Friday, March 2, 2018

Shearingvale - Roaringbridge House

Built in NR677 (30 years ago), the Roaringbridge House is a rough and rugged inn and waystop a stone's throw from the bridge that gives the inn its name. Food and drink are plentiful if not especially good, the rooms are comfortable enough, and the rates are cheap.
Roaringbridge House (Hexographer, 1 mile scale)

Innkeeper Garrick the Loud loves a good joke and a good fight, but if you break anything you pay for it, and then you sleep in the barn. The Roaringbridge House caters to adventurers, and also has what amounts to a general store for adventuring gear (rations, torches, lanterns, oil, rope etc...).
Roaringbridge House

Adventurers passing through are invited to sign Garrick's "Book of Names", a massive hidebound tome containing a great many names. One wooden wall of the common room is known as the Wall of Heroes, and contains the names of those in the Book who are known to have died or been killed. There are also a great many names carved on the Wall.

The Roaring Bridge - This forty foot long bridge spans a rocky chasm over the Perla Stream, a few miles above where it join the upper River Greve (~7 miles east of Grainger). The bridge gets its name from the constant roar of the water cascading over a series of small and medium sized waterfalls 20-30 feet below. The bridge itself is a wide wooden structure built on the stone piers of a much older bridge. There is an ancient elm tree that towers over the eastern end of the bridge. Adventurers often leave offerings to Asturia (goddess of luck, prosperity and good fortune) at this famous old tree.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Shearingvale - The Lonely Cavalier

The Lonely Cavalier is a sprawling slate-roofed stone inn on the Road exactly halfway between Linden (11 miles west) and Grainger (11 miles east), a mile east of the point where the Tardesk trail branches off to the north. The Innilla family runs the inn, and is well known for their musical abilities. Braden Innilla, a bard of some note, along with his beautiful wife and three equally lovely young daughters, routinely serenade the guests with songs and instrument playing. Good behavior is expected; it is not a loud or raucous place.
The Lonely Cavalier (Hexographer, 1 mile scale)

The Cavalier is widely known to be shielded by a powerful Guardian Mageward, the boundaries of which appear as a very faint swirling mist running through the surrounding hedges. The Mageward gives off a faint shimmering green light at night.
The Lonely Cavalier Inn

The inn was built in NR694 (13 years ago) when Innilla was traveling through the area and recognized the powerful Mageward that encircled an old stone ruin for what it was. He quickly paid claim for the site and built the inn, settling down into a comfortable living with his family.
A typical roadside shrine

The Cavalier is moderate to high priced, but has good accommodations and excellent food. It is also very safe because of the Mageward. Across the Road, near a beautiful willow-lined pond, is a shrine to Metris (god of trade, commerce and travelers). The shrine has a locked donation box tended by Randor, a cleric of Meera from Linden.

Shearingvale Lore - Dargan's Hall

On the shores of a large pond beyond the hills south of the Lonely Cavalier lie the ruins of an estate house named Dargan's Hall. Dargan was said to be a wealthy merchant from Kalembar who liked the idea of retiring to the wild frontier. He built a sizable country estate in NR664 (43 years ago) and lived here for the last 19 years of his life, passing in NR 683.

During the time that he lived in the Hall, he was notorious for the routine comings and goings of many strangers to the area, including those flying in on pegasi, hippogriffs, or other beasts. Local legends say that the necromancer Alferith Langhorne himself visited Dargan's Hall several times in the 670's.
Dargan's Hall (Hexographer, 1 mile scale)

Dargan died in 683, alone except for some servants. On the night of Dargan's death, a great lightning storm shook the area, and seemed to be centered on the area of his estate.

The brave and curious who visited his abandoned estate after his death reported only a rapidly deteriorating manor house and outbuildings. Adventurers in search of Dargan's presumed treasure have investigated the ruins many times over the years, but despite finding some extensive cellars, they have turned up nothing of value. As far as anyone knows...

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Shearingvale Lore - Kelwin's Gorge

A few hours' easy walk south of Grainger is a dead end canyon filled with swampy lowlands. The gorge is named for Kelwin, a local hero of days gone by. Kelwin was the warrior leader of an adventuring band known as the Company of the Red Sash based in Linden approximately 30 years ago.
Linden - East Detail (Hexographer, 1 mile scale)

The Red Sashes had some success in plundering the Elder ruins of the region, and lived the high life in Linden. This brought them to the attention of jealous rivals. On an otherwise peaceful summer evening, the Red Sashes were crossing the grasslands near the gorge, returning from an expedition into the eastern Greenreach Woods, when they were ambushed by a group called the Fists of Vengeance.
Kelwin's Gorge (Hexographer, 1 mile scale)

In a running fight across the plains toward the gorge, the Red Sashes were killed one by one until only Kelwin remained. In desperation, he fled into the swamps and was never seen again.

In the many years since, many have searched the swamp, seeking to find the magical Elder armor that Kelwin was known to wear, and the mighty sword Frostcleaver that he was known to wield.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Staff of the Explorer

In our session last night, the party found a magical staff which they Identified to be a Staff of the Explorer.

The Staff can hold ten charges, and will regain 1d6+2 charges per day at dawn. The user will not necessarily know how many charges the staff currently contains. If drained to zero charges, there is a 1 in 20 chance that the staff will explode, doing 6d6 force damage to anyone within a 30 foot radius at the time of the explosion.

The staff is an item of conjuration magic, and has the following powers:
  • point to a compass direction [1 charge, instantaneous]
  • conjure 50 feet of rope [1 charge, item exists for 1 hour then fades]
  • conjure a grappling hook [1 charge, item exists for 1 hour then fades]
  • conjure a 10 foot pole [1 charge, item exists for 1 hour then fades]
  • conjure 2d6 metal spikes [1 charge, item exists for 1 hour then fades]
  • point to a known location that the wielder has been to before [2 charges, instantaneous]
  • conjure a magical campfire which will not be extinguished by rain or other environmental factors, and lasts from the casting until the following dawn, or until dismissed [2 charges]
  • conjure 1 day's rations for 1 person [2 charges]
  • conjure up to 1 gallon of fresh water into a single container on hand (less water if a smaller container) [2 charges]
  • obliterate any trace of a campsite, including scent [2 charges]
  • obscure a campsite for one night (duration until the following dawn), such that campfire or similar light is shielded, noise is muffled, and direct view of the location is blurred (but not totally hidden). [3 charges]
  • conjure a 20 foot radius zone of moderate temperature, lasting 8 hours or until dismissed. The zone is based on a fixed point determined at the casting, and does not move. If the staff leaves the zone, the zone ends immediately. Temperatures less than 50 degrees will be increased to 50 degrees, and temperatures greater than 80 degrees will be reduced to 80 degrees. [5 charges]
Maybe we will tweak this a bit, but this is what I have in mind as of now...

Friday, February 23, 2018

Campaign Journal 48 - In Durn

When last we left our heroes, they had just defeated Azard, an efreeti, causing him to Plane Shift back to his home plane on the verge of death...

Having either killed the human enemies or driven Azard the efreeti back to his home plane, the party was able to search the adjoining chambers and found a significant stash of treasure (Azard's "business funds" while on this plane). In perhaps their biggest treasure haul of the campaign, they found 900 copper pieces, 9,350 silver pieces, 2,201 gold pieces, 140 platinum pieces, 10 50GP gems, 3 potions of healing, a potion of greater healing, a scroll of Light (cantrip) and a scroll of Longstrider.

Leaving the main lava chamber, the party explored the last bit of the dungeon, which was the guard chambers and a small makeshift jail. No enemies were left, and the place was empty. A staff was found (later determined to be the staff of Dahlgren, the wizard in Zarya Udak's ambushed party), which was later Identified to be a Staff of the Explorer. The staff is not a combat item, but can conjure all manner of useful items, serve as a compass, point the direction to known locations, etc.

Two prisoners were found locked in the jail cells. The first was Amala, a member of Zarya's party and Zarya's good friend. The second was Gommek Leadback, and old dwarven prospector. Amala was able to tell that the rest of the survivors of the group had been taken from their cells earlier in the day, and she didn't know what became of them. Gommek had been captured days earlier while exploring the nearby hills (and had no connection to Zarya's group). Amala indicated (behind his back) that Gommek was perhaps a bit nuts...or at least eccentric. Which would seem to be true.

Gommek speaks a different dialect of dwarvish, but as previously noted, in this world, all dwarven languages are closely related enough that anyone who speaks dwarven can communicate with anyone else who also does. So we had a more effective way to communicate. Gommek spoke dwarvish and the local tongue, and everyone in our party speaks dwarvish, courtesy of the reward boon of Grandar from the Traniska/Alberneth Underdark story arc.

Gommek told tales of searching for great gemstone riches in the nearby hills. Which is fairly typical stuff for dwarves, and may or may not be true. He said he was originally from the nation of Astillon far to the north, and after discussion with him, Zarya and Amala, the party was able to determine that they were indeed in Illurya, and more specifically, they were in the southern part of the city-state of Durn, the one outlander realm in Illurya. By their best estimate, knowing what they knew of the world's geography, they were perhaps 2,000 miles due south of their home base in Linden. The directional piece was confirmed by use of the new Staff of the Explorer, which indicated first which way was north, and then which direction Linden was in. The directions the staff pointed to were almost identical.
City-State of Durn (Hexographer, 6 mile scale)

Being told that the nearest village was Jonka, perhaps 6 miles to the east downstream, the party had time before nightfall to get to the village. On the way, they passed the ruins of a log palisade enclosure that Zarya and Amala indicated the locals thought was haunted by undead. They kept going, and said they might come back later. [GM's note - I messed these distances up during the session. Looking at the local map drawing a few pictures below, the ruined log fort is the first mark to the west, 3 miles away from Jonka. Another 3 miles west is the Arafas gate. Another 6 miles west is the lava temple at the end of trail. So 12 miles from Jonka, not 6. Oops.]
Ruined Log Palisade Fort

The village of Jonka itself was a small collection of simple but stoutly built log buildings. Each house  had the appearance of a tiny fortress, with narrow windows and thick shutters. One small walled compound was the only larger structure, and there was a three story tall wooden watchtower. A bell could be seen on the upper floor of the tower, and a pair of banners, black and red, flew from the roof. Amala said that a red banner meant a report of danger nearby, but a black and red banner meant "danger confirmed".

Gommek took them to the village's one small tavern, the Staff and Sickle. He claimed to be a friend of the owner, Banarik Ashstone, also a dwarf. Bursting into the tavern, Gommek was acknowledged by the crowd and then quickly ignored. A dozen or so locals filled the establishment, and showed some limited interest in the party, who gained some good will by buying a round of drinks for the house.
Jonka area of southern Durn

Banarik Ashstone proved to be a friendly dwarf with intricately braided fire-red hair and beard. He reacted very favorably to the Mark of Grandar (Thalmyr's god of vengeance) that each of the party members carry on their left cheekbone, treating them deferentially and calling each of them "my lord." He intended to kick a small group of travelers out of their room (the only place to stay the night), but the party declined, and asked permission to sleep on the common room floor after closing instead.

Regarding the "danger" banners flying from the watchtower, several locals told tales of sightings in recent days of monsters that they referred to as Red Reavers, a hulking brute of a creature. They were said to be hairless and red, being tall (7 or 8 or 10 or 12 feet tall, depending on the teller), muscular, and with 2 or 4 or 6 arms, again depending on who was relating the tale. Despite the difference in description, there were many similarities, and all accounts agreed that they were red, large, strong, fierce and of evil intent.
A Red Reaver

Before turning in for the night, the party agreed that they might spend a bit of time in Illurya, looking around...

Next - Out and about in Illurya...

GM Commentary - As intended, this session was very low on combat, given that the last two sessions were a dungeon crawl followed by an epic boss battle that lasted almost an entire 3 hour session. We needed something else for a change of pace. As it happened, we had one of those rare sessions where not a single die was rolled in combat. I don't think anyone minded...

XP for this session by the book for 5e would have been zero. No monsters killed. No imminent threats avoided, etc. Which is why we don't do XP that way. All but one of our characters are within 3-5k XP of 34,000 which is 8th level. Our 8th level druid is 13k away from level 9. Given all that they learned about the world, maps they were able to fill in, a large treasure trove "liberated", NPCs met and talked with, and freeing some captives and doing good deeds was collectively deemed to be worth 1,500 XP. I like this kind of session, and I need to make sure that while the players also seem to like them, I don't undermine that by taking their XP award away. So 1,500 XP per character, plus a 250 XP for anyone with an adventuring motivation of "Exploration" and a 500 XP bonus for anyone with an adventuring motivation of "Riches". Riches doesn't trigger bonuses all that often since I am not big at throwing tons of loot at the party, but this was a big one, and should be rewarded as such.

Interacting with the World (what the characters learned...or were reminded of): A whole lot of stuff, which is what made the non-combat session fun nonetheless. They are indeed in Illurya. They are specifically at the southern edge of the wilderness of the city-state of Durn. They learned a little about the local area, and some potential threats.

Present: Duncan, Badric, Niam, Malachy (all level 7), and Melior (level 8).

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Moons of Istavar

The world of Istavar has two moons that grace its skies, Erris and Rayos. The two are vastly different in their appearance, their cycles, and the feelings they evoke in the population.

Erris is the larger of the two, and glows with a warm yellowish-white light. It is ever-present and predictable in its daily transit across the night sky, rising and setting much like the sun (but in nightly contrast). In roughly month-long cycles, it passes through the phases of waxing, full, waning and new. Darthelia, in her aspect as the goddess of the moon, is associated with Erris.

Rayos is blood red in color, and is speckled with black spots. It appears as almost exactly half the visual diameter of Erris, and is much less predictable in its cycles, at least as far as the common people are concerned. Perhaps there are astronomers who understand its movement, but perhaps not.  It tends to move more slowly than Erris, and may be present in the sky for days before disappearing for weeks. Its comings and goings baffle the common folk, who associate it with Harilos, the god of chaos, anarchy and destruction.

Many portents are associated specifically with the appearance of Rayos. Rayos appearing in the sky during a new moon phase of Erris is considered to be an unfavorable time, and is to be avoided for weddings, travel and the beginning of new ventures. Children born in such inauspicious times are often thought to be followed by misfortune. In rare instances, perhaps once every ten years, Rayos passes directly in front of Erris. This special occurrence is called the Eye of Chaos, and is feared by the people. It is also known to throw the magical weave out of balance, causing arcane spell casting to be unpredictable, and to hinder the connection of divine spell casters to their gods. This aftereffect typically lasts for anywhere from a few days to a week, but there is one recorded instance over a century ago where it lasted for an entire month.