It serves as a stopping point for caravans and travelers, supplying food, fresh horses and other necessities.

Highlights of Halep include:
  • A stone walled citadel controlled by the ruling noble family.
  • Fortified stone houses being built on the southern hill by the wealthier citizens, bypassing the need for the Baron to provide protection (and rent his fully-owned buildings within the citadel).
  • Middle class artisans and craftsmen banding together to start building wooden palisade walls around part of the lower town. It's a modest beginning with expansion plans for the future.
  • A fortified temple compound that is a dominant economic force in the town, extending well beyond their primary function as a place of worship for the goddess of the harvest.
  • A three or four way power struggle simmering, and perhaps soon coming to a boil.

In recent months (in the year 707), Halep has been beset by the same ogre raids out of the Silver Hills as other towns in the region have been.

Monday, July 17, 2017


Forlorn is a wilderness town of ~250 souls on the Old Gorlavan Trail stretching from the Great North Road into the far northern wilderness. The elven Forest of Kyrell is to the west, and the towns on the Road are far to the south. Halep is the nearest town to the south, approximately 60 miles to the southeast. Only the Castle of the New Dawn (~45 miles northeast) and the small town of North's End (~100 miles north/northwest) are further north into the wilderness.
Forlorn and environs (in Hexographer)

Few outsiders come to the town other than adventurers and explorers seeking to wander the Onorian Wilds, the distant Rivenrock Wastes, and other nearby wild and dangerous places.

Forlorn sits in fertile grasslands but is under constant threat from the packs of wolves and dire wolves roaming southward out of the Wolfrun Moors.

The town itself sits mainly on a small island in a deep and swift flowing stream, and is protected by a stout wooden palisade. The stream itself is not too much of an obstruction, but when backed by the palisade it presents a formidable barrier.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

New Dawn

[see June 2016 for a full post on this location]

Located about 40 miles northeast of the town of Forlorn, the Castle of the New Dawn and its related village are a small frontier outpost.
Castle of the New Dawn

The priesthood of Ardran and the Order of the Stalwart Shield seek to provide a safe haven for exploration and settlement of this little corner of the wilderness.

[I've gotten better at hand drawn cartography, but when I feel like scribbling out a quick map of a town in the world, I stick to this style. It's crude but effective, and matches all the little town and village maps I've already drawn...]

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Campaign Journal 41 - Tower of Rethorcar

We last left our heroes having just entered the Tower of Rethorcar, in the ruined Onorian town of Zinasa...

August 16, Friday (cont.) - Standing in the entry foyer of the Tower, Badric the Cleric moved toward the center of the 30 foot diameter room in order to get a better view up through the hole in the ceiling. As he stepped into the red circle at the center of the carpet covering the floor, he began to levitate toward the hole in the ceiling. As he was rising up, Niam the Rogue was studying a portrait on the wall. The portrait was labeled "Damien Rethorcar", and looked just like an older version of Duncan the Wizard.

Wracking his memory for his knowledge of heraldry, Badric was able to recall (remarkably!) that the Rethorcars were a noble family known for their powerful wizards. When Onoria fell, the surviving members of the Rethorcars were believed to have fled southeast into what is now Mercia. The heraldic badge of Duncan's family is a red hawk, and one of the key elements of Rethorcar heraldry was also a red hawk. Duncan's family has lived in northern Mercia for generations...
The ruins of Zinasa

The trick to managing the levitation up (and down) from level to level was soon figured out by Niam, and the party set about exploring the Tower. Niam floated up through each floor, getting the general lay of the land. When approaching the sixth floor, it became apparent (too late) that the last floor was an illusionary trap, and he took a significant amount of lightning damage.

The fourth floor had one door, which Niam took electrical damage from when attempting to pick the lock.

The fifth floor had an ornate dragon door, with carved high relief heads of gold, silver and copper, each with a keyhole beneath it. So they had a door...but no keys. Yet.

For a tower of approximately 30 foot diameter when viewed from the outside, and also approximately 30 foot in diameter at the center of each level, most parts of the interior didn't match the exterior appearances. Each level had a number of doors and windows that made the interior of the tower far larger and more irregular than the outside. The other thing that the characters soon noticed was that the view out of all of the windows seemed to be random in both the view to be seen (scene, season, weather and time of day), and the apparent height above the ground.
Tower of Rethorcar

The party was looking for three keys of gold, silver and copper, and had six apparent tower floors to explore. One of the first things they noticed was that the temperature was a refreshingly cool ~70 degrees, compared to the 90+ heat outside. Also, for a tower that had supposedly been sealed inside an Invulnerable Mageward for the last ~350 years, the air was fresh and everything was clean, undisturbed and well preserved. Remarkably so.

The first floor had three hallways. One led to a series of doors that blinked characters from one door to another, seemingly at random. After some exploration, Malachy the barbarian went through one door and didn't reemerge from another. He appeared in different series of rooms, including what seemed to be a practice range for archery, knife and axe throwing, and a fitness training room containing all sorts of climbing, balancing and agility training obstacles. Flitting about this room was a copper key...but more on that later.

While Malachy was off on his own, the other members of the group explored a sitting room leading to a trophy room. The trophy room had heads of 9 different dragons and other reptilian creatures. The heads moved slightly and seemed to be watching the characters. While Badric was getting beat up by the flicking tongue of a giant frog, Niam managed to approach a silver dragon's head and remove a silver key from its mouth. A large red dragon head regarded them intently, but nothing else happened. A book on dragons was recovered from the sitting room.

The final hallway of the first floor led to an extravagant series of chambers. The first was a large and extensively decorated dance hall, complete with a magical music generating device. To the side of this room were a pair of dressing rooms flanking a room with three pools set into the floor - one with cool water, one with warn water and one with hot water. Steam filled the air.

After much chasing, falling and chasing again, Malachy (very bruised and battered) was able to obtain the elusive copper key. Continuing on, he explored a series of workshops, after which he found himself on the third floor landing. Malachy went down and found his way back to the party at this point.

Beyond the dance wall was a huge and well kept indoor garden. Looking down from a balcony near the entrance, the party could see a pair of pools flanking the room, and a large foundation near the far end. Gravel paths led through lush undergrowth. Niam identified some plants useful in brewing certain poisons. The fountain had a large carved stone dragon in the center of it.

The group explored the second floor next, and it proved to be a series of bedroom suites, containing a total of 5 nicely furnished bedrooms split between three suites (each with its own sitting room). Each bedroom had a magical fireplace whose level of flame could be adjusted or turned completely off. There was also a dining room, with places set for 14. Upon entering the room, a construct figure, looking like a clay figure sculpted by a child, entered the room from a far door, and asked a question in a language that they could not understand. Duncan the Wizard cast Comprehend Languages and was able to understand the figure, which asked again "what can I do for you?" Duncan replied "dinner for 5", upon which the figure went back through the far door (into the kitchens). It and another similar figure began making a wonderfully smelling dinner. Fifteen minutes later, dinner was served. It consisted of swordfish steaks, grilled vegetables and fresh baked bread. It was the best meal they had eaten since they left Linden (and better than most of those town meals...). A peek into the kitchen showed ovens, grills, prep stations, and a pair of doors extending beyond. The group did not enter the kitchen.

The third level had the workshops previously seen by Malachy. The main workshop had stone carving and alchemy areas. There were piles of stone chips around the stone carving area. To one side was a storage room. To the other was a wood carving workshop, with a plethora of tools, raw materials, and some partly finished furniture.

The group made another attempt at opening the electrified door on the fourth floor, but were stymied. It would take magic to open the door.

Revisiting some of the areas they had been through, Duncan noticed something odd about the green and yellow tapestries on the second floor. On closer inspection, the intricate embroidery proved to be the recipes for four lower level spells, once of which was Knock, a magical opening spell. Duncan didn't know the spell, but given enough time to study the tapestry, could learn it well enough to cast it once. Given more time and the right materials, he could copy it into his spell book.

Going back to the kitchen helpers, Duncan asked about the keys. After some back and forth, Duncan was able to glean the information "golden dragon in the water". Returning to the dragon fountain in the garden area, Badric was able to find a hidden compartment in the carved stone dragon's head containing a gold key...

Melior the Druid, returning later to the gardens, was stalked by a fey creature, and resisted being charmed by what turned out to be a dryad. The dryad, pouting, faded back into a nearby tree, and wasn't seen again.

The party then decided to rest for the night in the baths room, while Duncan studied the tapestry with the Knock spell, in the hopes of casting in on the fourth floor door on the morrow...

August 17, Saturday - With the knowledge of the Knock spell freshly in his mind, Duncan returned to the trapped electrified door on the fourth level, and was able to use the spell to open the door. Beyond was a sitting room, very nicely furnished. This led to an equally nicely furnished bedroom (obviously the master's), which had a large closet full of nice wizard clothes, a balcony, and a storage room. The storage room had a pair of chests. One was a simple chest containing ~1,000 GP in gems and ~1,500 in various old Onorian-era coins. The other was a smaller metal chest with an incredibly complex puzzle lock. Surprisingly (to the DM at least), Duncan and Niam working together managed to open the puzzle chest on the first try (an extended series of skill checks). Inside was a golden key. Their second golden key....

Next...Finishing the Tower of Rethorcar.

GM Commentary - Hopefully this session was amenable to my players. Not a single die was rolled in combat, although many were rolled for other purposes. I'm of the opinion that mixing up combat and non-combat content is important. Occasionally this results in an entire session leaning heavily one way or another without a good mix within the session. D&D as written doesn't necessarily agree, since if you aren't killing things, you aren't getting XP, and therefore aren't advancing your character and making them better in game terms. As always, I award XP for non-combat things, and while this was not a high XP session, it was certainly not a total write off.

Also...See my prior post on the doldrums. I have been stuck in the doldrums regarding this campaign for a little while now...but that is over. I'm excited again, and can't wait to figure out what comes after the Tower of Rethorcar. Lots of ideas are swirling. This is a good thing.

Interacting with the World (what the characters learned...or were reminded of) - Duncan may have a connection to Damien Rethorcar and the Rethorcar family, a family of well-known Onorian wizards.

Present: Melior (level 7), and Duncan, Malachy, Badric and Niam (all level 6).

Friday, June 30, 2017

The Doldrums

I'll admit that sometime around the end of our Underdark story arc, I sorta lost my mojo. I think this mainly came from being not terribly satisfied with how I had planned and run most of that adventure series. Whatever the exact cause, prepping for games started to feel more like work than fun, and I just couldn't seem to come up with ideas for the future that excited me. Everything I was coming up with felt...blah.

I think this all showed in a couple of those last sessions, and I know I didn't do justice to my players.

While waiting for inspiration and enthusiasm for this campaign to return, as I know (or hope?) that it will, I have spent my D&D hobby time over the last couple of months sketching maps of other worlds, scribbling notes, and letting my imagination run free. Perhaps a little too free.

The thought occurred to me that maybe we should put this campaign on hiatus for a while, at least perhaps for a period over the summer, where it has historically been hard to get players together. In the meantime we could play new characters in a new world. In trying to set up our next game (long overdue), I suggested as much to our players. The general consensus seemed to be that they would rather continue to play the existing characters.

I'll admit to being a bit disappointed.

Then a funny thing happened. Resigned to the idea that I needed to prep for a game next week, I went back to where we left off at our last session (2.5 months ago by now), and found myself excited by the prospect. I spent a couple hours last night outlining some future possibilities, prepping for the immediate term, and enjoyed it very much.

So it seems I have found my mojo.