The Onyx Wolf: Wengen

Jul 08

The REAL Wengen from www.tripadvisor.co.uk

Wengen, a campaign setting.

Hello and welcome to a new article of the Onyx Wolf. This week we do something a bit different and instead of rambling on about some book, I will present a small campaign setting I created for my weekly gaming group. I know some of them reads these articles, so no spoilers on the campaign will be revealed here (Hi guys!). While Wengen was designed for a Mage: The Awakening campaign, nothing stops you from using it for any other modern day campaign.

Note: There is a real village called Wengen in Switzerland, but this one just take the name and location without wanting to emulate any of the real Wengen.

That being said, let’s get cookin’.

Introduction

Wengen is a small village situated somewhere in the German part of Switzerland (actual location can be changed as needed). Like many Swiss villages, Wengen is situated in an alpine valley and is surrounded by many majestic mountains and stunning vistas, both in the summer and the winter. The nearest big city is Berne, but do not expect to get there quickly unless you have an helicopter.

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Wednesday Night D&D Recap: The Fangfist Lair

Jul 05

Wednesday Night D&D Recap: The Fangfist Lair

I hope all of our Canadian readers had a great Canada Day this past Monday, and that our American readers had a great Fourth of July yesterday! Ours was pretty busy and fun!

Despite being a holiday week, we still had our Wednesday Night Encounters game this week, with a decent enough turn out; sometimes, when we do elect to hold games the night before a holiday, there’s a huge drop in attendance. Both tables had more than enough players, and my table even had an extra player due to Stab-Good’s visiting family – Kaylee had an extra level four character, so Kira was able to join us for the game as more than just a spectator.

The Orc attack on the village of Hap was no simple raid. You now know that the monsters’ true objective was the Diamond Staff. Though the Orcs fled quickly, you have tracked them to a ravine a few miles north of the village. At the end of the ravine, a cave mouth is half-blocked by gnarled tree roots and moss. The area is marked by many tracks and strewn with discarded bones and rotting refuse. A trace of dark smoke escapes from the cave mouth and vanishes into the mist above.

Last session, the players discovered that the Orcs had some form of knowledge of the Diamond Staff of Chomylla. During the raid on Hap that began in the first session, the Orcs broke into Imani’s tower and used a special magic wand to break the wards surrounding the Staff before fleeing Northward. Our party did a great job of tracking them, discovering a bramble filled ravine that held a cave at one end that the Orcs appeared to be using as a base of operations.

The party was cautious with their approach. Rather than immediately charge into the cave, they waited and observed to see if any more Orcs would be making their way into the cave, so that the party did not end up getting wedged between two groups of Orcs. Given that we have a ranger/rogue heavy party, they also went down to examine the tracks in the ravine, discovering that not only were there upwards of a dozen pairs of Medium humanoid footprints but also several prints belonging to horses of some sort.

Disa decided to give the party a decent amount of time to “be sneaky”, hanging back while the rest of the part – which is quite literally nothing but rogues and rangers – made their way into the cave. The first room was deserted, aside from three riding horses that had been tied up in make-shift stables along the one wall. There were several sacks and barrels heaped up without much care, however there were only travel rations and the like found in them; either the Orcs were in the middle of a long journey, or they were about to make a long journey.

There were two passages ways out of the front area. One was darkened while the other had faint firelight dancing along the rock walls. The sneakier part of the party gave up on the entrance area and made their way into the darker of the two passages.

The passage had huge, pale puffballs of fungi crowding in thick patches along the floor, walls, and ceilings; Wizards originally had them on just the floor, but the party has a Pixie, so I couldn’t make it TOO easy for them. They discovered a dead Orc about twenty feet from the passage entrance, and they were going to ignore him and turn around until someone noticed there was some sort of shiny metal glinting beneath his fallen form. At this point, they tried to us a climbing kit to “fish” the Orc and its treasure back to them. While they did manage to drag themselves an Orc, the treasure barely moved, and they had to figure out the best way to get the treasure without having to find out whether the fungi were poisonous.

As it were, the party had a Pixie, and Pixie’s can fly. So they sent Moth in to get the treasure, however Moth did end up bumping into one of the puffballs of fungus, causing a shower of spores to erupt in a rather sizeable burst; both Moth and Kaylee were hit by the doomspores, however Moth was kind of resistant to the poisonous effects, and managed to get the magic bow +1 – she shrunk the weapon down to Pixie sized proportions, and then managed to Bluff to Varric that it was the weapon’s actual size.

Now that they knew the fungus was, in fact, quite poisonous, the party elected to head back out to the cave entrance to try the other passageway.

Meanwhile, Disa had come into the cave, and noticed there were not any Orcs nor party members in the entryway. In trying to garner some interest, Disa began to rile the horses up, however their neighs and nickering didn’t bring any adversaries to the Halfling. So she untied the horses, hoping they’d charge toward the area where the Orcs were at…but instead the horses fled the cave and the crazy Halfling that kept hitting them and scaring them.

The party found Disa just as the horses ran from the caves. After a quick update, Disa again decided to wait and let the sneakier members of the party make their way into the other passage way, kindly allowing them to get their sneak attacks in before she bellowed into the thick of things and caused a ruckus.

While this passageway did lead to something other than sporrific doom, the party was a bit disappointed when they found that the first room along the passage was also deserted. There were plenty of cured hides and furs arranged into bedding along the cave walls, as well as satchels, tattered tunics, and scraps of armour and broken weapons as well as a smouldering fire pit in the cavern centre…but nothing of worth and definitely no Orcs with crystalline staves. After making a quick search of the area, the party moved on down the next passageway.

The walls gave way from rather mundane rock to weird and beautiful sheets of flowstone before it began to fill out into another oddly shaped cavern; torches had been set into the flutes of the flowstone walls, providing plenty of light, and the front part of the camp seemed much more orderly and more recently created beddings and fire pits. As they were being sneaky, the party heard some voices around the corner of the cavern, and elected to go listen to the conversation before charging in and attacking.

The voices you heard are those of three Orcs and three Humans arguing. The Orcs are lightly armoured, carrying javelins and battleaxes. Two of the Humans are dressed in dark scale armour under black cloaks, while the third wears a dark, hooded robe. The Orcs are agitated, but the humans appear indifferent.

“You said the old human’s tower would be easy to take!” the first Orc snarls. “But war chief Frazzk is dead! We lost warriors to bring your witch her treasure. Now pay us!”

“Ah, but our bargain was with Frazzk,” the robed Human replies. “We owe you no more than you have already been paid. If you do not care for how much we pay, you are free to seek other employment.”

Another soldier speaks to the largest of the three Orcs. “It seems to me that with Frazzk’s death, we should negotiate with you in the future. We’re happy to offer you the same terms we offered him for your next job.”

The Orc frowns, thinking things over. “Korzzku is chief now,” he says, slowly. “Chief Korzzku! So be it, Human.”

At this point, the party had heard enough, as it sounded like the Orcs were going to be heading back their way now that the conversation was concluding, so they took their sneak attack round in stride.

Everyone but Kaylee, Moth, and the trailing Disa moved and opened fire on the same Orc reaver, and they were very surprised when the Orc didn’t just fall over dead. Of course, being a party of rogues and rangers, they all had some sort of trick that allowed them to hide after attacking, making for a seriously confused Orc reaver.

The first round saw lots of attention focusing on Disa. Due to only being able to see Disa for any long period of time, all the Orcs and Humans focused their fire on her, and didn’t really get very far. Varric and Stab-Good apparently found Disa to be a more appealing target, as both ended up firing off at her, although only Stab-Good’s attack landed; don’t critical miss in my games – bad things happen!

The opposing forces continued to focus on Disa in the next round, largely due to sight problems with anyone else, but Disa didn’t exactly take it very well this time. She ended up going on a bit of a rampage, attacked the struggling Orc reaver and his two companions, the Human mage, and one of the two human fighters; the Orc reaver everyone had taken a pot shot on didn’t make it, and the rest of them were suddenly questioning their decision to gang up on Disa. Meanwhile, the party worked to take out the remaining Orcs and started in on the Human opponents. Unfortunately, Stab-Good critically missed again, and Disa found two shurikens on either side of her feet suddenly.

Erdan took the opportunity to do the ranged equivalent of rampaging, firing at the three remaining Orc reavers. Disa continued to attack those nearest to her, while they tried their best to retaliate, all while the rest of the party continued their attempts to kill them. Unfortunately for the bad guys, the Orc reavers mistook the game for an episode of the Three Stooges, and proceeded to critical miss all over each other; Stab-Good, however, stopped with the critical misses. By the end of the round, everything that wasn’t part of the party was dead.

As always, the party searched the dead after the fight. Among the mundane items the Orcs and Humans had was a single-use wand; after careful examination, the group decided that it must have been what was used to break the wards around the Staff, and that it was made by a very talented mage – definitely not the kind that Orcs can make.

Further searching uncovered a letter and a cache of minor magical items. The letter was passed around, and the party determined that they would act upon the information revealed. Everyone who had been at all the sessions so far also levelled to five, and they elected to take an extended rest before pursuing the information in the letter.

Phoedele,

I have need of your services again. My sources inform me that Imani of Hap is now in possession of a unique treasure know as the Diamond Staff. Shaped of indestructible clear crystal, it is six feet in length and an inch and a half in diameter, with ancient Elven runes scribed along its six sides. The item accompanying this note will easily break any sorcerous wards the sage can muster, allowing you to retrieve the staff. Use any means necessary to do so, then meet me in the ruins of Sandersal Manor in southern Battledale. I will see to it that you receive the customary fee, plus a handsome bonus for your usual discretion.

-Barcero

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The Onyx Wolf: The world of Mage: The Awakening

Jul 01

As promised last week, today we will talk about the setting of Mage and the in-game perception of magic. We will start out with the always popular creation Myth.

Soundtrack of the week: “Rising Star” + “Shine On” from Gamma Ray’s “Somewhere out in space” album, symbolizing the journey of those poor primitive humans looking far in the distance to a beacon of hope and light (The first track is the intro to the second).

 The Creation Myth

Dragons, bones, dream journeys and suffering; that is how magic came to be. In the primordial times, when humankind was being hunted down and enslaved by horrible creatures of the night (read: Vamps and Werepuppies) and the various tribes were doing their best to hide around the world, a ray of hope appeared in the form of a series of recurring dreams. Several shamans of various human tribes started to dream of the Dragons. In the dream, these mighty creatures were leading them to a certain cave on a certain island. Some of the shamans realized the importance of these recurring dreams and managed to convince their tribes to journey to this mysterious location.

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Wednesday Night D&D Recap: Imani’s Tower

Jun 28

Such a busy week!

search-for-the-diamond-staff-cover

Wednesday saw the Second Session of Search for the Diamond Staff. It also saw a new permanent player join my table, and the other table has had new players lately as well. Varric is a Halfing Rogue, and was introduced essentially as the party moved from the area they were fighting in last week to this week’s location, the thief being drawn in the same direction by the chaos our band of adventurers heard at the end of last week’s session.

Despite having a new player, Stab-Good and Erdan were unable to make it out to the game this week, so their characters just stood in heroic profile for the entire game.

Although the party had defeated a number of Orcs that raided the primary population centre of the village of Hap, they still heard the sounds of raiders from the direction of Haptooth Hill, where Imani’s tower was located. Of course, the party looted the dead first, and then made their way the quarter mile into the shadow of Haptooth Hill.

The sage’s home is a dilapidated stone tower with a cottage attached, located in a small clearing at the bottom of Haptooth Hill. Five badly burned Orcs lie dead near the tower door. More Orcs are inside the tower, their war cries carrying to you as they fight something you cannot see yet.

The party burst into the tower, with Disa kicking open the door to reveal that the tower’s ground floor was some sort of laboratory, filled with hundreds of tomes and alchemical equipment; most of the tables and chairs had been smashed, as a large, mottle-skinned humanoid creature battled against about half a dozen Orcs. Imani was crumpled against a bookshelf, near a desk, with bloodied robes from some sort of wound in his chest.

Time wasn’t wasted. Disa immediately moved in to attack the Decrepit Flesh Golem, and two Orcs similar to the skirmishers they just fought. The Golem didn’t like that, and retaliated against Disa; Kaylee and Varric both went after the Golem, remaining out of its reach to avoid the heavy blows Disa suffered. After watching how easily the familiar Orc skirmishers fell, Moth began picking them off one at a time.

Disa managed to cut down another Orc while keeping the Golem’s attention, jumping up onto a table and avoiding the Golem’s attempt to Slam her a few more times. Varrick continued to focus on the Golem as well, while Kaylee helped Moth pick off two more of the Orcs. The remaining Orc tried to attack Moth, but something about a Pixie Jouster on a Displacer Beast was just a bit strange, causing him to miss entirely.

With only one Orc remaining, Kaylee began making her way over to the fallen Imani, while Disa managed to knock the Golem down. The construct tried to take her with it, resulting in another broken table, but Disa made it out of the way as Varric continued shooting at the Golem; even after it stood up, the construct wasn’t able to land it’s strikes.

Disa took advantage of the situation, using forward momentum and the Golem’s own force against it, sliding it back across the floor and away from everyone, at least until Moth kicked his heels into the Displacer Beasts sides, and tried charging the Golem. Kaylee managed to bring Imani back into the waking world, staunching his wound a bit as she told him to call of is Golem; although still a bit disoriented, the sage ordered the rampaging construct to stop, at which point it froze in place.

Several people in the party had noticed the door to the cottage during the fight, largely because one Orc was near it, trying to break in while Drindol kept looking out to see what was happening. He was quite frightened, and utterly useless with how small the grill was, so once the Orc was dispatched, he watched the fight from relative safety.

Imani explained that he had been preparing for their journey, making lists and notes at his desk when a group of Orcs arrived. Before saying much more, he asked if Drindol and someone named Mara were safe, at which point the Halfling housekeeper piped up and demanded for the party to unlock the door; Imani gave Disa the key, largely to avoid having to replace a second door.

Once assured of their safety, Imani asked if the Diamond Staff was still there. He explained it’s importance once more, and that it was guarded by heavy wards that the Orcs shouldn’t have been capable of breaking, which caused Varric to try and see if it was still there – traces of strong arcane magic were still present, but their source was obviously missing.

The Orcs grabbed whatever they could from the shelves and tables, but as soon as the leader saw the staff, he seemed to recognise it. Another Orc tapped on the staff with some kind of wand, and its protective wards fell. He grabbed it and a few of the Orcs bolted.

I watched through the cottage windows and saw them head north into the forest. They can’t have gotten far.

Drindol actually spoke up and explained what happened to everyone. Imani was greatly troubled by this revelation, as the wand did not sound like anything the Fanfist Orcs had used previously; it was agreed that there were darker forces at hand, however the party had to go after the Orcs before they got too far.

It was still raining, which was both useful and entirely troublesome for the party. Initially, the tracks of the Orcs were quite obvious, as they appeared to be dragging something with them; at the forest’s edge, the party found a dead Orc that was left behind, along with a book filled with the history of heraldic arms of Cormyr and a smashed wine jug. With the growth of the forest, the tracks disappeared and the rogues had to earn their keep by tracking the two remaining Orcs through the forest.

The group made some really good group checks, so not only were they able to track the Orcs, but they were also able to keep Disa quiet enough to sneak their way through the dense flora until a clearer path was revealed.

Our party was left with this pleasant description to reflect upon until next session:

A few miles from Hap, your pursuit leads you into a bramble choked ravine. At the end of the ravine, a dark cave mouth is half blocked by gnarled tree roots and moss. The area is marked by many tracks and strewn with discarded bones and rotting refuse. A trace of dark smoke escapes from the cave mouth and vanishes into the mists above.

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The Onyx Wolf: Nuts and Bolts and Magic!

Jun 24

All right, all right. This week we will actually explain how you use magic in the game instead of all that fluff we had last week. It is time to get CRUNCHY! If you do not like Crunch, then no worries! We will have tons of fluff next week!

Soundtrack of the week: To symbolize the feeling of being utterly lost when you first see the system and its complexity: Avantasia, “Lost in Space”
To symbolize the sheer glee of having so many levers and things to use: Avantasia, “The Toy Master” featuring Alice Cooper… the lyrics are not really appropriate to it… but I like the song and the title is kinda fitting.

You might have noticed I like Avantasia, I make no secret of this 😀

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Wednesday Night D&D Recap: Dark Dealings in Hap

Jun 22

The platform update caused a bit of a delay in this second article being posted, however, it was a necessary evil that had to be dealt with to avoid greater pleasantries. So let’s get into Session One for the new Encounters season!


search-for-the-diamond-staff-cover

Characters for this season start at level four, much like last season. The party for this season is much like the last season, and oddly ended up being exclusively female. There is a Halfling Warden named Disa, a Wood Elf Rogue named Kaylee, an Elf Ranger named Erdan, a Kobold Assassin named Stab-Good, and a Pixie Scout named Moth whom happens to ride her displacer beast as a mount and uses a lance – that’s right, the Pixie is a jouster.

As you may notice, there’s no true healer this time around, as the Warden tends to provide temporary hit points instead of healing damage outright. So far, this has not been a problem for the party, however we only just completed Session One this week. As the adventure progresses, the party may find themselves in difficult situations, unless they have copious amounts of healing potions and antidotes.

The adventure assumes that the characters have already arrived in Hap, aware of Imani’s call for essentially bodyguards. However, it is not a pleasant day in the village…

It is a cold, rainy afternoon in Hap, a tiny village on the outskirts of Battledale. You are sitting in the village hall, a humble structure with simple split-log benches and faded banners on the walls. Each of you has come to Hap in response to the broad-sheets tacked up on tavern doors and public halls throughout the nearby dales. A renowned save and former adventurer named Imani is hiring a party for up to one month of work, with equal shares of treasure for each member of the venture.

The players began to give brief introductions of their characters, and most of their miniatures matched their characters closely, except for the Pixie because we lack any Pixie miniatures; she had to settle for a Halfing model. At least we had a Displacer Beast for her!

Although it was not really discussed allowed, it seemed that the party went with the idea that they had all arrived together, as essentially a pre-made party for Imani’s summons. This, of course, makes things easier on the sage, as he won’t have to wait for more people to arrive.

Everyone is also aware that Imani studies the ancient ruins of the Elves, to the point of it being an obsession; history checks are going to be a common thing throughout the adventure, even if they’re not all dictated by the module guide itself – there’s a lot of surprises that can be added in for flavour. A few of them were revealed in the introduction to the new story, while others are sidebars in the module, or directly from other Forgotten Realms sources.

It was not long before the sage arrived, his scribe (who almost seems more like a slave than an apprentice) in tow.

The hall’s doors open, and a tall, bearded Human of fifty years or so strides into the room. He is a Turmishan, with deep brown skin and short, graying hair, and he wears brown robes and a pair of spectacles. beside him, a young Human in a green tunic carries a large book and a writing quill. The older figure looks around, mutters, “I suppose they’ll do,” and heads to a private room off the main hall.

The younger Human with the book clears his throat. “If you are here to see the sage, please come forward.”

Before Imani could reach the other room, Disa got rather indignant about the “they’ll do” comment. The sage merely repeated himself, and left poor Drindol to deal with the fallout. The party approached the young man together, and the scribe wrote each of their names down in his book, leaving space to add notes later.

Drindol really doesn’t have much information for the party; I decided to go with the idea that he was vaguely aware of Imani’s plans, but had been explicitly told to “forget about them”. He only seems to focus on getting their information, and preparing them to meet the sage.

At this point, the party followed Drindol back into the room that Imani had made his way into. The whole building is really not that spectacular, and even the private rooms are quite dull and lacking in decent furniture – more split-log benches of various sizes, including one or two that are more like stools than benches, along with a larger split-wood bench that is more of a table.

The young human moved to stand beside Imani, largely to make use of the ‘table’, as he was about to have to write quite a bit of information. The rest of the party moved in around the sage, though few of them bothered sitting aside from the Pixie, who was riding the Displacer Beast even in the building.

The human in the brown robes is seated at the head of a small table. As you gather and sit, he begins to speak.

“I am Imani, the sage of Hap. I intend to mount an expedition to the ruins of Uvaeren, on the borders of Mistledale. The ancient libraries and vaults of that long-lost Elven realm are still hidden within the forests, protected by spells of warding that have prevented entry to this day. But I have recently come into possession of a key.”

“Your task will be to escort me to the ruins, protect me from bandits and monsters, help me defeat or bypass any old traps that still remain, and guard me while I open the Vault of Song and study its secrets. As your employer, I claim half of any treasures we recover on our journey to the vault. The remaining half will be equally divided among you. As far as what is found in the Vault of Song, I alone must be allowed to decide its disposition. Those are the conditions. Are you willing to sign on?

Now, as obvious throughout other adventures, the players at my particular table for Encounters are very shrewd about their treasures and payments. Kaylee immediately called into question the payment system, saying that the fliers had stated there would be equal shares; Imani then pointed out that the fifty percent he did not take would be shared equally among the party – creating equal shares for the hired adventurers.

At this point, while they mulled over the way treasure was being divided up, the party began asking other questions about the situation. They wished to know more about Uraeven and the Vault of Song itself, as well as what this key the sage spoke of was – they suspected that they may have to retrieve this key for Imani.

The old man explained that Uvaeren was one of the Elven kingdoms of the Dales, one that had lasted thousands of years, and that it was a centre for learning and knowledge. The entire kingdom had been decimated by a falling star quite some time ago. At this point, everyone made History checks, and recalled that this kingdom was one of the realms of Arcorar, which was now known as Cormanthor Forest. Those with higher History checks also recalled that the “Twelve Days of Fire” took placed around six thousand years ago, and that this was the point when the star fell from the skies and scarred the valley near Mistledale.

Imani then explained that the Vault of Song was one of the library-vaults in Uvaeren, and that it contained singing crystals that were said to hold knowledge; these sort of remind me of the spellshards of Athas from the Dark Sun setting. The sage pointed out that no one actually knows where the vault is, and he only has ‘good general instructions’ on where it may be located.

And then he was asked about the key. At first, Imani was vague about the key, only explaining that it was called the Diamond Staff of Chomylla, and that it once belonged to a high mage of Uvaeren who was away when the Twelve Days of Fire occurred. Eventually, he reveals that the staff is enchanted to pass through the wards surrounding the remains of the ancient kingdom, and that without it, their entire operation would fail.

Of course, the staff had to be retrieved, which should prove easy as it was recently discovered by a group assaulting the lair of Dretchroyaster, a dracolich; this is actually a tie-in to the Vault of the Dracolich Game Day, and if anyone participated, they already heard rumours of the staff. Sadly, our local shop did not run the event, as most Saturdays are dedicated to Magic: The Gathering events.

The talk then moved back to payment, with Disa taking over negotiations. She didn’t like the fact that Imani was taking the lion’s share, even if he was their employer, again citing that the signs had said there would be equal shares. She also demanded that anything that was of direct use to the party be handed over immediately, so that they could better protect the sage and themselves. In the end, the sage capitulated, and agreed to a thirty/seventy split in the party’s favour along with a bonus of up to five hundred gold pieces per character if the contents of the vault proved valuable.

With payment settled to their liking, the party agreed to the expedition. Drindol spoke to each of them, asking their combat specialities, as none of them looked like mages or clerics. The poor lad did mistake Disa for a Paladin who eschewed plate armour in favour of mobility, and Disa corrected him rather harshly, causing Drindol to realise she was a Warden. He wrote down all of this information in the spaces he left after their names.

The sage nods, satisfied. “We leave tomorrow morning, so provision yourselves for a long journey and be in the Millery Inn’s courtyard by an hour after sunrise. Purchase what you need and put it on my account – the village’s shopkeepers will be happy to accommodate you. I want to be in Peldan’s Helm in three days’ time.”

Due to lack of ink, we did not have print outs of the full map of the Dalelands, however there will be one copy of it next week. If the players want more copies of the map, it’s available online at the official Encounters website.

Imani departed for his tower, with Drindol in tow, leaving the party to explore the small village of Hap on their own. Of course, they immediately b-lined for the general store, Delmuth’s Barrel. The general store only had mundane goods and provisions, the foodstuffs the party would need for the journey, everyday tools and supplies, basic armour and weapons…most of which the party already had. In the end, they bought up only foodstuffs and ammunition before leaving the Barrel.

Next, they made their way to Laumonth stables to see about getting horses. They discovered that Imani had arranged for riding horses with saddle bags for everyone in the party, along with a mule to haul their provisions and their eventual treasure. They got all the provisions into the mule’s packs, and then made their way over towards the Millery Inn.

The party settled down for a night of casual drinking and actual cooked food before they planned to head to bed, however, their merriment was interrupted before they could even get a second round of drinks…

Outside, the bells of Lathander’s Open Hand shrine suddenly begin to toll. The locals in the common room leap to their feet in alarm as the door flies open, and a burly young Human in the leather apron of a smith bursts into the room.

“Orcs!” he shouts. “Orcs and wolves are attacking!”

It took a few moments of discussion for the party to decide to help out the villagers, and they quickly realised that Hap was without a militia when every man, woman, and child locked themselves into their homes or larger buildings like the hall and the shrine. Rather disappointed by the lack of reinforcements, the party moved in to engage the invaders.

The Orcs immediately set their wolves on the party, the three huge gray monsters moving towards the group, however none of them got in range before the party advanced upon the animals. The entire party managed to get in pretty good attacks, killing one of the wolves, before the Orc savages and archers joined the fray. While one went after Kaylee, and another went after Stab-Good, most of them focused on Disa due to her insults and challenges…and all of them couldn’t hit the spry Warden.

The two remaining wolves attacked the closest targets, though Moth and Stab-Good killed them in short order. Meanwhile, the party took out six of the seven savages as the archers continued to focus on Disa and Moth. Suddenly, Erdan, who had gone to bed while the rest of the party drank, joined the group, going after one of the archers.

The majority of the group turned their efforts towards the Orc archers, who continued to try and rain arrows down on them. Unfortunately for the Orcs, the combined might of the five adventurers was too much for them, and the three archers fell quite quickly.

Being the greedy people they are, the party looted all the gear off of the Orcs to sell, along with one hundred and fifty gold pieces they divided evenly among themselves; Imani was not considered for a cut, as the job hadn’t officially started yet.

Some of the party realised that the gold coins were not typical Dalelands currency, and after a bit of study and thought, they realised that the shiny coins had an image of a castle on one side while the other had a lighting bolt and skull upon the other – the marks of the Zhentarim! With their History and Religion checks in order, they knew that the Zhentarim were some sort of secret society of what most people call evil mercenaries; they operate out of the Dalelands, from the Darkhold fortress to the west of Cormyr.

The village falls quiet as the fighting comes to an end. Several more villagers have been killed, homes and workshops have been pillaged, and one house is burning. From the direction of Haptooth Hill and Imani’s tower, you hear the ringing of steal and faint shouting. You might have more orcs to deal with before you can sell your spoils of war…

Join us next week for “Imani’s Tower” – Session Two of The Search for the Diamond Staff.

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Wednesday Night D&D Recap: Introducing Season Fourteen

Jun 22

On the 12th of June, the fates conspired against our D&D group, resulting in having no game. Since it was technically Session Zero for the new Encounters, titled Search for the Diamond Staff, we had planned to play through the Lair Assault scenario called Into the Pit of Madness – everyone uses the D&D Insider character builder, so Session Zero is often pointless for us. As there was no D&D…there was no recap last week.

I apologise for the tardiness of this week’s article; the issue of not being able to see wasn’t really resolved all that well or in a timely fashion before other things that were scheduled today.

search-for-the-diamond-staff-cover

As mentioned above, we’re into a new season of Encounters. This particular adventure takes place in the Dalelands, which is also in the Forgotten Realms like Neverwinter is. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Dalelands or Forgotten Realms, here’s the adventure background from the module guide; remember, a great deal of change has occurred between 3.5 and 4.0, so if you’re not up to speed on the 4.0 setting, please take a moment to read over this information.

The Dalelands are an independent region of Faerûn located between the cold lands of the Moonsea to the north and the large empires of Sebia and Cormyr to the south. A dozen tiny realms of farmers and woods-folk lie scattered in pastoral clearings within the fast forest, including Shadowdale, home to the famous mage Elminster; Mistdale, a pastoral land where the Dales Council meets; and Battledale, a lightly settled region where great battles were fought in years past, but which is peaceful in the present age. Encompassing the Dales is the great forest of Cormanthor, home to the elven realm of Myth Drannor. Cormanthor’s hidden depths hold the ruins of ancient elven kingdoms, many still harbouring magical wonders and ancient terrors.

Formidable enemies are arrayed against the Dales. The rich land of Sembia is a mercantile powerhouse that has expanded northward over the centuries, threatening to absorb the southern Dalelands. In the last few generations, Sembia has become more dangerous, since the Shadovar of Netheril now dominate it. Tasseldale, Featherdale, and Scardale have all fallen under Sembian control to some degree during the previous century, and Battledale is the next obvious target for expansion. At the same time, the Zhentarim – a secret society of merchants and spies that was once the most ambitious of the Dalelands’ enemies – is again growing in strength and influence. The vile fanatics of the Cult of the Dragon also plague the Dalelands. These cultists worship undead dragons and conspire to bring all Faerûn under the dominion of dracoliches.

Your adventure in the Dalelands begins in the eastern reaches of Battledale, where the renowned sage Imani makes his home in the village of Hap. Imani has spent his life studying the ruins of Cormanthor, searching for the legendary library-vaults of the vanished elven realm of Uvaeren.

The sage of Hap is putting together an expedition to open an Uvaeranni library-vault, and is looking for reliable adventurers to accompany him.

Characters for this season start at level four, much like last season. We again elected to use the 4.0 rules instead of testing D&D Next, largely because the classes people want to play are not yet included in the rules. At the time, the rules also hadn’t been updated for months, so there was even less motivation to switch to them.

The Dalelands are home primarily to Humans, Elves and Eladrin, Half-Elves, Halflings, Dwarves, Drow and Drow renegades, while Dragonborn, Tieflings, and other races are considered to largely be outsiders. However, there is a lot of foreiners who wander through, so the locals rarely treat these outsiders as oddities.

Certain classes tend to congregate in certain cities, though any class can be found anywhere in the Dales, especially if the person is an adventurer. For the more part, this information is flavour for a character’s background. As usual, certain classes are looked down upon by the people of the Dales, though individuals of such classes often lie about their profession.

Clerics and Paladins are often found in the larger settlements such as Archendale, Deepingdale, and Harrowdale. There are many shrines that are dedicated to the common deities of Faerûn; favoured deities of the area include Amaunator, Chauntea, Selûne, Tempus, Tymora, and Torm. There are also fortified abbeys all across the Dalelands, where clerics and paladins also gravitate towards.

Daggerdale, Mistledale, and Shadowdale are rural areas where Druids make their homes and groves. Many Druids also make their homes outside of these areas, away from the village centres and the homes or farms of the locals.

Formal martial training is rare outside of Archendale and Scardale, where there are strong military traditions. Many fighters make their way to these two Dales to perfect their art, but some learn from their local militia instead; exotic forms of martial prowess are rare in these home schooled fighters at the beginning of their adventures, however they often hold just as much potential as those who trained in Archendale or Scardale.

Rangers are no strangers to the Dalefolk, as many of their wars were fought with stealth, ambushes, and bows. Daggerdale, Deepingdale, and Shadowdale are all common places where one can find talented rangers, however some prefer the outlying lands much like the Druids.

As many of the settlements in the Dalelands are small villages and not towns or cities, most rogues gravitate towards places such as Archendale, Harrowdale, and Scardale – deeply populated centres where their activities are less noticeable. One might find a rogue or two in smaller villages, however it’s difficult to run when everyone knows your face and name.

Dalefolk are superstitious, and many of them are suspicious of arcane magics. Few bother studying such arts, despite the number of famous sages from the Dales; perhaps this is part of why such Wizards work so hard to become so great. Of all the Dales, only Deepingdale and Shadowdale are considered to be mage-friendly, which is likely why many mages make their homes there.

Lastly, there is one particular type of magic that raises even more suspicion than the arts of a Wizard; the Dalefolk have a great dislike of dangerous entities, despising Warlocks whom enter into such pacts willingly. As mentioned above, Warlocks often hide their true nature, passing themselves off as other types of arcanists…which doesn’t always succeed. Needless to say, Warlocks are rare in the Dalelands, unless they’re just passing through.

The tone of the Dalelands is quite different from Neverwinter, moving from a huge, densely populated city to the more sparsely populated areas of Faerûn. The creature comforts, well stocked shops, and extreme diversity are not quite as common here in the Dalelands – especially in the smaller settlements that our adventurers will be visiting, and definitely not in the farther reaches of the area.

Our new story is not as straightforward as the prior module, and many a mystery lies ahead. Join us each week to discover the secrets of the Diamond Staff of Chomylla and the vast Dalelands.

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