View Full Version : Journal Barbarians of the Ashwood Vale - AS&SH (AD&D) campaign in the Ancient Lands

2014-05-03, 04:30 AM
Yesterday we started playing Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperbora. Three of the players had already been playing in my two games of Castles & Crusades earlier this year, but with a very short term reschedule, we ended up playing friday afternoon after classes in university, so two of our friends who just happened to be around joined in as well. Good thing I already copied more than enough character sheets. Since we switched system and needed to switch to the new character sheets, and I had to guide the two new players through the whole process anyway, the other three also wanted to make new characters.
The system we're using is AS&SH, which I feel is mostly a much better edited repacking of AD&D 1st Edition with a few simplifications. House rules I am using are a simplefied encumbrance system, which makes it actually practicable to track encumbrance and leave some items and treasure on pack animals or carts; a custom magic system based on the psionics from Expanded Psionic Handbook; an alignment system consisting of Natural Oder, Unaligned, and Primordial Chaos; and we're not using XP. The setting also has nonhuman character races (which AS&SH does not have), and stats were rolled 2d6+6, assigned as desired. We now got the following party:

John Nuncius the Younger: Human male Fighter; Str 17, Dex 16, Con 17, Cha 13 (Unaligned). Son of a local warrior (John Nuncius the Elder, his previous character), who feels a strong duty to defend the village from threats. Bit of a natural leader as the player plays him.
Burdidinkle Berryspring: Gnome female Scout (wilderness thief); Dex 16, Con 15, Cha 13 (Unaligned). A young gnome woman who has left the lands of her kin to improve her skills learning from the neighboring peoples and currently residing in the village of the human characters.
Kendall Khalitzburg: Human male Cleric; Str 15, Int 8, Wis 14, Cha 8 (Order). A young monk who has been a pupil of a hermit living in the nearby hills. A man of strong faith, but mostly uneducated about the world outside the hills and lacking in social skills.
Isagoki Ruuna: Half-elf male Priest (noncombat cleric); Con 15, Wis 15 (Order). Fancies himself a highborn who lives in exile from the elven lands because his mother fell into disgrace and married into a human family. To everyone else, heís just a bastard.
Aeoren Moonshot: Elf male Mage; Dex 14, Int 16 (Unaligned). A young elf who was found by the local witch who raised and trained him in magic.

Weíll get at least one more player, maybe even two. And maybe the fourth one from the previous games may rejoin us again later.

The game is set in my Ancient Lands setting, which means it's a world of warlords and barbarians living in a world dominated by vast and unexplored wilderness. It's less european middle ages or early modernity, and more based on Mongolia, Scandinavia, and the tribes of North America, with vast jungles to the south losely inspired by central Africa and Southeast Asia. There are nine moderately sized city states, the rest of the world is just villages, some larger towns, and huge expanses that are completely unsettled. The game starts in one such village in the northern regions of the Ancient Lands, at the edge of the areas that have been settled by human nomads from a distant land only 200 years ago. There are also elves and gnomes who have been living in the area for much longer, but even compared to the rest of the Ancient Lands, the region is more on the periphery of civilization. The lands beyond it are practically unknown even to the oldest cultures.

Since I didnít know what the characters would be, or even who all would be playing, I didnít really have a good opening prepared. The game started on an evening shortly after sunset, when the PC (except Isogaki, as the player had still one class that afternoon) were leaving the great hall of the village, when they heard a terrifying howl and barks coming from a farmhouse at the edge of the village. As one of the villages defenders, John immediately ran down the hill, with the others following right behind him. At the house, they found a huge, half-starved black hound running up and down in front of the main gate, barking and growling (a yeth hound, but without immunity to nonmagical weapons). Burdi tried to sneak up on the distracted creature, but failed and became its new target. Together with John, she was able to deal it some decent damage, while sustaining a viscous bite, but in the second round everyone failed their saving throw against it terrifying howl. Thankfully the beast wasnít really interested in them and they had made a good distraction for two warriors inside the house to shot at it with their bows, slaying it. However, almost as soon as the beast fell dead, sickly yellow smoke begane to rise from the body as it started to decompose with unnatural speed.

Hurrying inside, they got some more detail from the old woman who was the head of the family. Two of her nephews had left the day before to explore a stone circle in the hills a few hours travel from the village. There they had found a hidden entrance to an underground chamber and awoken the sites guardian, who came after them as they ran for their weapons back in the stone circle. The younger of the two brothers managed to slay the beast, but not before it had ripped out the elder ones throat and hurled his corpse against the ancient stone altar. The beast had started to decay into yellow smoke just as the one did this evening. The surviving brother had been walking all night, carrying his elder brothers corpse, and arrived back in the village in the late morning, but apparently the creature had managed to follow him home. With the dead beast outside completely vanished, it was decided that they would set out the next morning to explore the stone circle themselves.

On their trek into the hills, they ran into a troll, but being able to suprise him had no problem with killing him. At the stone circle, they found the scene as described. Burdi went looking for tracks, finding signs of boots and large paws near the altar, which was covered with a large and recent blood stain. Following the tracks, they had no problem with finding the entrance hidden between some bushes and descended into the ancient chambers under the hill. Two passages led from the central chamber. The first one was flanked by two rotten spears with blackened tips, which the gnome Burdi identified as tarnished silver and put into her pack. The passage lead through a chamber with wall carvings showing humanoid figures with bows and spears hunting bears, boars, and deer, acompanied by large black hounds. Beyond the chamber they found a natural cave with a large puddle and a small nest of fire beetles. In addition, the far end of the cavern held a large stone idol of a massive black dog with a strange face and pointed ears. Assuming that the beasts they fought and that attacked the brothers is a manifestation of the idols spirit (they were right), they tried to destroy it. Lacking any mining or stoneworking tools, John tried to topple it over, and with an Extraordinary Feat of Strength managed to do so. I had kept destroying the idol a backup option if the players screwed up the alternative options, but since they were only about a third into the adventure I had planned for, I decited that it didnít break and simply rested intact on its side.
The other passage led to a room with similiar wall carvings, but these ones showed scenes of a ritual taking place in a stone circle. They showed two priest sacrificing a person on the altar in the stone circle while a large hound watched sitting between the two largest stones, cutting out his heart, and offering it to the hound, after which the landscape was pictured to be filled with lots of vegetation. The final chamber was a crypt with lots of shelves cut into the walls, that still held some bones almost decayed to dust and a sacrifice table in the center. The party returned back to the cave with the idol and had a rather tough fight against the fire beetles, who are quite well armored and have a rather nasty bite. However, they still managed to pick one up as they tried to escape (with a Test of Dexterity) and took it to the sacrifical table to kill and collect itís blood in a shard of pottery. However, spilling it on the altar in the stone circle above didnít seem to do anything, so it was decided to return to the village and see if anything more could be learned and what might happen next.

At that point, the player of the priest rejoined us, which was a quite convenient moment. The other PCs met him at the farm house, where he was preparing the corpse for burial, and it had been a minor ritual against bad spirits he had performed the previous day that actually kept the beast from entering the house. At that point, Burdi got the revalation that the beast might be trying to get the heart of the man whose blood had been spilled on the altar when it killed him (which was indeed the case). Unsure what might have caused the hound to attack before the blood was spilled, they questioned the surviving brother with the suspicion that he might have murdered the other one, but according to his story, the hound first appeared as they entered the underground chambers and chased them all the way to the altar, where they had left their gear.

It took some convincing to get the old aunt to allow the heart to be removed from the body and be sacrificed to a terrifying spirit, but the two priests assumed that it was neccessary to appease the spirit and John made a good point that the two brothers had all the blame for disturbing an ancient ritual site against better judgement. However, the process took some time and the sun had already set when the PCs where ready to leave the house and they could already hear the howling in the distance. There was some debating about just throwing the heart out of the door and let the hound have it, or sticking to what was shown on the images and present the heart at the altar in the stone circle. With four against it, it was agreed to slay the beast for this night and set out to the altar first thing in the morning. Burdi snuck out a backdoor while everyone else prepared to charge out at the front. Kendalls player suggested to use his Turn Spirits ability, but since he only had a 1:12 chance to scare it away for a few rounds, I told him it would be irrelevant this time and I didnít want to look up the turning rules just for that. Aeorens ice bolt spell did a punny 1 point of damage, but this time Burdi managed to backstab the beast and John made short work of it.

The next morning, the whole party set out for the stone circle again and placed the heart on the altar, but nothing happened. Thankfully they also thought it quite obvious that the hound would probably only show up after sunset, as it had always done, so they just wated. As soon as the sun had set, the hound emerged from the underground chamber and ignoring the party went to his spot between the two largest stones behind the altar and waited. It was decited that Kendall should go, since heís a priest but also better armored and having more endurance than Isagoki. Despite his very great reluctance and even greater care, he managed to take the heart from the altar and give it to the hound without any complications. The hound devoured the heart in one gulp and just a few seconds later glowing whisps came flying from the forest and the surrounding hills to gather around the stones, while the gnarled vines that covered them began to grow new leaves. With the ritual complete, the hound returned to the chambers, ignoring the presence of the PCs. Before they returned to the village, the players decided that they want to seal the chamber. Even though they still didnít have any digging tools with them, someone reasoned that they could pour water into the cracks of the stone supports in the entrance and use Aeorens ice spell to freeze it and crack the rock. Worked for MacGuyver, so who were I to complain. With the roof support cracking, the entrance collapsed, hopefully preventing anyone else from disturning the guardian of the chambers.

One thing that suprised me, but was very noticable, is how much fighters rock. With a scout and a cleric to compare, there wasn't much competition, but in light of all the other characters doing 1d4+1 or 1d6 damage, having a big two-handed sword that deals 2d6+3 points of damage and being able to attack more than once per round made a huge difference. It regularly outperformed even the scouts double damage backstab.
Playing entirely without skills was also fun. Characters simply make test of Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution for most things, if a roll is neccessary in the first place. (Chance ranges from 1:6 to 5:6, depending in score.) There is also a much lower chance for an Extraordinary Feat of Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution, which John already tried when toppling the idol. Thief skills are also nice, if you, as I consider it, understand how to correctly use them as a GM. Using Move Silently is not a requirement to sneak around. It only allows a thief (or scout, ranger, ...) to sneak around while being perfectly silent.
Great game so far, but not quite sure what the next adventure will be yet. It was a great idea to have the players come up with three sentences about their character before I told them the first scene of the adventure, as they had no problem at all with making something up on the spot, that still provides me with some good material to work with. I already have a decent idea how the characters will be reacting to hooks I might throw them. That makes it all a lot easier.

2014-05-03, 05:35 AM
Looks great! You have exactly the right approach to thief skills, too: anyone can sneak (surprise rolls are a good mechanic; surprise = you can pass undetected provided you have cover or concealment of some sort), but thieves sneak better.

2014-05-03, 06:22 AM
I wonder what adventure I'll run next. We had unnatural creatures in an underground ruin twice in a row already. I think something with human enemies and nothing overly supernatural would be great next.

2014-05-26, 11:35 AM
The game started with a human corpse floating in the river that runs next to the village, and John and Kendall got up to fish it out. It was a man of local dress and look, who apparently got killed by two arrows in the back, but also carried with him a map that pointed towards a place along the river up in the hills. Sensing something afoot, the party set out to find what place he had been looking for.
Taking a boat upriver didn't get them very fast along, so they made camp for the night and continued along the increasingly shallower river on foot the next day. Towards noon, they came upon the remains of a donkey that had been mostly eaten by pumas. It still had a pack saddle and a rope tied to it, but with no trace of the gear it might have carried.
Less than a hour later, they reached the base of two mountains that marked their destination on their map, wich turned out to lead them to a cave entrance. The first tunnel lead them to a dead end where the ceiling had colappsed, but at the end ofy the tunnel they found a campfire a few days old and the blankets and supplies of three people. The other passage had been supported by wooden beams, which were showing signs of cracking, so the party decided not to mess around with them. Some meters deeper into the hill, they came upon a carved out chamber with an empty stone altar, as well as a hole in the wall, that led into a burrow of some small animals. Beyond the chamber they came upon a creaky rope bridge spanning a large underground chasm. Figuring out who should go first apparently needs to take lot of details into consideration. In the end, Burdie went ahead with rope tied around her, which of course turned out to have been completely unnecessary. Faced with a blocked stone door, they continued through a small crack in a wall and found themselves in a cave full of spiderwebs. John stated that he would burn the webs with his torch and before I could say aything, the two torchbearers already started drawing flames on the map. With such a clear show of intent, I didn't bother with any more questions and had six giant spiders rushing at John and Kendall. Getting an increased number of attacks against enemies with 1 Hit Die is not the joke that it seems to be. In AD&D/OSR, you are expected to face hordes of low-level enemies even at high character levels, and in AS&SH this ability eventually includes 2 HD creatures as well. John just sliced through these things like the madman he kinda is, and I m not sure if anyone else got to make even one finishing strike against the spiders. One managed to bite and poison John, but only did a pitiful 2 damage to him.
Having found a way around the stone door, the group came upon another bridge, this one much sturdier and made from stone. Beyond it they found an ancient tomb, that seems to have been empty for centuries. The small shrine in thecenter of the tomb held a statue of a creature that seemed like a hybrid of a man and and ape, but instead of eyes it only had a single large hole above his flat nose. As the party left the shrine a violent eartquake shook the tomb, causing cracks in the ceiling and clouds of dust. The bridge was completely gone, but so was one of the walls in one of the crypts, giving access to an easily climbable shaft down. At the base of the shaft, the party stepped into knee deep water, which wasn't regarded as a good sign. Taking some steps into the dark tunnels, they came upon the remains of the bridge, and not far from it the corpses of two more human adventurers. Carefully stepping deeper into the flooded tunnels leading from the large chasm, the group eventualy found a passage that lead them to the rope bridge they had crossed earlier, hanging down from above in shreds. However, they decided to continue exploring the flooded tunnels, and as John stepped into a large cavern with no visible ground, he just barely evaded getting grasped by the large tentacle of some water creature. It was then agreed to try another passage for now. After some stumbling around in the dark water, Kendall went ahead to take a close look at a tunnel completely filled with water, and was iimmediately snatched up by a tentacle tht began to crush him. John tried to come to his aid, but ended up only hitting Kendall instead, reducing him to 0 hp. Isayoki won inititive for the next round and healed Kendall back to consciousness. The later made smrt use of his fear spell and just barely survived when the creature immediately released him and disappeared into the deep water. Even though it was pure stupidity and a total failure, this one moment of quick thinking at a second chance to avoid disappearing into the lightless depth forever is one to be remembered. I will exploit this for all it's worth in any future encounters with tentacles.
It was then agreed to give the remains of the rope bridge a try. But back up top, they ran into another obstacle, as the earthquake had crushed the cracked beams that had supported the ceiling of the exist. After one encounter with giant rats from the burrow in the wall, in which John shone again as a slayer of everything that moves, exploring the burrows was abandoned and instead Burdie tried her luck with a small ledge on the side of the chasm, that lead them to another small exit higher up on the hillside.
The party made camp for the night outside the caves and just when they got up the next morning, a dark elf woman approached them from the river bank. She was trailing a group of bandits who had stolen a gem from her. She had previously followed some of the band to a village about one days journey away, but being obviously a foreigner to this land, she didn't dare asking around for the men, as she doesn't want them to learn that she's on their trail. With her trip to this cave having turned out to be a dead end, she asked to hire the party to investigate in the village for her and bring her the gem, if they could find it. The group agreed and set out for their next destination.

2014-06-08, 02:14 PM
Today I started with an adaptation of Against the Cult of the Reptile God.

The party set out from the burried tomb they explored last game and first returned to their home village to stash some stuff they didn't really need on the road and restock on some other supplies. Having taken the boat up the river paid off on the way back, and they arrived back home in the evening.
The next day they set out for the village where the dark elf Enka had tracked the bandits to, which only took half a day through the open valley along the forest edge. Their first idea was to stir up a few things and get the attention of any accomplices of the bandits that might be in the area. They asked one of the local traders for rare jewels and were quite open with the goal of their visit in the local tavern. One of the village elders warned them to better keep moving the next day, as travelers have been disappearing in the area for some time. The five took a single room with four beds, deciding to have one person stay on guard and see if anyone would come for them.
Later that night, a group of thugs did indeed sneak into the inn and Burdi signaled the others to wake up, who all had their boots and clothes on and their weapons at had. When the first two men came sneaking into the room, Burdi slammed the door shut behind them, separating them from the other two still in the hall. John jumped up and cleaved through the skull of the first man, while Burdi backstabbed the other one in the thigh, making him drop to the ground holding his bleeding leg. Isayoki and Aeoren took care of the wounded man, while Burdi, John, and Kendall went after the remaining two who had fled. They cought up to them at the edge of the forest and Burdi managed to trip one with her bolas while the two large man tackled the other to the ground.
Back in the inn, nobody had shown up yet to see what the comotion is about. It took a bit of intimidation and a punch to the face to get the three surviving man to talk, but eventually they admited to have been hired by one of the bandits to help them with their dirty works. One of them had been to the bandits camp to get a sack of loot to be sold to the fence in the village and was able to tell the party how to get there.
The group decided not to wake until morning, but to set out immediately, even though it was still several hours until dawn. After following a trail into the forest for almost 10 miles, they reached a small swamp located between some hills, where they got attacked by a large scorpion-spider. John hacked off its stinger effortlessly and he and Burdi salvaged it for parts that could be sold to craftsmen.
Eventually they made it to the bandits camp about an hour before sunrise and went into a muddy cave leading into the hillside. The first people they encountered where two men carrying buckets to a large enclosure made from wooden planks at the far wall of a large natural cavern. Burdi sneaked up to them and attempted to shot the larger one with her bow, but she missed and John and Kendall charged forward. John took out the larger man with a big axe in a single swing, but the smaller one pulled open the door of the enclosure entirely and out charged five huge war dogs. Even though John and Kendall took them out quickly, the beasts took a big toll on the two, biting John quite badly and requiring the healing magic of Isayoki to get him back up to his feet. As they ventured deeper into the cave, they found large sections of the caves to have been expanded into an underground fortification with paved floors and stong wooden doors. Even though the dogs had made a big commotion for the short fight, most people in the complex seemed to be still asleep. In addition to some storage rooms, the party came into a room occupied by some sleepers. However, one of them had woken up by the barking of the dogs and when he realized that there was a whole group of people entering the room, he turned around and shouted to his companions to get up. But with the three of them still in their blankets and with five armed opponents standing above them, they didn't stand any chance. John got in a grapple with one of the three, who manged to slip away only to get struck down by Burdis hatchet.
The main corridor of the complex led the group to a large hall where the tabled were still covered in dirty plates and some leftover food. Kendall went to explore the kitchen and just barely avoided a cleaver coming at his face, striking down the cook with his staff in turn. At the next corner, the party ran straight into a group of four armed warriors who had been awoken by the noise from the kitchen, but again it wasn't much of a fight.
After a couple more storerooms and empty side caves, the group came upon a most unexpected sight. In the center of a large room the bandits had errected a large tree trunk, which had been covered in red runes, large dead spiders, and human skulls. The next cave had been closed off with a gate made from wooden beams and planks, which had only been secured with a simple knotted rope, and that didn't do anything to block the awful stench of decay from the other side. Finding a pile of rotting corpes covered in orange mold, the group noticed three of the corpses standing upright and shambling towards them. After taking a few slashed at them, it was decided not to be worth their trouble and they all slipped out through a narrow passage in the back of the cave, leading to another one that turned out to be the garbage pit of the bandits, which possibly smelled even worse.

We had to stop there for today, but with two thirds of the adventure completed, we'll finish it tuesday evening.
Setting out for the bandit camp in the middle of the night was a rather unexpected move. But having a fully detailed hex map now, it was easily determined that they would arrive at the cave around dawn when almost everyone inside was still asleep. So even the loud barking of the dogs didn't cause an immediate all out alarm through the whole camp. The lower level will likely get quite interesting.

2014-06-10, 03:38 PM
Tonight we wrapped up the game from sunday.
The group decided to avoid the side passages for now and kept following the main corridor leading deeper into the hill. Beyond the room with the totem pole, they reached a large natural cave with a narrow and slippery path leading down to an underground lake below. A creaky wooden bridge led across the lake and to a small landing on the other shore. Opening the wooden double doors, the group found themselves inside a hidden underground temple. The first passage they explored had five wooden doors, and being five people, they decided that each of them would kick open one of the doors at the same time to bring mayhem to whoever might be on the other side. One room was empty and another one turned out to be a storeroom. The other three were the private chambers of the shaman, his apprentice, and the commander of the warriors, who were all getting ready for breakfast.John and Kendall fought with the shaman and the warrior, but using a fear spell on Burdi the apprentice got away. With their attempt at heroism almost ending in total disaster and draining the three spellcasters of their last remaining magic, it was agreed to not blindly chace the fleeing priestess into unexplored tunnels with who knows what waiting there. Looting the private rooms and the storeroom got them a rather nice haul, with Kendall getting on the mail hauberk found in the warriors room and Isayoki taking the wooden mask of the dead shaman with him. Kendall found a number of old scrolls in the rooms of the shamans, but was unable to decipher any of them. He handed them to Isayoki, who was just as puzzled, but could identify one of them as an elven text on spirits native to this forest.
They continued their explorations of the underground temple by searching the passage where the apprentice had fled to and came upon some cells, but other than two pairs of shackles, that Aeoren took with him, this area seemed to be empty with the appentice apparently having escaped.
Things got a bit unsettling when the main corridor of the temple led to a large natural cave, which on the far side had a large pit leading down into the darkness. Even as a gnome scout Burdi was unable to determine its depth by throwing down pebbles. Not because the sounds of the pebbles were hard to accurately estimate, but because there weren't any at all.
The last room turned out to be the main sanctuary of the temple. A large octagonal room with four pillars and a large and unsettling symbol of lines and circles painted on the floor. On the far side of the room stood a large stone altar and on top it a most bizare construction. The legs of dozens of giant spiders had been combined into a sunburst like arrangement, with an almost human-like skull in the center. But unlike the skulls of all creatures known to the party, this one didn't have any openings for eyes. Just two slits for the nose and large jaws full of feral looking teeth. And inside the mouth rested a fist sized gemstone that reflected the light of their torches in countless colors. Burdi carefully approached the idol on the altar and pried the gem from the skulls jaws, but right now fortune was with them and no hidden guardians arrived from the shadows to attack the intruders.
The trip back to their home village took another two days, but the elven woman was already waiting for them and rewarded them generously with 50 gold pieces each.

2014-08-01, 03:19 PM
Almost two months after our last game, we finally continued our campaign today. A basic cave exploration losely based on the Pathfinder adventure "Flight of the Red Raven". One player was absent today and another could play only for the first hour, so for most of the adventure it was just three characters.

John the Younger: Human male Fighter 2
Kendall: Human male Cleric 2
Isayoki: Half-elf male Priest 2

427, 7th Moon, 4th Sun
In the early morning, Isayoki, the junior priest at the village shrine, was called by the head priest Karras. During the night, someone had broken into the inner sanctum but stole only a single object. A simple amulet that belonged to one of the villages founders, which she had taken from a Hag she had killed to rescue her kinsfolk while the men were at war, conquering a territory for the newly founded clan. The day before, a local vagabond named Fox had come to the village. Though technically an outcast with no clan, his mother had been born in this clan and been exiled with her infant child for a crime commited by her husband. The villagers could not take her back, as doing so would have been an insult to the neighboring clan that banished her, but unlike most outcasts the boy was allowed to visit the village on occasion. And now he had suddenly disappeared during the night, at the same time as the relic from the shrine. Asked to keep silence about the matter for as long as possible, Isayoki got John and Kendall to get their gear, while the elder priests nephew would be their tracker to follow Fox's trail.

In the late evening, the group reached an unremarkable cave deep inside the forest. Ordering the tracker to stay behind and watch the cave for anyone who might come out, the trio lighted a torch and headed inside the cave. The cave seemed rather unremarkable, but inhabited by all kinds of big insects and other vermin. After heading deeper into the hill, the group came upon a cave covered in a faintly blue glowing fungus. But to their surprise they were not alone, as a hulking figure came from the shadows, covered in splintering bark and brown leaves. While they managed to defeat the creature relatively unharmed, they had an extremely hard time doing any damage to it that would penetrate the tough bark. As they explored further, they came upong a few caves partially flooded by clear and fast flowing water, but having made very bad experiences with creatures hiding under the surface of subterranean lakes, they decided to look for other possible passages instead.

An unexpected find was made deeper inside the caves, in the form of a worn but still mostly intact backpack. One of the straps had been ripped, but it was still tied close. The food inside it was still fresh, but the party only took the additional torches and the rope from it, before continuing to go down the passage. Unexpectedly, they found themselves in a cave, and stepping on pieces of bone that were scattered on the ground, they alerted its two inhabitants. Once they appear to have been men, still waring the stained and tattered rags of their former lives, but their dried husks, white eyes, and black fangs clearly marked them as creatures that have no place in nature. Using his long steel sword, John beheaded the first one with no trouble and then turned to help Kendall and Isayoki with the other one, which he also almost cleaved in two.
Using their newly found rope, they returned to a cave they had discovered earlier, where a steep 6 meter drop kept them away from another passage vissible on the cave floor below. After a few meters, they entered another cave, which was filled up to their waists in pale yellow, and seemingly odorless vapors. Following the main passage, they heard two low voices up ahead, and using the powers of his magical shaman mask, Kendall crept quietly forward as John and Isayoki remained back with the torch. In the pitch black darkness ahead, Kendall spotted two large trolls talking to each other. With the odds of just three men against two trolls, they decided not to risk a direct confrontation and continued exploring more of the side passages of the vapor cave. John and Kendall ran headfirst into a pair of carrion crawlers, who seemed to be just as startled as they were, and desperately trying to keep as quite as possible, a fight ensued while Isayoki stayed back watching the passage behind him for the trolls. While John was able to slay the first of the abhorrent white worms, Kendall slumped down to the ground, but his companion came to his rescue in time. With no idea what might be wrong with Kendall, Isayoki tried to pour one of his antidote potions into his mouth, which did the job and quickly had him back on his feet. Considering their options, Kendall came up with a plan to take out the two trolls. John and Isayoki would climb back up the rope and roll several large stones up to the edge of the drop. Then he would lure out the trolls to come chasing after him and use his new wind step spell to get himself up the steep cave wall in a single mightly leap. The other two agreed and the plan worked out with quite some success. While Isayokis attempts to throw fist size stones at the two trolls didn't do much help, Johns and Kendalls impressive strength allowed them to drop small boulders on the trolls as they were climbing up the ledge. Slaying the first one, as he just made it to the top of the ledge, convinced the other to abandon his attempt and flee back through the vapor cave. Chasing after him, the three cornered the troll in his lair, where an intense battle broke out. The trolls mightly club caused serious injury to the warriors, but from a small passage in the back of the cave two arrows came flying that helped them take down the brute.

Two humans emerged from the passage, which was barely more than a crack in the wall, whose clothing were barely more than rags and who wore old armor that should have been replaced years ago. They had been part of a group that had been exploring the cave almost a week ago, when they found out that stories about the curse of the cave were true and they were unable to find the exit again. They had been separated about two days ago during a fight against a powerful Oni, that seemed to be trapped in the cave with them, and ended up being chased by the two trolls until they were able to hid in the small cave. The group decided to not ask the two about either Fox or the stolen amulet and made their own attempt to find the exit. But it was indeed as the two vagabonds had said. Retracing their steps only got them to walk around in circles, returning to other parts of the caves they had been to before. With nothing else to do, the five continued their exploration of the deeper caves in search for the other outcasts.

It didn't take them long until they were able to hear two shouting voices in the darkness ahead of them. Trying to stay unseen and unheard, they continued forward with care, until they reached a large cave illuminated by more of the glowing fungus. In the center of the cave stood Fox, sword drawn, and shouting at a muscular horned giant with a massive iron club to release his friends, which were tied up in a corner in the back of the cave. Deciding to use the advantage of surprise, the three adventurers charged into the cave, weapons drawn. The oni immediately turned upon them and Fox joined the fray as well. Being almost surrounded, the giant stepped back towards the wall and unleashed a mighty blast of cold, which covered John and Kendall in frost and had them collapsing to the ground. But Fox keep the brute occupied as arrows kept being shot at him by the other two outlaws. Isayoki used the distraction to heal Kendall, who got back to his feet and made an ussuccesful attempt to drive the monster away with a fear spell. When Isayoki also got John back into the fight, things were looking quite dire for the badly injured oni, so he waved up his hands and disappeared into a cloud of smoke.

Drained of all his magic power, Isayoki retrieved some healing potions from his pack for John and Kendall, who were still in bad shape, while Fox and the other outlaws freed their bound friends who had been captured by the oni. Fox urged everyone to get out of the cave as quickly as possible, as he had the key to finding the exit, at which he presented the amulet that had been stolen from the village shrine. Deciding to play along for now, the group followed Fox and his men out of the cave, who in possession of the amulet found the way out without problem. Once outside safely in the early night, it was time to confront Fox about the amulet. His friends had gone to the caves in search of the treasures that might have been left behind by their ancestory after she had killed the hag. When they never returned, he began to ask around for more details of the cursed cave, and discovered the the ancestor was the only person who had ever made it out of the cave, and the only thing she returned with her was the hags amulet. Unwilling to let his friends be trapped forever, he made a gamble and stole the amulet from the shrine and try to rescue them from the labyrinth. Now that they were save, he no longer needed the amulet and was willing to return it to Isayoki. All they wanted now was to leave the area and stay away for a couple of years until the whole affair was forgotten. Being completely drained of magic and facing a group twice their size, it was decided to allow them to leave without any punishment for the theft. However, the group would make camp outside the cave, and with the amulet in their possession, they were free to go searching for the hags treasures and find their way back out again.

The next day, the group entered the caves a second time and continued to explore deeper into the pasage where they had fought the two carrion crawlers the previous day. As the continued onward, they experienced a strange sensation of the floor slowly tipping beneath their feet, but looking both back and ahead, the floor seemed to be almost perfectly solid and level. As they pressed onward, the effect got stronger and stronger, until they were almost sliding down an invsible slope that got increasingly steeper. After a few dozen meters, the passage opened into a large circular cave, and a large hole in the center forced them to crawl along the steeply angled floor to not be pulled into it. However, the floor of the room looked to be completely flat, but when they tried to crawl around the hole, it felt much more like they were clinging to the walls of a large funnel. Several passages were leading into the strange cave, and climbing up one of them had them reach the lair of the hag. Even though 200 years had passed, the vile creature still lay on the ground, her severed head next to hear, with no sign of decay on the corpse. Searching the area for magic revealed that the whole place was filled with faint magical energies, which seemed to be slowly flowing towards the pit. Hoever, there was also a magic dagger, a dozen magic arrows, and several magic potions found on the dust covered and rotten shelves. In an attempt to learn more about the strange environment, Kendall took one of the wooden chair in the room and pushed it out into the passage, until it suddenly tipped over and slid along the level floor with increasing spead until disappearing in the hole in the central cave.

With the treasure of the hag in their possession and the oni still being around somewhere, the three decided to leave the cave and return to the village. There they would gather more of their allies to return for a monster hunt to clear the cave of all remaining creatures.