A Monster for Every Season: Summer 2
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    Sep 2009
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    Default Talakeal's Campaign Diary (1 Day without a horror story!)

    Last weekend I finally got my new campaign off the ground, and it went surprisingly ok, especially considering Bob was recovering from dental surgery at the time.

    The game is my own Heart of Darkness system. Its a gothic fantasy adventure game, with a setting that is a cross between Arthurian Romance and Wierd Western, reminiscent of Stephen King's Dark Tower series.

    The mechanics are like a cross between Exalted and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, but I am going to keep the summary mechanically neutral and present archetypes in D&D terms so that everyone can follow.


    I told them that the game was going to be about a mercenary company operating out of Golgotha in the year 1113, and that they needed to make characters with the motivation, skills, and moral flexibility to be a part of this, and that each needed to pick a faction to be aligned with. Rather than a group session zero, I worked with each of them independently to make characters, and though I was prepared to guide them if they created anything that would be incompatible with the rest of the party or step on their fellow's toes, none did. This is what they came back to me with:

    Bob was playing Krystal, a CE female tiefling rogue / warlock
    Johnny was playing Quincy, a CN male human ranger.
    Sara was playing Anani, a LG female human cleric with the darkness domain
    Brian was playing Kim, a LN trans-feminine human Eldritch Knight who specializes in earth magic
    Dave created Valentine, a N female aasimar bard, but dropped out of the campaign before we started and she was relegated to Brian's cohort
    and the New Guy is playing Fuer, a LN male human elemental monk with a focus on time magic

    And the game summary:
    Spoiler: The Fray: Session One
    Show


    May 1113

    It doesn’t rain often in the badlands, but when it does, it comes down hard.

    Our story starts outside of the Green Gator; a small inn in the shadow of Golgotha’s famous Golden Gharial casino.

    A young woman in traveling leathers walks down the street, up to her ankles in a flood of warm water. She steps into the inn, pulling back her sodden hood and revealing crimson skin and horns upon her brow.

    A very short, stout woman with a blonde crewcut and an oil-stained undershirt walks up to her and shakes her hand, saying that she must be Krystal. She introduces herself as Zara, a tinker who Valentine hired to maintain their gear and asked her to sit in on auditions for the crew; an experienced hand to guide them along if they get stuck. Krystal asks what the job is, and Zara says Valentine didn’t tell her, she just promised a bag of gold and that was enough.

    They move into the back room, lit by flickering lantern light, and move the table into position, set out bottles of cheap beer and a communal bowl of bowchow, a Golgothan dish resembling a pizza casserole, for their guests, and then sit in silence.

    Sometime later a tall woman with long blonde hair enters the room, and Krystal tells her that she is late. Valentine says that she didn’t expect the rain, it’s tough to fly in, as she shakes out the large swan-like wings that emerge from her back. She joins them at the table where they make small talk and wait for the applicants to arrive. In the end, there are only two.

    The first is Feur, a man of unremarkable appearance, with short white hair. His cloth is poor, his knuckles calloused, and the only sign of wealth is a large golden medallion of station wresting upon his heavily scarred chest. He doesn’t say much about himself, but claims to be a competent bodyguard.

    The second is Quincy, a slightly older man wearing a ragged military uniform, who is here for the huntsman position, and says that he has been in the region tracking down hengeyokai for the bounty and already has nineteen confirmed kills.

    They both ask Valentine what the job is, and she tells them that it is a routine missing persons case in Vladispol. A cannery owner is offering six stone of silver for their return, and she has insider information that they culprits are holed up in a nameless city on the southern coast of the Misty Sea. She clearly doesn’t know as much as she is letting on.

    As they are dickering over travel expenses and shares, they are joined by a slender woman with maroon hair who is wearing an expensive blue and purple dress covered in holy symbols, arcane rules, and with lacquered armor plates sewn into it. She introduces herself as Anani and asks to come along.

    She is evasive about who she is or how she heard about the job, but when asked what she can do she tells them that she is a healer, and Zara tells them to sign her on, it’s always good to have a sawbones on the crew.

    Feur sees that magical energy simply falls into Anani like water down a whirlpool, and Quincy notices that her shadow moves slightly out of sync with her body.
    Then, with contracts signed, Zara tells them to meet her in front of the temple of Cronus at dawn.

    The next morning Krystal arrives early and scopes the place out for danger, but the streets are deserted save for a few friars hoping to get their chores finished before the morning prayers. As each of her companions arrives, she tests them by seeing how close she can sneak up to them.

    Once the group gets together, they are startled by a low rumbling, which at first they fear is an earthquake, but turns out to be a massive coach like none they have ever seen, nearly ten meters long, mounted on eight heavy wheels, and clad in thick steel, and moved by its own power with no need for horses. It pulls up next to them and the door opens to reveal Zara at the helm. She tells them to climb aboard, but they are hesitant about the strange conveyance.

    Once aboard, she silences their questions. Inside there are twelve seats that can double as six beds a work bench / operating table in the back, and metal shudders for windows. Zara tells them only that it can safely do about 25 knots, and that, weather permitting, they will be able to make the hundred league journey to Vladispol before nightfall.

    They have the day to get to know one another, and some talk more than others.

    Anani says almost nothing, but reveals that she is a priestess of Magnum Tenobrusum and gives each of them her blessing, save Quincy who declines.

    Feur still does not say where he is from, save that it is out west. It is obvious that they use a different system of measurement where he comes from; the rest of the group gives him a hard time about not understanding stones or leagues.

    Quincy is a career soldier from Dungenus, where he was a member of Balthazar’s dragoon corps. After more than a decade of fighting, he wanted a change and got himself transferred to the frontier where he can work as a free agent hunting bounties for the Warlord, although he is still technically under commission.

    Krystal and Valentine are both from Concordance, and are currently on the run after double-crossing their previous employer, the outlaw trade prince Valen. They have known one another almost all of their lives.

    Zara reveals nothing about her past save for correcting the others that she is not a dwarf, although she declines to state what she is.

    They arrive in Vladispol just after sunset to find the town blanketed in rain and fog. Valentine refuses to leave the coach, and sends Feur out to buy her an oilskin. He is given directions to the Cram-Shack, what passes for a general store around here, and is given the outsider’s discount.

    The dour people of Vladispol make their living on the gloomy shores of the Misty Sea. The ground is swampy and no crops grow, they depend upon the sea for their livelihood. The fishing is poor, and most is canned and sent to feed the Warlord’s soldiers in distant lands, and the only true source of profit is in whaling. Some are even desperate enough to hunt the blind worms; sightless serpents whose flesh is bland but can be compressed to make oil that burns bright even in the dark and damp that surrounds them. One must always be careful though, for the smaller serpents aren’t worth the risk and the larger beasts can smash a ship to splinters.

    Once they have adequate clothes, the group makes their way through the fog to the cannery, where the workers are all crippled old men who can no longer work the boats.

    The office is as ramshackle as the rest of the building, but given the air of sophistication with expensive furniture and tapestries. They are each served a goblet of brandy and further briefed by the owner, Errol Wiggun.

    Six days ago his son Loren was kidnapped by a group of wandering lizardmen who had been chased out of town the week prior. He was out on a bluff outside of the town with three of his friends, a popular spot for young people to go and build bonfires, get drunk, make out, and race horses just outside of their parent’s notice.

    Once the townsfolk learned what had happened, they formed a posse to chase them down. They tracked them down to a cypress grove two days to the south, where they found that the missing youths had been slaughtered and eaten like hogs. Past that they lost their trail in the mangroves to the south.

    When asked about a ruined city, he says that he doesn’t know of any such place, and when the group inquires as to the Warlord’s involvement, he says they rarely send patrols out this way anymore, too many of them have gone missing. They take their taxes and draft young men and women never to be seen again, and give almost nothing in return. Quincy nods knowingly, his own story was not so very different, taken as a youth from a country home he would never see again to fight for someone else’s cause in distant lands.

    They ask if the disappearances might be related to his son, and he says he doubts it. They haven’t had much trouble here in town, although boats are often lost in the fog.

    Anani asks permission to exhume the bodies, and Errol tells her that they don’t bury bodies here, with the water table so high that is just asking for a cholera outbreak. Their dead are sent out on funeral barges to be lost in the sea.

    Anani investigates the remains, there isn’t much left. They appear to have been killed by slashed throats, the girls have had earrings brutally ripped off, and most of the flesh was eaten raw by teeth that are too large to be human but too small to be wild animals.

    The travelers are put up in an inn, where they are fed a bland casserole made from mushrooms, worm meat, and fish. The locals are nervous around them, and many give them the evil eye. One small child is even put to tears at the sight of Krystal, believing his mother has finally made good on her threat to sell him to the devil if he doesn’t do his chores.

    The next morning they are met by a well-dressed barrister who provides them with a map and a letter for some fishermen who live in a shack to the south. He flirts a bit with Valentine, and admits that he is actually somewhat happy the boy is gone, as that means when the old man dies the cannery will go up for auction, and as one of the few men of means and education in this town, he just might end up running the place.

    The group is suspicious that he might have had something to do with it.

    Zara tells them that she can’t risk driving any further south, the ground is too muddy, and instead she will stay here and do maintenance.

    Their first stop is the bluff where the children were abducted, and they find six sets of heavy scaled tracks and one lighter pair wearing delicate shoes.

    They follow the map and make for the main road. There, they encounter a patrol of soldiers bearing the emblem of Balthazar’s forces who tell them they will need to pay a weapon tax to cross the border. Quincy says this is a common shakedown tactic, not technically a law but not out of the ordinary either. Valentine talks them into letting her pay at a later time in exchange for information on their disappearing patrols, and they agree, but not until they take down the group’s information.

    A few hours later they hear a whistling from the fog, and then come face to face with a slender man with mismatched guns on his hips and a large black bird on his shoulder. He introduces himself as Raven-Dies-Talking, a wandering treasure hunter, gun for hire, and flute-player at weddings, funerals, and quinceaneras. They ask him if he knows anything about their current mission, and he does not.

    They ask if he wants to work with them, and he says they are a bit green to afford his rates, but he is sure they will collaborate at some point in the future. They look a less incompetent than the last group that came through here, a sharpshooter, an elf, a mentalist, a little girl with a big wolf, and fat man in an altogether too tight outfit who didn’t heed his warnings and charged headlong into a group of orcish raiders who had deserted from Ghort’zan’s horde.

    He gives them a scroll he has written up with advice for new adventurers, but they find that it ends abruptly when giving instructions for how to deal with manargus. They ask what happened to the second page, and his bird suggests that he smoked it. He is puzzled, and she clarifies he used it as a rolling paper, when he apologizes and said he rolled his tobacco with it, she corrects him again that it was mescaline. When they ask what was on it, he tells them he has no idea, he was on mescaline.

    Raven explains that manargus are like a cross between an ant and a praying mantis, but about the size of a jaguar. They aren’t too much trouble if you give them their space, especially during the day, but they will eat an entire town in a single night if they get it into their minds. Some people collect bounties on them, and alchemists will pay a fortune for a queen, but it’s not worth the risk. They probably aren’t around here though, the ground is too wet for them to build their tunnels.

    They move off the road and find a place that is dry enough to build a campfire, and Raven-Dies-Talking regales them with stories of his travels long into the night. Feur reveals that he is initially from the kingdom of Zaikhan far to the west, and Raven says that he has never been there, but he hears they have great opium and asks in Feur has any. Valentine notices a flash of disappointment in Quincy’s eye when he says he does not.

    When they tell Raven that they have come from Golgotha, he tells them that if they are ever in trouble, they should go to the abandoned cathedral library and ask for Christine and tell her that he sent them.

    In the morning the mist is gone, and their companion with it.

    They turn off the main road near a broken sign that advertises a long flooded highway leading to Pompur in the east. They find the Cyprus grove where the lizard folk allegedly made camp, and it is all as was described.

    Moving south through the swamps, they spot what they think is the gleam of heavy armor in the mist. They find three steel figures in the shape of men, but with no buckles or seams and the makers mark of Avarus stamped into them. Anani says that the Warlord Livionia is known to supplement her forces with such mechanical homunculi. They appear to have been on the losing end of a fight, with several large bullet holes in them, but there is no sign of what did the deed.

    Krystal subtly breaks the seal on the barrister’s letter, and finds it a simple demand that they provide the mercenaries with supplies and a boat if they don’t want to find their land foreclosed. She then reseals it and they head to the shack

    with a horned mermaid painted on its side. They give the letter to Kull the fisherman, who is sad to hear of Lorren’s passing, for although the father has always been, and continues to be, a pain, the child had potential.

    He feeds the group with shrimp gumbo and provide them with dry clothes and rope, as well as a rowboat, which they will need if they plan to go into the mangroves to the south. He has never heard of a ruined city, nor has his husband Peter, who says his family has lived in the area for four generations.

    It is slow going through the mangroves, for although the sky is clear and bright, they are heavily overgrown and tracking is impossible. Still, Quincy can tell they aren’t the first people to come through here recently, he sees foliage cut be machetes, campfire ashes, and a few disturbed embankments.

    Valentine takes to the sky, and spots right angles in some of the bends of the river, and they make for it, Krystal using her infernal powers to flit in and out of this dimension to scout ahead.
    They notice that the islands do become more regular, and looking sideways they can see the sides of flooded buildings, their tops covered with greenery.

    Quincy notices a very large carnivorous lungfish following them, and tells the group that they need to make landfall before it tries tipping the boat, as they will be little better than chum in the open water.

    They pull ashore atop a building which is mostly covered in waist deep water and with only a few scattered trees atop a dry terrace. The fish, a monstrous Acipenser nearly the size of an orca, follows close by, and indeed capsizes the boat before circling around them. Quincy takes a shot at it, but this only draws the creature’s attention. It lunges at him, and though he does his best to keep a tree between them, it still manages to clamp its jaws down on his leg, blood spurting wildly.

    Valentine takes to their air and Feur rushes forward, wading into the water and striking the beast hard in the jaw with his brass knuckles, dislocating the joint and allowing Quincy to slip free. He then hooks his hand into the gills, trying to distract the monstrous fish without letting himself get caught.

    Quincy tries to shoot again, but he is shaken and his aim is shot. Anani conjures up tendrils of pure darkness that eat through stone like smokeless fire, but fail to penetrate the thick scales, so she moves to beat on its flank with her staff, hoping to drive it off, and Krystal moves to the opposite side, puncturing is with her rapier, which burns with magical light.

    The beast is simply too large and too tough to be distracted, and after a long, exhausting, nerve wracking fight it finally gets ahold of Feur, shredding his arm and pulling it out of socket, and begins to drag him back into the water, but Quincy finally finishes reloading through shaky fingers, and fires a bullet clear through its side, spraying Anani and Krystal with blood and viscera. Valentine coldly tells him to finish it, and he walks up and places another shot between the wounded animal’s eyes.

    Anani binds their wounds, and then Feur pulls out the Scroll of Aeons and reads from it while he enters a transcendental state, and then time seems to work backwards upon his arm, first the sutures are undone, and then the wounds disappear, before the bones move themselves back into place as if the injury had never occurred.

    It takes a bit of work to get the boat out of the water, but it is done in short order, and they continue into the vast ruins, although Quincy doesn’t know how they are going to find their targets except by luck, if they are even here at all.

    Hours later, at midday, they see a huge bipedal alligator sitting on the ledge of a building. It is mixing plant oil in bowls, and is watching them without turning its head. Valentine decides to greet it and ask for directions, and when the boat moves past, it reaches its hand down, and when she goes to shake it, the creature lifts her out of the boat and up onto the leafy ledge. He then does the same for each of her companions, save Krystal who finds her own way up.

    The monstrous reptile introduces himself as Coraxe and says that this whole city is his wallow. He wasn’t born here, but he swam up the coast some fifty years ago. And once he has mastered the city so that the one in his mind matches the one outside, he will find mates and start his own tribe.

    He finishes crushing the oil and pours it into a hollow gourd, and then hands the rest to Quincy, telling him to use it for his gun before the insects eat it.

    Coraxe knows where the lizard folk are, and tells them he will show them if they help him solve a few mysteries, he doesn’t like mysteries in his city.

    First he leads them to a wall covered in colorful ceramic tiles which slide about when touched, and Krystal is able to recognize them as a crude Stone Age version of a combination lock, although she can’t make sense of the pattern behind them. When unlocked, the panel swings open to reveal numerous bronze jaws ornamented with turquoise. Inside are powders and spices, pungent even after so many years, and Anani is able to identify only a few, she thinks they are likely for embalming the dead rather than for cooking, as they would not be very pleasant to taste, at least not for someone with a human pallet.

    After learning how the wall works, Coraxe takes them to what he calls the glass woman. In the basement of a large collapsed building that was either a temple or a town hall, there is a long shard of smooth green crystal buried in rubble. If one washes off the dust, one can see a human woman sealed inside, short and thick with bright orange hair and a look of panic frozen on her face; like a crystalline cocoon.

    Anani splashes holy water on the crystal, and soon it washes away, the woman within flopping onto the floor and coughing volcanic vapors from her lungs.

    After she has gotten her bearings, she introduces herself as Kim, an agent of the Imperial Archeological Society out of Krackenrock. When told that Krackenrock was destroyed seventy years ago, she refuses to believe them, and insists the year is 1042. She tells them that she was exploring the ancient ruins when the sky went dark and the building began to collapse, and she instinctively summoned a crystalline shell to protect herself; she has always had an affinity for stones. As she digs around in the rubble for her gear, she is shocked to find that her armor and meteor hammer are caked in a thick coat of rust. As she begins to question this, Feur recites a few words in the language of magic and lays his hand upon her shoulder, and as he does so she feels the full weight of time fall upon her.

    She grows quiet and unsteady on her feet, but Anani puts an arm around her and mutters reassuring words in her ear as she leads them back to Coraxe. They struggle to communicate at first, as she doesn’t expect the massive Sobek to speak Terran and he doesn’t expect her to speak Yokai. It confirms that he has been here for decades, long before he arrived.

    Good to his word, Coraxe shows them the way to the lizard-folk camp, and a vista from which they can see the smoke of their campfire. He likewise warns them to avoid the stone bridges, and use only those made from wood or vines to avoid collapse. In thanks, they tell him about the dead lung fish, and Coraxe says that he used to hide from them when he was younger, but now they avoid one another. Quincy says the flesh is his, and Coraxe says that he knows; everything in the city is his.

    The group treks on, to the large building that serves as the Lizard Folk’s camp. Before they enter, Krystal moves partway into the Hellscape to hide her from prying eyes.

    There are seven of them, as expected, six large females and a smaller male in silk robes with long incandescent frills. He rises and bows deeply, introducing himself as Klarr and demanding one of his guards boil a pot of tea for his guests. When Valentine says that they are here for the children, he politely tells her that those items are unfortunately no longer for sale, they were unable to make a clean escape and decided to cut their losses and eat the captives. When asked what they took them for, they say they were to be sold at auction, for the dwarves of Tahrr and the Omukade have ensured that the price of slaves is at a premium.

    Valentine demands their heads as payment, and Klarr slowly explains to her several times that the humans are no longer here. Kim could explain to her that the Lizard Folk have no concept of vengeance, but she is too busy listening to the stones around her screaming.

    Quincy, tired of the pointless back and forth, draws his rifle and puts a round in Klarr’s chest, and he dies with a look of confusion on his eyes. His companions immediately charge Quincy while Kim and Feur move to meet them, when suddenly they begin to stumble and appear to keep falling and disappear from sight. It takes a moment for everyone to realize that the entire floor is collapsing, and before anyone can react they are tumbling down into darkness and buried alive.

    Kim tries to remain conscious, remembering lessons from long ago, but soon her memories fade away into a dream, of a redheaded woman with hands on her throat, telling her to stay calm and focus on her voice, then moving Kim’s hands to her own throat and saying to watch how she does it, watch her breathing and watch how she keeps focus, and if the does pass out, to simply wake her with a kiss.

    She would probably prefer to simply slip away here, lose herself in the past, but she is roughly pulled from the rubble by hairy hands. She sees the group has been dug out by Morlocks, short muscular humanoids with pale skin and large dark eyes who have adapted to life underground. They are quickly carried through tunnels, their weapons removed, and brought into a low meeting hall before the Morlock king, a hulking figure wearing a large crown like gilded stalagmites and an oversized velvet robe.

    Kim sees her companions, as well as their reptilian foes, brought in one at a time; all save for Krystal who is not among them. She is, at least for the moment, lost in curiosity, asking a thousand questions.

    The Morlock king introduces himself as Bothros, vassal of Cthon, Emperor of Tartarus. They say that the city above was once theirs, when it was called Glathos, but they abandoned it, along with the entire surface world, when black death descended from the sky. Kim asks if it was a dragon, or a demon, and Bothros says yes to both, they called it Tarsh.

    Before she can ask more, Valentine interrupts and tries to explain the situation, and that they have a legitimate claim upon the lizard folk, who are slavers, kidnappers, and cannibals, but Bothros sees nothing wrong with that. However, trespassing in the city does offend him. At the same time, the lizard women tell him that the humans murdered their leader.

    The king tells them he will deliberate their fates and has them taken away, where they are tended to buy malnourished human servants who speak no language Kim recognizes. They are fed a banquet consisting of a wide variety of delicious yogurts, and when they ask about them one of the guards tells them that they cultivate a wide variety of bacteria that feed upon the black blood of the Earth.
    Their wounds are mended and salve is slathered upon them, and during the operation Valentine’s flight feathers are clipped.

    Bothros returns and announces that they are to fight for the Morlock’s amusement in the arena; the loser’s bodies will be fed to the slaves and the winners will be used as breeding stock. Nobody is happy with this, and Valentine tries to covertly ask the lizard folk if they are interested in teaming up to escape, but the cold-blooded women do not trust the irrational mammals.

    The arena is about four meters deep and ten across, with crowded Morlocks peering down above, held back by guards armed with scimitars. The groups are brought in unarmed, and the fight begins as the Morlock weapon master, a stern looking priest of the games, slowly tosses their weapons into the sandy center of the ring one after the other.

    The two sides surge forward, rushing to be the first to grab them. Feur uses magic to slow his foes movements and his fists to push them back, he is as comfortable fighting unarmed as he is with a weapon.

    Quincy tries to get to his rifle, even though he knows he is running low on bullets, but manages to get separated from his compatriots and finds himself surrounded and alone on the far side of the ring. Eventually he is surrounded and critically wounded by the lizard folk’s claws and teeth. Feur attempts to rewind time for him, but is unable to concentrate while fighting and pushes too hard, saving Quincy’s life but returning him to the unconscious state he had been in after being caught in the rockslide an hour before.

    Valentine does her best to coordinate her allies while avoiding direct conflict, and at one point only avoids having her throat torn out by pulling away and leaving her opponent holding a clawful of bloody feathers.

    Kim uses her magic to draw the arena walls in tight, crushing two of the lizard folk as well as knocking one of the morlock guards down with them, where he gets caught up in the fray.

    Anani summons up a shade from the void, and the lizard folk are terrified by the living shadow that skulks across the arena walls. She has trouble controlling it though; it keeps trying to feed upon Valentine’s halo, and only manages to steal a single lizard person’s breath before the torchlight banishes it back to the Abyss.

    Meanwhile, Krystal is attempting to track down her friends, but it is tough going, the morlock city has no open spaces as avenues, and thus she moves areas that alternate between cramped tunnels and gaping pits; it is overcrowded and chaotic, the noise, heat, and stench of bodies overwhelming, and the surface folk they have taken as slaves are treated worse than livestock.

    Still, she is eventually able to find the arena, and as her comrades fight, she pushes through the press of spectators and sneaks up on the old weapon master, shoving him roughly into the pit. He lands near Kim, who attempts to wrestle her meteor hammer from his fists.

    Krystal then slowly moves to assassinate the morlock guards one by one, slipping from shadow to shadow and dancing back and forth between Hell and Earth.

    When Quincy finally comes to, he struggles to his feet and moves to pick up his rifle and slowly reloads it. When he does, it is not one of the lizard folk he fires upon, but the morlock king Borthas. The shot isn’t lethal, and he is more incensed than hurt, demanding his guards slay the humans for their insolence. The morlocks jump down into the ring and draw their scimitars, although one slips up and is badly hurt in the fall.

    Valentine is subjected to a barrage of thrown debris from the crown, and is dazed when a pewter mug cracks her skull.

    Krystal attempts to drive the Black Flame Blade into Borthas’ back, but his senses are keen and he hears her coming, and whipping around to bash her in the face with his scepter. She retreats, firing a single crossbow bolt which sticks in his voluminous robes. He then takes out his frustration by diving down into the arena himself, intent upon finishing off Valentine.

    Feur engages him in single combat, and eventually proves triumphant even as Kim strangles the life from the weapon master. Quincy slays the remaining lizard folk, and Krystal the morlocks, all the while Anani is healing their injuries with life force stolen from the wounded and dying in a strange blood ritual.

    When Bothras falls, the audience breaks into chaos, running and screaming, as Valentine commands Krystal to remember to take the lizard people’s heads, and Kim makes sure to liberate Bothros’ crown as a valuable historical artifact. The morlock who was injured in the fall exchanges his life for the way out, and he leads them limping through the tunnels, the underground city in turmoil behind them, no doubt rallying a posse to chase them down for murdering their king.

    Moments later they emerge into the light, from a secret passage that even Coraxe is ashamed to say he had no idea existed. They find the alligator man feasting on the lungfish’s roe, and he wishes them farewell.

    The mercenaries make their way north, Kim in tow, and return their rowboat as well as making good on their promise to stop by Balthazar’s local command post and pay their weapon fees; along with the report that Morlocks have been the one’s kidnapping their patrols. They aren’t sure if this is true, but Valentine figures that if the Warlords are on the lookout for morlock raiders, then it will be less likely that they will be able to exact vengeance on her crew.

    They return to Vladispol and are paid the promised six stones of silver, and bear witness to the slain children’s funerals. Kim immerses herself in studying the local culture. She is shocked by Zara’s conveyance, and wonders if the modern world is filled with such marvels. Kim’s companions spend the long ride back to Golgotha catching her up on the last seventy three years.
    Back in Golgotha, Valentine tells them that she is impressed with their first job, and is preparing contracts of long term employment for any who are interested. She then works on cutting them deals for better gear.

    A treaty prevents weapons from being traded openly in Golgotha as an attempt to deescalate the tensions between foreign powers who seek to annex the city, and thus they have to track down the gun runners who operate out of the city’s rundown outskirts. Their leader, a dark elf named Decker, is very impressed by Krystal, having heard about how she stole Trade Prince Valen’s magic sword right out from under his nose, but he knows better than to extend them credit. He shows her how to replace the blade of her rapier, and explains that she will need to do this regularly, for the magic contained within eats the metal away every time it is activated.

    When looking for arcane scrolls to add to their spell books, they are told to seek out Sammy Whin’s caravan. When they find him in the desert, he is riding on the back of a massive tortoise, laden down with odds and ends, shaded by a great parasol with the images of dancing ducks sewn into it. The man himself is desiccated, wrapped head to toe in bandages, he face a smiling mask. In a cheerful voice, he tells Kim that he knows her, although she doesn’t know him, for Master Gboro spoke much of his pupil, a little two-spirit child who could talk to rocks.

    While shopping in the marketplace for medical instruments, Anani looks shocked to see a very tall woman who is wearing sunglasses and a long black ponytail. She asks Valentine who she is, and Valentine tells her that she is pretty sure she is Imperial Intelligence; a spy for the crown. When she asks Anani why she wanted to know, Anani says she merely thought she was very pretty, but Valentine can tell she is holding something back.

    Before Valentine can pursue the matter further, a gilded carriage pulls up next to her, and a man steps out and says that the Lady Abasinia has heard about what she did down in Vladispol, and would like to contract her crew for a special job.


    Overall it went really well.

    Mechanically there were a few issues, but nothing major.
    This was the first time a group has had someone who has good mercantile skills, and it makes purchasing so easy that they will be completely out of things to buy within a few sessions.
    I adjusted skills so that modifiers were smaller and dice mattered more, but as a result it is now a little too easy for a rogue type to simply attack from hiding with impunity.
    The party lacks any big damage dealer, and the first fight against the lung fish took forever as a result, nobody could really get through its armor.

    As usual, bob bitched a bit, but nothing major.

    He did his usual "If X had happened we would have been screwed" which is, afaict, as close as he will come to saying the game was too hard. In this case it was that they would have died if they had fought Coraxe or the Warlord's patrol; but it wasn't quite accurate as both Kim and Valentine ended the mission at basically 100%.

    He didn't like how we made characters independently and I asked them to introduce themselves IC rather than OOC.

    And he said that he hated "cut-scenes" when I had the party captured by morlocks, which is a fair cop, I was laying down the tracks a bit at that point because I was trying to wrap the session up rather than let it happen more organically.

    Yeah, my biggest complaint was how the session went too long. This was a combination of in game and out of game factors, due to a combination of weather and covid we had to change venue at the last minute and got a late start, and the fight against the long fish took way longer than intended.

    But overall, it went pretty well. If every session goes this way, my horror stories are over! Knock on wood! Can't wait to continue it in two weeks!
    Last edited by Talakeal; 2021-09-19 at 03:28 PM.
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Log (1 Week(s) without a horror story!)

    Glad to hear you had a solid start!

    You mentioned a lack of a damage dealer - since this is a mercenary campaign, I imagine it's combat focused, so keep that in mind for certain encounters
    Probably avoid encounters that are meant to be firm damage sponges and hard walls until a bit later down the line. If you're worried, most likely the best course of action would be to let the party develop, if someone looks particularly into using their class for that role, give them a sidequest for a weapon that'd let them better take on the role, etc. Other people can probably give a decent example of how to handle this.
    Of course, for now it's probably better to keep with what you're doing. If the party lacks any sort of tough damage and struggles a bit against bulkier foes, then hopefully one of the party members will try building towards that role. Otherwise it looks okay atm.
    Last edited by Squire Doodad; 2021-08-16 at 12:14 AM.
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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Log (1 Week(s) without a horror story!)

    I take the time to post a nine page, mostly positive story, and get one reply in over a week.

    Not complaining, just mentioning it because people always wonder why I tend to post short summaries of the drama that often leave what details or give an impression that my games are entirely negative.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squire Doodad View Post
    Glad to hear you had a solid start!

    You mentioned a lack of a damage dealer - since this is a mercenary campaign, I imagine it's combat focused, so keep that in mind for certain encounters
    Probably avoid encounters that are meant to be firm damage sponges and hard walls until a bit later down the line. If you're worried, most likely the best course of action would be to let the party develop, if someone looks particularly into using their class for that role, give them a sidequest for a weapon that'd let them better take on the role, etc. Other people can probably give a decent example of how to handle this.
    Of course, for now it's probably better to keep with what you're doing. If the party lacks any sort of tough damage and struggles a bit against bulkier foes, then hopefully one of the party members will try building towards that role. Otherwise it looks okay atm.
    Its mostly just an odd coincidence, nobody in the party has an above average strength score, they all went for speed and accuracy builds. The problem should disappear on its own as they grow into their characters, in the meantime I am just going to use large heavily armored foes sparingly.



    So, we had another session.



    Spoiler: Session 2: June 1113
    Show
    When Valentine next calls the group together, it is with formal contracts of long term employment in hand. She explains that they are no longer a band of cut-throats, but professional mercenaries, and they will be paid a set rate regardless of the outcome of their mission; although there are options for bonuses or penalties based upon outstanding conduct. Further, she will provide their gear from now on; they are strongly discouraged from contributing their personal funds on the mission. While they all sign, only Feur does so enthusiastically; both Anani and Quincy express some reservations over conflicting loyalties, but Valentine reassures them that they will cross that bridge when they come to it.

    Contracts signed, she tells them that their new job is simple; to escort a caravan of goods along a desert highway from the town of Rhybar to the Towers of Tahrr. She hopes the mission will be a good way to get their foot in the door with Lady Abasinia, one of the wealthiest employers in the region. Valentine thinks that she oversold their qualifications, but Krystal has the suspicion that Valentine is the one who is being set up.

    Riding in Zara’s juggernaut they make great time, and it allows for a leisurely pace, with plenty of time for talking, hunting, and fishing along the way, although the barren land doesn’t provide much. They are able to spend a full weekend in Rhybar, getting to know the local culture, and many are relieved to find a town that is slower and less crowded than Golgotha.

    The mining community is ancient, to the point where Kim has trouble putting her finger on the native culture or telling where history ends and myth begins. It was once a dwarven enclave, but long ago incorporated itself in the Imperium. No longer in the endless cycle of booms and busts that most mining towns face in their youth, it has entered into a slow and steady decline, its population mixing. Feur finds that the fabric of reality is thin here; likely a result of the same supernatural phenomenon that once endowed the town with such mineral wealth.

    Unlike Golgotha, Rhybar is firmly in Templar hands, none of the Warlords have felt the need to claim it yet, for the modest loads of copper it still produces are unlikely to replace the losses suffered in its conquest.

    They meet with the man who they have been contracted to protect, a drover named Bale Jerrison; and is introduced to his team, four porters, sixteen mules, and four wagons loaded heavy with dirt. Krystal suspects there is something buried within, but can find no evidence of codes or secret compartments. Kim is able to analyze the dirt with her mystic senses, and finds that it is just ore, and not particularly valuable ore at that, but of an unusual sort, with heavy concentrations of exotic isotopes of rare earth metals. As best as she can figure, it is too be used to catalyze some forging process, but her knowledge of metal-working is lacking.

    The first three days of the journey pass uneventfully, but they are stopped on the edge of the desert by two men on horseback wearing dun colored armor. Quincy can see they have a squad of soldiers backing them up, and meets the gaze of one steely eyed man wearing the robes of a traveling priest who is accompanying them, a pair of chained hounds at his heels.

    The soldiers explain that they are patrolling to borders of what is now Velonius’ territory, and that they have to take a tax from anyone passing through. Valentine pulls out a stack of papers showing the various fees and permits they have from all the local powers, but the men’s faces darken and they tell her that those mean nothing, this is Velonius’ land now, but if they are in league with his rivals they will not be permitted to enter under any circumstances. Kim, seeing where this is going, decides to get the drop on them and lashes out with her meteor hammer. She fails to do much except start a brawl.

    The soldiers move into position and unleash a volley of arrows. Anani takes cover behind the juggernaut and Valentine flits atop it, surveying the battle while lying flat against its roof. Feur is hit by several arrows, and though he is not injured, he is pinned to the cart, and must hastily remove his armor to escape.

    Several of the raiders break ranks and move up to the carts, holding the cowering drivers at sword point as they begin to untie the mules; their likely plan being to strand the goods out here until they can come back for them with a larger force, not realizing how useless the piles of dirt will be to them.

    Quincy mounts his horse and puts some distance between them, and then fires a shot which strikes one of the enemy horsemen solidly in the back of the head, cracking his helmet and leaving the man comatose or dead from the impact.

    Feur moves to defend the cargo, and Krystal slips past him, shrouded by invisibility, making for the back lines. But when she moves past the preacher, his dogs growl and bark at the smell of brimstone, and the assassin has scarce done more than cut a single bowman down before she is struck by a thrown vial of holy water that scorches her flesh like acid as well as dispelling the magical shroud that keeps her hidden from view. She squeaks in surprise and pain and teleports herself behind some nearby rocks.

    Feur is able to knock one of their attackers out cold before the preacher turns his attention to him and expertly slashes the foreign warrior’s thigh with a saber, taking care to strike at the exposed area where the armor has been removed. Anani attempts to steal his life force with her magic, but finds his will is too strong, so she instead takes to firing void bolts at him, one of which decapitates the unconscious man lying near his feet. From her vantage point, Valentine almost thinks that she did this on purpose.

    The preacher pulls out a dueling pistol and fires a shot at Anani, hitting her square in the chest and shattering her armor’s breastplate. Meanwhile, Quincy picks off the hounds, allowing for Krystal to return and stab the priest in the back, which gives Feur time to get into flanking position. The preacher then shields himself with an old weatherworn copy of the Imperial Tao and shouts to Cronus for protection.

    Anani is shaken by the holy words and makes a break for the rocky scree on the far side of the road, while Krystal feels her soul boil and takes cover behind the juggernaut.

    Kim and the remaining horseman go back and forth for a bit, neither his lance nor her lash are well suited for such close quarters combat, but in the end she is able to pull him from his mount and pummel him to death.

    After Valentine assures the survivors of Velonius’ force that retreat is still an option, they cautiously withdraw into the southern desert, leaving the witch-hunter to stand alone, and it is not long before he is dispatched by Feur’s hands.

    Wounds are mended and tools are repaired, and the party soon gets underway again. Feur takes time to carefully study his foe’s holy book, finding it to be passed down through many generations of the Lynch family.

    As they go further south, the land becomes more barren and rocky, and the air grows foul. They are leaving the badlands and entering into the Dead Lands that border upon the wastes. Large square stones, which look natural to most, are seen by Kim and Zara as marking the borders of dwarven territory, and Zara tells her companions that she will not pass, and that they will need to get out of the juggernaut and onto the carts. When questioned about why she refuses to continue, she tells them that the dwarves will not welcome an outsider, but dismisses concerns that the rest of the caravan also falls into that category.

    At sunset of the next day, Quincy warns the group that they are walking into an ambush, and that everyone needs to get on their guard.

    They approach four armored figures standing across the road, rifles drawn, and in a hollow metallic voice one announces “Your cargo is forfeit. Flee, and you will not be pursued.” They immediately open fire.

    Kim responds by clapping her hands together and slamming the walls of the canyon closed about them, badly damaging one and trapping another on the far side, while two are able to scramble toward the group. Kim moves forward to engage them, and discovers that they are the same lifeless homunculus that they found mired in the swamp south of Vladispol.

    Anani and one of the drivers are both shot several times, and she responds by slitting the man’s throat and sucking in his dying breath to stabilize her own wounds.

    At the same time, two groups of living warriors emerge from hiding behind boulders on either side, attempting to flank the caravan. Quincy, who had already planned for this, gets the leftmost group’s attention guides his horse down a side passage, leading them on a prolonged chase and using his superior speed and survivalist skills to pick them off one by one.

    On the other side, Feur is mobbed and quickly overwhelmed. Anani attempts to intervene, sapping his attacker’s life force, but the spell gets out of her control and also target’s Feur himself. Krystal, knowing she needs to move quickly, teleports from her position atop the rocks and appears in midair above Feur’s prone form, quickly lashing out with her blade and inflicting horrible wounds while her enemies are still shocked by her sudden appearance.

    At the same time, a robed figure who had been watching to battle unfold from its own perch atop a rock chimney, unfurls leathery demonic wings and swoops down upon them, moving to get Valentine with its claws. Anani conjures a shade to give her time to escape and the hellion lands upon one of the carts and dispatches the otherworldly entity with blasts of eerie blue hellfire.

    Kim finds that her opponents have incredible strength, crushing her pauldron beneath their vicelike grips, and she casts a spell of protection upon herself, rendering their blows all but useless. They go back and forth for a bit, neither side really able to hurt one another.

    Once Feur is back on his feet and able to rewind the worst of his injuries, Krystal leaves him, driving her blade into the hellion who is resuming his search for Valentine. She attempts to disappear back into the shadows, but finds her head caught in a clawed talon and bloody furroughs are carved into her forehead. The creature bellows in a reverberating screech, commanding its minions to focus upon the cowering angel and the slinking demon.

    Feur and Quincy finish off their foes and return to help Krystal. Anani blesses Quincy’s rifle, and the holy shot pierces the hellion’s chest. It falls to the ground, thrashing wildly, until the demonic essence departs it, leaving it a still human corpse. The infernal spirit departs down a dark and twisted path that only Krystal can see, and she averts her gaze as it beckons her to follow.

    The group then moves to assist Kim, who is growing exhausted attempting to keep the homunculi from drawing guns upon her. Feur slays one by sneaking up behind it and driving his feet into its back while yanking its chin, and Krystal drops from above and slices one nearly in two with the Blackflame Blade. Even as they die, they continue to repeat their message, “Your cargo is forfeit. Flee, and you will not be pursued.” Each of their bodies, as well as those of the soldiers and the formerly demonic officer, bares the gray sigil of Avarus.

    They continue on, and the next day they find themselves escorted by a column of sturdy dwarven troops, flanked by oxen cavalry. Their leader, a young dwarven man with flowing golden hair and a gaudy uniform mounted upon an enormous crimson bull greets them. He introduces himself as Lanniel Brashton, major-general of Tahrr, and hopes that the cargo made it more intact than they did.

    As they approach the Towers of Tahrr, the air is thick and hard to breathe, and the sky grows dark, weak shafts of sunlight barely penetrating the smog. The land is torn apart, filled with quarries and strip mines. The towers themselves are a marvel of the world, even grander than Kim’s memories of Necropolis, hundreds of stories high and held aloft by millions of fluted columns, one half again as tall as the other and connected by a sturdy open air bridge.

    The group tells Lanniel about their journey, and has a million questions for him, although they can barely stand the heat baking off of his bull Tessie. He starts to talk about himself, before telling them that he has to go ask the Thane’s wife for permission to sweep their borders and clear up any more blockades which Livonia might have set up, and instead leaves them in the company of a bespectacled dwarven bureaucrat named Carrock.

    Kim asks him about the small cairns of stones that line the path to the tower, and is told they are the remains of outcasts or vagrants (they are the same word in dwarven) who turned to stone waiting for their kin to apologize for their wrongs and let them back in. Feur is surprised by this, and makes a joke about how humans turn into potatoes when resting in one place for too long. The two laugh across the cultural barrier, and make a game of mocking one another’s accent, getting more pronounced and stereotypical each time.

    Carrock tells them that they are neutral and sell weapons to the Imperium and all of the Warlords, and when Feur asks why people still buy from merchants who supply their hated enemies, Carrock asks what purpose refusing to buy from them would serve except to put them further behind in the war? He tells them that in dwarven they call that shaving your face to spite your arse, which Feur finds uproariously funny.

    Kim is curious about why the dwarves here are so progressive and so very different from those of Rhybar, although she doesn’t find many answers. She learns that their original mountain home was abandoned centuries ago, and that the smaller tower is open to visitors and home to slaves, while the larger houses the dwarves themselves.

    Jarrison is paid for his goods, and in turn pays Valentine for their work, and she distributes pay to her employees, allowing them to shop for fine dwarven goods in the marketplaces of Tahrr, although the adamant weapons and armor that the city is famous for are still beyond their means.

    Unburdened by cargo, the return journey to Golgotha is much faster and less eventful.


    I actually went into this thinking I didn't have enough material prepared, but that turned out to be the opposite of true.

    We had to move the game TWICE, once for covid and once for weather, which took about three hours, meaning the session ran really late again. They also got a bit beaten up in the second fight, so from a mechanical perspective it worked out well. At this point RL logistics is more stressful than anything that happens in the game, as we have people in the group who are concerned about any confined location or one that is near strangers and children, so that's rough.

    Bob is still bitching about the game being "too hard". The party pretty much steamrolled the first encounter, but because Bob took one good hit he insisted that the party was "almost entirely out of resources". I think I am just going to have to learn to drown him out.

    Still worried about wealth, glad that I am getting feedback of how powerful the business skill is, but I am not sure whether to rework haggling in this game, give out less treasure, or simply go along as normal and accept the party has way too much gear.

    Despite the fact that they are rolling in wealth and stockpiling consumables at an alarming rate, they are still bitter about the thought of ever actually using any.

    Also concerned about players using agency in investigation or dialogue. I am working hard to put a lot of flavor into this game and creating detailed settings, cultures, and NPCs, but the players are really reluctant to actually take any initiative in instigating dialogue or investigating / following up with the mysteries and leads they are uncovering. I think I need to figure out how to change my approach.
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Log (1 Week(s) without a horror story!)

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    I take the time to post a nine page, mostly positive story, and get one reply in over a week.

    Not complaining, just mentioning it because people always wonder why I tend to post short summaries of the drama that often leave what details or give an impression that my games are entirely negative.
    I think that's just kind of how most people are in general. People complain about news mostly being negative but as almost anyone in news could tell you, it's also the negative news that most people are interested in. "Pleasant" is nice to experience, but it's kinda boring to hear about (and as horrifying as your "usual" stories are, I can't deny that they're interesting in a messed up sort of way).

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    Eldritch Horror in the Playground Moderator
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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Log (1 Week(s) without a horror story!)

    If you finished with something to talk about or discuss, you might get more replies too. As is, a good story is something to read but it doesn't really fuel discussion.
    Quote Originally Posted by Red Fel, on quest rewards View Post
    "Is a stack of ten pancakes too many pancakes to give to the party, even if most of them fell on the floor and one or two were stepped on? I wanted to give my party pancakes as a reward but I'm unsure if it's too much. The pancakes are also laced with blowfish poison so the party would have to get an antitoxin before they could eat the ones which weren't pulverized by shoes."

    I don't think anyone would want those pancakes even if you paid them to eat them.

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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Log (1 Week(s) without a horror story!)

    Quote Originally Posted by The Glyphstone View Post
    If you finished with something to talk about or discuss, you might get more replies too. As is, a good story is something to read but it doesn't really fuel discussion.
    I know.

    Like I said, I am not surprised or angry, I am just pointing out that long, positive, stories don't generate as much discussion to the people who ask me why I mostly post drama and risk leaving out important context by briefly summarizing rather than writing long walls of text.
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (3 Weeks without a horror story!)

    Kudos Talakeal.
    You’ve obviously put a lot of effort into getting better communications with your group and it’s paying off.

    As for the power of the business skill, I assume that will dry up when the group ventures into areas where there are less opportunities to negotiate/haggle prices. So whilst it’s powerful now in a friendly city, it will be next to useless in the wilds where they’re foraging for resources. I see it as a swings and roundabouts thing, unless the campaign is going to be based mostly in places where the business skill can be exploited.
    Perhaps apply a penalty to the business skill when the players are in unfamiliar locations, as the don’t know local prices and local business customs.

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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (3 Weeks without a horror story!)

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    I take the time to post a nine page, mostly positive story, and get one reply in over a week.

    Not complaining, just mentioning it because people always wonder why I tend to post short summaries of the drama that often leave what details or give an impression that my games are entirely negative.
    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    I know.

    Like I said, I am not surprised or angry, I am just pointing out that long, positive, stories don't generate as much discussion to the people who ask me why I mostly post drama and risk leaving out important context by briefly summarizing rather than writing long walls of text.
    Perhaps you should ask yourself whether what you want is "replies", or "accurate help improving your game". The answer will help determine your optimal strategy.

    (Also, fwiw, I've actually *thought* more about your recent 'wall of text' posts than about most of your horror story / Bizarro World posts.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Also concerned about players using agency in investigation or dialogue. I am working hard to put a lot of flavor into this game and creating detailed settings, cultures, and NPCs, but the players are really reluctant to actually take any initiative in instigating dialogue or investigating / following up with the mysteries and leads they are uncovering. I think I need to figure out how to change my approach.
    If you figure this one out, let me know the answer!

    Oldschool grognards, IME, seem to get it, whereas modern gamers get confused, and ask, "where's the 'engage with the fiction' button? I don't see it on my character sheet.".

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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (3 Weeks without a horror story!)

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    If you figure this one out, let me know the answer!

    Oldschool grognards, IME, seem to get it, whereas modern gamers get confused, and ask, "where's the 'engage with the fiction' button? I don't see it on my character sheet.".
    The feedback I’ve gotten from my optimization goofballs points towards the importance of proper use of emphasis and careful throttling of the fiction flow. Presenting too vibrant a world or too many details leaves players floundering in uncertainty. Those heavily influenced by video games tend to do good with pattern recognition, but will grow frustrated if they are initially given too much data to sift through to arrive at some understanding of expected patterns. In other words if the players aren’t appropriately genre savvy for your table, don’t overwhelm them with inconsequential details. Remind them of patterns they’ve recognized in the past but might have forgotten. Be liberal with informing them what their characters would know about a given facet of society or situation. Comment on the viability of their plans to the extent that their characters would be able to understand.

    The goal is to establish patterns they can trust to reduce the inaction and uncertainty inherent in approaching risky situations where they don’t know the value of the information they’ve been provided. By playing the voice of the PCs’ common sense the players know missteps due to miscommunication will generally be prevented. Moments of obvious risk will be clarified or at the very least heavily implied. Giving the players this consistent, trustable realm of interactions provides a wealth of cause+effect for them to analyze without adversely affecting the parts of your campaign and setting that you want to remain mysterious. Once they’ve built up their pattern recognition on the common examples you provide, they’ll feel more comfortable taking chances on the occasional uncertain interaction.

    Don’t force them to learn dwarf fortress blind. Be their wiki reference and don’t worry much about it, you’re not giving them debug info.
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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (3 Weeks without a horror story!)

    In the past week or so I discovered some of your more recent posts and am very happy to see that this game seems to be going well!

    It sounds like there is a lot more buy-in to the adventure this time around, and I am sure that is helping to keep the flow going. I'm sorry to hear about your RL struggles to find a gaming spot - and I hope that you can find something consistent. I've often found that RL chaos plays one of the biggest roles in the success of a campaign.

    I really like the idea of campaign diaries in general and am looking forward to more of this!

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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (3 Weeks without a horror story!)

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    I take the time to post a nine page, mostly positive story, and get one reply in over a week.
    I know I have said some things along these lines before. I am mostly looking for highlights, because I just want to know for sure they are actually happening. That being said I will try to give it a detailed read, but maybe not for a few days yet.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Oldschool grognards, IME, seem to get it, whereas modern gamers get confused, and ask, "where's the 'engage with the fiction' button? I don't see it on my character sheet.".
    My experience seems to suggest the opposite, although I'm not dealing with real "grognards" so maybe things where going down and are coming back up? And honestly its not so much what you describe as The Problem with Vincent. Which is roughly dealing with the fiction at very surface level, just assuming everything you will do work, not thinking of the setting as a world but just set dressing in which to use your abilities.

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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (3 Weeks without a horror story!)

    Man, xeno-fiction is hard. Its so hard to make species with inhuman mindsets that don't leave them looking like irrational idiots to players, especially when I am using my own human brain to create them.

    I spent a lot of time out of game trying to explain that lizard-folk in my game are a very materialistic culture, sort of like sociopathic Vulcans; who don't understand concepts like superstition or emotion, and only have use for traditions and honor as far as it benefits them; but my players rejected the idea that things that seem rational to the human mind would not be universally rational to any species.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pauly View Post
    As for the power of the business skill, I assume that will dry up when the group ventures into areas where there are less opportunities to negotiate/haggle prices. So whilst it’s powerful now in a friendly city, it will be next to useless in the wilds where they’re foraging for resources. I see it as a swings and roundabouts thing, unless the campaign is going to be based mostly in places where the business skill can be exploited.
    Perhaps apply a penalty to the business skill when the players are in unfamiliar locations, as the don’t know local prices and local business customs.
    That works as a temporary measure, but doesn't really work as a long term solution as this campaign is going to have them returning to their base at the end of most every mission. I think at this point I am just going to have to keep on going and accept that they will have better gear than expected, and maybe retune future balance appropriately. Its just a shame that the players aren't really going to interact with the economic side of the game due to my dumb mistake.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Perhaps you should ask yourself whether what you want is "replies", or "accurate help improving your game". The answer will help determine your optimal strategy.
    Both? I would prefer not to have to choose one or the other, as I enjoy talking on the forum as well as gaming.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Also, fwiw, I've actually *thought* more about your recent 'wall of text' posts than about most of your horror story / Bizarro World posts.
    That's good to hear. Any thoughts worth sharing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Demostheknees View Post
    I really like the idea of campaign diaries in general and am looking forward to more of this!
    I got the idea from Kaveman's posts on here, and kind of regret not having done them all along as I miss not having a detailed record of my earlier campaigns. I am trying to go back and write them retroactively, but so much of the detail has inevitably been lost over time.

    Most make for some pretty dry reading though.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    I know I have said some things along these lines before. I am mostly looking for highlights, because I just want to know for sure they are actually happening. That being said I will try to give it a detailed read, but maybe not for a few days yet.
    Not quite sure what you mean by that. Anything specific I can answer / point out for you?
    Last edited by Talakeal; 2021-09-02 at 01:34 PM.
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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (3 Weeks without a horror story!)

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Man, xeno-fiction is hard. Its so hard to make species with inhuman mindsets that don't leave them looking like irrational idiots to players, especially when I am using my own human brain to create them.
    I have seen some real interesting ones, its actually one of the few topics I would still suggest people go visit Stack Exchange fore. The World Building section does a lot of this kind of stuff.

    Not quite sure what you mean by that. Anything specific I can answer / point out for you?
    Highlights, fun stories. Not just a normal good session, but the best moment from a better than average session. This all got started because when people asked "Why are you still playing with these people?" you always seemed to have very vague answers. And I mean yes a regular good session can still be kind of long and boring to talk about, but there should be some highlights in there right?

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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (3 Weeks without a horror story!)

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post


    That works as a temporary measure, but doesn't really work as a long term solution as this campaign is going to have them returning to their base at the end of most every mission. I think at this point I am just going to have to keep on going and accept that they will have better gear than expected, and maybe retune future balance appropriately. Its just a shame that the players aren't really going to interact with the economic side of the game due to my dumb mistake.
    My experience IRL has been that when you have a group doing the negotiation you should apply the worst discount, not the best. For example I am very white skinned and my wife is brown skinned. When traveling in areas where haggling is the norm such as SE Asia and South America whenever I am present the price doubles or more because the vendor assumes I’m a rich American. My wife makes me disappear if she wants to buy anything at a market. I have plenty of similar experiences negotiating in business too, when the other side is represented by a team you just pick on the weakest link until you get the deal at the price you like.

    So if the party is shopping as a group they don’t get the fantastic bonus.

    Also for items that require any degree of custom fitting such as weapons, armor, magic items then the party member who is going to use it has to be present, thus negating the effect of the business skill. The trope in fantasy is for one size fits all, but reality doesn’t work like that. Also for items the negotiator is unfamiliar with for example magic scrolls, the negotiator can easily get scammed and buy inferior products if the party expert in the field isn’t present.

    Your business expert can still get bargains for generic components and his/her personal equipment, but it isn’t a party wide discount for every item the party wants

    Edit to add:
    Another way to put a brake on the effect of the business skill. The bonus is reduced by the level of fame of the party. Bob the Merchant might knock 50% off the top of something for a struggling bunch of plucky newcomers if it’s been a slow week, but for the mighty and fabulously wealthy Dragonslayers of Doom he’ll want the ticket price thank you very much.
    If the party is equipping an army or building a castle then they’ll still be able to negotiate bulk discounts, but not for their personal equipment.
    Last edited by Pauly; 2021-09-03 at 01:14 AM.

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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (3 Weeks without a horror story!)

    Let's cross fingers, you may have finally found your place
    In memory of Evisceratus: he dreamed of a better world, but he lacked the class levels to make the dream come true.

    Ridiculous monsters you won't take seriously even as they disembowel you

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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (3 Weeks without a horror story!)

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Both? I would prefer not to have to choose one or the other, as I enjoy talking on the forum as well as gaming.



    That's good to hear. Any thoughts worth sharing?



    I got the idea from Kaveman's posts on here, and kind of regret not having done them all along as I miss not having a detailed record of my earlier campaigns. I am trying to go back and write them retroactively, but so much of the detail has inevitably been lost over time.

    Most make for some pretty dry reading though.
    So… I'm… not unlike an Earthdawn Demon (or a Dogma Muse, or Salieri in Amadeus(?)), IMO - I dearly love art, but find myself unable to create it. I decided I wanted to try writing after reading "Dragonlance" novels, if that gives any idea of my "quality" benchmarks. I've tried writing campaign journals, and I've found that… to the extent that I can write, less accurate renditions often would make for better stories. (Word of warning: I'll be subjecting the Playground to such a thing soon, once the dtd40k7e "troubleshooter" party finishes their mission on Hoth). But, yeah, it's quite a sadness how much is lost if you don't write it all down. (Note to self: Invent time machine, install surveillance devices at locations of old games).

    Kaveman's works are great - definitely a good source for what good campaign journal write-ups look like.

    But to get number and accuracy and usefulness of replies? If you want it all, you need people to be invested (which… we've already named your setting "Bizarro World" - I think we kinda are), good, detailed stories (getting that now), and problems to solve (I think). So, if this campaign has any issues, or even anything we see that we think could be better, you might have the perfect recipe.

    So far (I've not read the latest story yet), I'm loving the idea of a Time Monk. Just the very concept screams "yes!" to me.

    Largely watching the balance of the gunslinger, and the reaction to and mechanics of the demon.

    Sad that your party / group doesn't appreciate your "alien mindset" world-building.

    What makes for dry reading?

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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (3 Weeks without a horror story!)

    So we had another session yesterday. I wouldn't say it was a bad session / horror story, but it was disappointing.

    I will post a full write-up sometime this week, but basically the session (again) ran really long, and the players assumed that I put them in a "no win situation" without ever actually telling me this, which resulted in them committing the cardinal rule of gaming and splitting the party, essentially having Krystal solo the entire last act. Of course, she didn't have the ability to complete something designed for a six person party, which meant that the rest of the group spent a long time watching Bob play by himself and ultimately failed the mission.

    Next session is going to be interesting, not sure if they can salvage this one or if the game is going to go in a very new unexpected direction.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    I decided I wanted to try writing after reading "Dragonlance" novels, if that gives any idea of my "quality" benchmarks. I've tried writing campaign journals, and I've found that… to the extent that I can write, less accurate renditions often would make for better stories.
    I actually really like the Dragon-lance novels, so no complaints there. Although admittedly I haven't really been able to get through anything but the core Weiss / Hickman books, most of the spinoffs are pretty bad.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    So far (I've not read the latest story yet), I'm loving the idea of a Time Monk. Just the very concept screams "yes!" to me.
    That character emerged almost completely organically through character creation. It took a bit of work to fit him in, but yeah, I think he came out very well. And I expect a lot more from it in the future, this campaign is probably going to have a very "Dr. Who" vibe as it goes on. I kind of wish it hadn't been delayed by the pandemic, as it is going to seem a lot less original now than it would have when I first came up with it due to people having seen Loki.


    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Sad that your party / group doesn't appreciate your "alien mindset" world-building.
    I am not so sure that they don't, its just really hard for one human to explain to another human how an alien mind works without sounding crazy / stupid.


    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    What makes for dry reading?
    Hard to put my finger on it exactly.

    I would say that its because they are mostly a record of events (and with a lot of combat encounters that just come across as padding) rather than a pre-planned story with all the drama that entails, and they rarely "go into scene" and have in depth dramatic dialogue and character interactions like a traditional novel would.
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (3 Weeks without a horror story!)

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Man, xeno-fiction is hard. Its so hard to make species with inhuman mindsets that don't leave them looking like irrational idiots to players, especially when I am using my own human brain to create them.

    I spent a lot of time out of game trying to explain that lizard-folk in my game are a very materialistic culture, sort of like sociopathic Vulcans; who don't understand concepts like superstition or emotion, and only have use for traditions and honor as far as it benefits them; but my players rejected the idea that things that seem rational to the human mind would not be universally rational to any species.
    Start from what is valued and what constraints an organism or society faces in order to exist in their environment and this is simpler I think. Rational means acting in a way consistent with what you want to happen, not valuing the same things as someone else. When you want to get very alien, make the face that the party interacts with not the same as the thing doing the valuing and the thing ensuring the persistence of the way of being.

    It's not strange that undead will fight to the last because it's their necromancer's will they're carrying out, not their own.

    But also don't automatically take an inability to empathize or value the same things to imply an inability to comprehend those motives. That may be what's making your lizardmen seem irrational, if e.g. even after having it explained to them that humans get angry when someone blasphemes their deities and are willing to kill and die for it, even their diplomats and leaders can't actually take that into account.

    It's like, I don't have the predator instinct of a cougar to attack a running target that I was wary of a few seconds ago, but I can learn that I shouldn't turn my back on a cougar and run away just fine.

    Some of the best stuff in scifi with alien psychology is when they act in a way that seems human until the situation would be beneficial to drop it and violate some very strong human instinct or cultural value, at which point they do so with zero hesitation.

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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (3 Weeks without a horror story!)

    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    But also don't automatically take an inability to empathize or value the same things to imply an inability to comprehend those motives. That may be what's making your lizardmen seem irrational, if e.g. even after having it explained to them that humans get angry when someone blasphemes their deities and are willing to kill and die for it, even their diplomats and leaders can't actually take that into account.

    It's like, I don't have the predator instinct of a cougar to attack a running target that I was wary of a few seconds ago, but I can learn that I shouldn't turn my back on a cougar and run away just fine.

    Some of the best stuff in scifi with alien psychology is when they act in a way that seems human until the situation would be beneficial to drop it and violate some very strong human instinct or cultural value, at which point they do so with zero hesitation.
    The issue wasn’t so much that these particular lizard people didn’t understand that humans would be vengeful as my players insisting that no society that didn’t have a concept of vengeance could ever exist as fear of retribution is the only thing thst keeps people in line.
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (3 Weeks without a horror story!)

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    The issue wasn’t so much that these particular lizard people didn’t understand that humans would be vengeful as my players insisting that no society that didn’t have a concept of vengeance could ever exist as fear of retribution is the only thing thst keeps people in line.
    Aside from being a rather human-centric view on things, it seems like an odd assumption. Especially since something like a justice system isn't (or at least shouldn't be) primarily about vengeance. I mean, a parent reprimanding their child (hopefully) isn't vengeful. Even retribution could exist without vengeance, existing simply to disincentivize a unwanted behavior.

    I generally have a pretty low opinion of humans, but even I don't think fear of retribution is the only thing keeping people in line.

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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (3 Weeks without a horror story!)

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    The issue wasn’t so much that these particular lizard people didn’t understand that humans would be vengeful as my players insisting that no society that didn’t have a concept of vengeance could ever exist as fear of retribution is the only thing thst keeps people in line.
    If you start from values and constraints for survival and derive the absence of vengeance, it would give you lots of good answers to that. So, let me try...

    The main thing here is going to be 'constraints for survival'. We're assuming they're social, and that the point in question is how to prevent the spread of defection in interactions like Tragedy of the Commons or Prisoners Dilemma types of situations where it's easy for one person to extract value for themselves at the cost of others.

    So we could add the constraint that the 'punish defection' family of strategies also has a serious issue along those lines, where using punishment also spirals out of control to destroy collective value. Or we could remove the need to worry about defection at all because the scale of agency is different than what's assumed in those games - e.g., you've really just got the one player (culture, biological instinct, etc) controlling both sides of the table.

    If you have organisms where vengeant acts would be extremely effortless and wide in scope, then tit for tat gameplay might be more destabilizing than stabilizing. For example, something where everyone in a community is biologically dependent on one another in some kind of rigid upstream/downstream way, so anyone can kill anyone else if they're willing to also kill a bunch of others downstream of them just by withholding aid. In that case, vengeance against individuals at least would quickly lead to extinction of entire groups, so its functions would likely get folded into society-level things or ritualized in such a way that necessary stuff happens but individuals in the society don't experience it impulsively or viscerally. So you might have ostracization customs that amount to executions, but those customs might be something like 'each year at least 80% of the society must sacrifice something for you to stay, or you must leave'. Something that uses lots of obligate interdependency and fragility of social roles to prevent defection. This is sort of how cells in the body work - if they don't constantly receive signals from their neighbors telling them to live, they're programmed to die.

    Any hive minds or forced-conformity cultures could similarly not need any kind of punishment-based behavioral regulation. Does one cut off one's own right hand when it fumbles and damages a valuable thing? Of course not. You don't need to suppress defection because individuals already lack the agency to defect. It's not a multiplayer game, just a single player game and the player is the collective. Expect lots of things that prevent individuals from establishing dynasties or indicating ownership in that society - children go to creches and are redistributed randomly to different adults than their parents. Or maybe reproduction is ritualized in a way that you can't know who your child is or who your parent is (easy with egg layers).

    Societies with the ability to produce magically binding promises probably also don't need to use individual or collective punishment to avoid defection strategies.

    And so on...

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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (3 Weeks without a horror story!)

    Ok, so Session 3:

    Spoiler: Session Recap. Content Warning: Slavery, Body Horror, Implied Sexual Violence
    Show
    July 1113

    The group’s next assignment comes from the Immaterium, a religious sect which nobody seems to know much about. The entire group decides to accompany Valentine to the briefing, although Krystal does so be sneaking in after them.

    The Immaterium in Golgotha are based out of The Conquistador’s Dream, a pre-cataclysm health spa that was built in what mainlanders think of as the native Masarian style, with many tiles and water fountains. The walls are lined with thick ropes of jade that give the impression of overgrown vines. It is now used as a hospice, and one can hear the pained moans of the dying reverberating from deeper within.

    Upon entering, there is a bright flash of light and a deep gong, and when the group regains their senses they are surrounded by armored guards in a phalanx formation. A thin monk with a long white tonsure rushes forward and apologizes profusely as he helps Krystal to her feet, he did not see her and didn’t lower the ward in time.

    She does her best to focus her eyes and glower, and the monk escorts them to Father Genaro’s office for their meeting.

    Father Genaro is a large man with a sunburnt face, who sits fanning himself behind a large polished desk. He tells them that Lady Abasinia had good things to say about them, and when she mentioned that their leader was an angel who had bound a demon to her will, well that just sealed the deal.

    He needs them to make another expedition to enter into the outskirts of the wasteland to search for their missing mother superior, Ashley Wulfenkine. She was in the south, proselytizing to the Dandelion People, when she vanished. Last contact was from a letter delivered by a priest of Hermes about six weeks ago, and everything seemed to be going fine.

    Valentine asks what she looked like, and Father Genaro tells her that Ashley was just the cutest little thing, porcelain skin, big blue eyes, long honey blonde hair, like a living doll.

    Kim is distracted by her own memories. She has a vivid recollection of her youth, of one of her first expeditions, being seated on a horse next to a mounted warrior who told her “Don’t think less of them just because they lack steel or stirrups or penicillin. We have lost seven men on this expedition, and yet they have managed to live in these lands for generations, raise families here. We need their knowledge far more than they need ours.”

    They bid Genaro farewell and promise success, and he lays Cronus’ blessings upon them as they depart.

    The group purchases supplies for their journey and debate whether or not they should spend the money to take a train down to Avarus; which will save them several weeks travel. Valentine makes the call that they should instead have Zara drive them, and the next morning they cross the Arc-Line bridge over the Amber Flow and turn south into the wastes.

    The trip is relatively uneventful. It is hot and boring, and they spend most of their days sleeping in the juggernaut.

    When her companions finally approach the territory of the Dandelion People, Kim does her best to guide them, although the land is very different than she remembers; what once were broad plateaus of flowers with crystal clear streams running between them are now broken grey slabs of rock emerging from brackish swamps.

    They find several abandoned campsites, and Zara says that she didn’t realize that they were raiders. Kim corrects her that they are not raiders, merely nomads, and Zara is confused, for she always thought they were the same thing; if one has no land of their own, then by definition they are pillaging other people’s lands each time they move.

    They follow their trail, and come to a camp of perhaps seventy individuals spread across three hundred meters of rocky soil. Most of the people have pastel skin or hair, and Kim explains that they claim descent from ancient flower spirits, taking the name Dandelion because they move about as the wind guides them.

    Their lookouts seem indifferent to the outsiders, and when they ask if anyone knows where the missing priestess is, they are told that Princess Seldeth might, and the guard goes to ask, entering a slightly larger tent and emerging a few minutes later telling them to go in. They ask if the group needs to disarm, and the lookout shrugs, saying that it will be harder for them to fight their way out than it would be to fight their way in.

    The Princess’ tent is slightly larger than the others and filled with incense smoke. It has more than a bit of decoration and various knickknacks, but no more so than any working class family’s home would be within The Empire. Seldeth herself is reclining on a divan, with her long periwinkle hair trailing out behind her and a fluffy purple cat curled up at her side;

    Kim steps forward and does her best to recall the traditional greeting of the Dandelion People, but upon hearing her accent the princess asks if she is from the Imperium. Kim nods, and she is spat upon.

    In broken and heavily accented Terran, Princess Seldeth tells them that they have no use for people from The Empire. The Empire promised them the world; the secrets of steel and the Sleet protection of the Templar, took their seeds and their horses, copied their sacred scrolls, and enticed their children into leaving with them and never returning. Then, when the sky turned to fire and the water to mud, when Balthazar and Apollyon stole their babies, when the orcs ate their livestock, when Livonia tore their sacred sites from the Earth, and when the monsters came from the desert, there were no Templar, no swords, no aid, not even a word.

    Kim explains that they are not with the Empire, they are from the Immaterium, and are looking for Ashley. The Princess dismisses them, saying the Immaterium’s stories of heavenly angels are no different than those the Imperials told of the Templar Knights, fairy stories to trick natives into giving up their valuables without a fight. Valentine scoffs and shuffles her wings, but Seldeth says that her wings are no more proof of the Olympian Host than the few knights who accompanied the Old Empire’s diplomats.

    Still, if they are seeking the priests she will not stop them. She suspects they were with the people of River Camp when the Omukade took them.

    The mercenaries ask what the Omukade were, remembering that Klarr had listed them potential slave buyers two months prior. Princess Seldeth tells them that they are like big men with too many legs; they come out of the Wasteland and steal her people.

    “Centaurs?” asks Anani, but she is told that the Omukade have far more legs than that.

    When asked what they do with the people they take, Seldeth says that the Omukade bite off the men’s genitals and fill the women’s bellies with poison.

    She says that Ashley is probably already dead, but if they want to go after her, the creatures come from the blackened volcanic mountains that lie four days south east.

    Thanking their hosts, the group returns to the juggernaut and tells Zara to floor it.

    The next day makes for rough travel, the ground is too uneven and rocky, and many times they need to double back. Upon entering the mountains, they are caught in an ash storm, unable to see anything more than a few yards ahead of them except for the jagged bolts of lightning that dance among the clouds, and Zara tells them that they can’t go any further in the gloom.

    They spend the night in the rocking vehicle, listening to the screaming wind, booming thunder, and stranger sounds coming from the waste. The storm finally settles down sometime in the small hours of the morning, and when the group finally wakes in the pre-dawn light they find the juggernaut half buried in ash.

    Zara, Quincy, and Krystal move forward to scout and they discover that they made a good call to stop when they did, they are a scant few hundred meters from a jagged cliff face, at the bottom of which rests an ancient city.

    In the dim light, all they can see are the shapes of adobe buildings and stone pyramids, with small fires being lit one by one. As the sun rises, they can eventually make out three sorts of things inhabiting the city, humanoids who are working hard to sweep up the ash, strange creatures that walk like men but with long wormlike necks and insectile heads, and what appear to be the ruling class with the torsos of large men and woman and the lower bodies of ten meter centipedes. They also have large beasts of burden, several species unknown to the northerners.

    Quincy thinks they are some sort of Hengeyokai, but had no idea that there were those who took the form of invertebrates.

    On the far side of the canyon, and presumably under their own feet as well, are numerous ziggurats built hanging upside down from the chasm walls. Zara is unsettled by them, saying they combine all of the worst features of a tower and a mineshaft, and proclaims that they were right under their beards the whole time.

    They return and report their findings. After much deliberation, Valentine decides that Krystal is the only one who has a chance of traversing the Cliffside, let alone wandering the city undetected, and plans to send her in alone.

    Feur performs two rituals of synchronicity, the first fating Krystal to find Ashley at the most opportune moment within the next six hours, and another to fate himself to aid Krystal at the moment when she gets in over her head.

    Kim wants nothing more than to go and explore this strange city, but instead calms herself; she chips off a piece of the rock face above them and carves strange runes into it. She tells Krystal to give it to Ashley and have her read the runes while seated on a large rock and looking at the cliff face, and it will open up a conduit through the Plane of Earth to transport her back to them.

    Krystal departs, and her companions alternate between digging out the carriage and spying upon those who dwell beneath them.

    Krystal doubts she can climb down the cliffs, and knows she can’t climb back up, she doubts anyone with a human shape could. Instead she finds a break in the cliff and plans a route where she can jump from stable ledge to stable ledge using her infernal powers.

    The devil girl descends into the town, cloaked by her magic and never leaving the shadows, and moves into the marketplace which appears to serve as the town center. There, she infiltrates a large slave market, where she witnesses a litany of horrors, watches slaves being ritually mutilated, castrated, and trepanned, with strange toxins poured directly onto their brains. She has no idea what is happening, but guesses they are somehow altering their hormones to make them more compliant or capable of performing their roles.

    She searches the cages, pens, and cells that house prisoners of varying qualities, but doesn’t see any who match Ashley’s description or wear the trappings of the Immaterium. Krystal ambushes a slave who is serving as an errand boy, dragging him into an alley and telling the cowering child that if he answers her questions she will let him live.

    She asks where the captives from the Immaterium are, and is told that all of the priests were purchased by Lord Slurrgash. He says he lives in the square estate with the pointed corners, and gestures to the southwest. Krystal tells him that if he is lying she will be back and knocks him to the ground with the butt of her sword. There he lies cowering, terrified and indecisive.

    She moves on to what she thinks is the correct estate, a squat single floor building with a hooked guard tower in each corner. A centipede headed sentinel stands in each tower, and a massively fat human slave stands in the way of the main door. Krystal slips into the Hellscape and walks past, and into the dimly lit manor.

    Inside, she finds numerous side rooms, each containing a small child with the legs of a white worm weaving elaborate tapestries, and a wretched human priestess perpetually walks among them, croaking out blessings of Persephone through cracked lips. In the center is an enormous centipede bodied man weaving together fabrics in some sort of advanced process Krystal doesn’t understand while slaves play oddly discordant instruments.

    In a subterranean cell, Krystal finds another priestess. Her hands and feet have been mangled, her face scarred, and her belly is grossly distended. Krystal asks if she knows where Ashley is, and the woman mistakes her for Hermes and asks if she has come to guide her to the Underworld. Krystal says no, but she was sent by Genaro.

    The woman doesn’t know where most of the captives were taken, they were split up shortly after arriving in this hellish place. The twin priests of Ares; Korwen and Kelwen, were taken to the barracks, while most of the women were used as breeding stock. The others didn’t survive the birthing, but in the month she has been here she has already produced two litters of Slurrgash’s spawn. She knows where Ashley is, but asks Krystal to kill her in exchange for the information. Krystal agrees, and learns that the mother superior was taken to a large ziggurat in the cliff’s shadow.

    Krystal slays the woman; she doesn’t know how to make it painless, but can make it quick. She then plunges her glowing blade into the ex-priestess’ twitching belly.

    As she moves towards the pyramid, she finds the movements of her jaunts through the other world strangely bent towards it, as if the structure was somehow growing into Hell, being much larger in those dimensions than it is in the physical or spiritual realms.

    As Krystal climbs the steps, she spies three guards above her. All of the noble, centipede legged, variety and wielding odd polearms with fan shaped blades at either end, very different from the broad chopping swords of the soldier caste. One of them is mounted in a howdah upon a large, squat creature with thick olive green skin, with long ears, a flat face, and a huge mouth ringed by a plated red beard. She thinks it might be a hippopotamus, but is unsure, never having seen one in person.

    As she draws close the creature snorts and stamps, and the guardian’s antennas twitch. One of them asks “Are you the Pumpkin Man?”

    Krystal is silent, and then the guard shouts “Answer me demon!”

    Krystal responds that she is not the pumpkin man, but that the ziggurat calls to her and she has business within. The guardian responds that his job is to make sure none but the pumpkin man enters.

    They go back and forth for a while, Krystal attempting to imitate Valentine’s tricks and talk herself inside, and she plays many word games and strategies.

    Over the course of the conversation she learns:

    -The guardians have had dealings with demons, and believe her a trickster imp.

    -They are of a caste consisting of religious guards who have not yet learned their gender.

    -The Omukade are spawning too fast for this canyon, and they hope to soon have the power to burst forth.

    -Their ultimate goal is to spread their bloodline to all the peoples of Pangaea.

    -Ashley and this ziggurat play some sort of very important role in the plan, but they are unsure what.

    -They are pure blooded, while the centipede headed half castes are created by mixing their blood with that of the slaves.

    -They fear dwarves more than humans

    -His mount is called a buraq. They are considered a gift from the gods. They were once plentiful, but not so anymore.

    -The “serpent flesh” in their food is making them strange, and they are afraid that if do not escape the Wasteland soon they may no longer be themselves when the accomplish their goals.


    Ultimately, tired of Krystal’s word games, they tell a slave messenger to go to an ale house and fetch a priest and a lawyer. When he returns, it is with a ritually scarred and tattooed human whose eyelids have been removes and a centipede-person whose skin is bright crimson and whose antennas take the shape of a bull’s horns.

    The man apologizes and says that he sees no spirit, and Krystal laughs. She then teleports forward, still merely a shimmer in the air do to her protective shroud, and wraps her hand around the priest’s throat. “What mortal conjurer could teleport as many times in a day as do I?”

    The priest stammers, and then a chilling voice answers “It depends on the route. If they took care to follow the same path as the world, they could move forever in a cursed day that never ends.”

    Krystal asks who is there, and the voice apologizes for not showing itself. Then there is a sensation of velvet sheets being pulled away and standing in their midst is a towering figure, with a shaggy body, long lanky limbs ending in hooked claws, and with a burning jack o’ lantern for a head.

    “The Pumpkin Man I presume?” Krystal asks, and the demonic creature responds that this isn’t his name, but closes enough.

    She asks why he is here, and the monster tells her that he is merely fulfilling a contract on behalf of his master who dwells far away. She asks what he contracted to do, and the creature says he won’t tell her. She says she will answer a question of his in turn, and the pumpkin man agrees.

    “A mortal priestess has become lost in the Labyrinth, and I am to use my powers to assist in recovering her.”

    Krystal nods and asks for his question, and he tells her that he will wait to cash in that chip when he needs it. He then bows and departs, three strides from his freakishly long legs taking him into the Ziggurat’s cap.

    The crimson skinned lawyer says that this was the shortest contract he has ever seen, and remarks that Krystal is either really good at negotiation or really bad at it. He then departs with the priest.

    Krystal again tries talking to the guard, insinuating that demons only do things that benefit them, and says that the Pumpkin Man might be trying to sabotage them. She is able to convince one of the guards to check if everything is ok, and when that guard doesn’t return, she asks to go in to check on that guard, and is rebuffed, the Omukade guardians saying that they are not simple ogres to be bluffed so easily.

    When their compatriot returns, it is with a long purple gash across her torso and she tells them that the poisoner did not appreciate being disturbed, and that she will pay them back later.

    Krystal again tries to convince them that they are being set up, and asks if she can go in to make sure everything is ok, even if it is with an escort.

    The guards, probably as much out of boredom and frustration as any genuine belief, tell Krystal to reveal herself, and she does. They quickly search her, and tell her that if she leaves her blades and lock-picks behind they will escort her inside, and she refuses, telling them that the sword does not leave her side, and where it goes she follows. She then teleports past them and makes a break for the entry passage, the guards close behind, although it is a narrow fit for them, the halls were not made for someone of superhuman stature.

    There are numerous patrolling sentries within, and Krystal leads them on a chase for several tense minutes, their javelins clattering to the floor behind her. When she thinks she has lost them, she picks the lock of a side room and sees a victim, not the one she was looking for, chained to the wall and awaiting sacrifice. It isn’t who she came for, and Krystal leaves the woman to her fate.

    She wanders the halls, always cloaked in shadow and a few steps in front of her guards, opening doors and always finding the wrong room.

    Meanwhile, her companions see the commotion below; see numerous soldiers approaching the pyramid and climbing its sides. Feur calms his nerves and trusts to fate.

    Krystal turns left and is spotted; she cuts the sentry’s antenna off and turns to run, but is surrounded and bitten, she feels her body begin to shut down from their venom, and she meekly surrenders.

    Feur rewinds the threads of time, and Krystal instead turned right, narrowly evading the patrol.

    She opens another door, and finds Ashley inside; curled up on a table, her body in a deep coma. A smaller centipede man stands over her, sticking a dizzying array of poisoned needles into her body in a perverse mockery of acupuncture.

    Krystal sneaks up behind him and impales the creature with the Black Flame blade, a horrific injury that nearly cuts him in two and will almost certainly prove fatal in time. But his will is strong and he fights off the magic of the blade, and has the strength left to scream and throw a bottle of burning chemicals into Krystal’s face.

    She shrieks in turn, and leaps blindly into the otherworld. She normally refrains from using her teleportation powers when she can’t see her destination, but she has no choice. She lies on the darkened planks of the floor in an unknown cell, and listens to the commotion outside.

    She does her best to wipe her face, and when the pain becomes tolerable and she can somewhat see, she leans out and sees the poisoner’s room now heavily guarded, and she realizes this is a lost cause.

    She transports herself straight up, onto the ziggurat’s terraced roof, and though she is blinded by the morning sun in her damaged eyes, she is just able to slip past the sentinels who are climbing up after her and trace her way back to the path up the canyon’s edge.

    As Anani tries to neutralize the toxic chemicals, she tells them what happened. Kim curses; if Ashley was comatose the plan never could have worked to begin with.

    Valentine is ready to call this a loss, and is already practicing her story about how the missionaries were eaten by mutant beasts come out of the Wasteland and there was nothing to recover except for a few scraps of cloth and fragments of bone, when Feur calmly states that he might just have a plan.


    So, first off, we really need better time management, our games are running later yet we are doing less than in any previous group, not quite sure why.

    Second, its frustrating. The players are basically in a no win situation here, and its going to be a real long shot to salvage it. I don't mind failure, but man, failing this particular mission is going to drastically alter the trajectory of the campaign into unknown territory.

    I knew their plan to send Krystal in alone was extremely unlikely to work, but I didn't feel like I could say anything without breaking the fourth wall; maybe I should have. Like, I balance the game for six people, yet the players are assuming I have put them into a situation where 5 of them are forced to just sit out while one person solos the entire session? Frustrating.

    Also, at one point I was banging my head against the table after the briefing with father Genaro. He asked if they had any questions, nobody did, and Bob even made a point of saying OOC that there is never a point to trying to ask a question of an NPC as you will never ask the right question and only end up more confused. But then ten minutes later they were asking one another very basic straightforward questions about the mission that would have been really important to ask the NPC and to which they would have gotten a straightforward useful answer; like "Does anyone remember if he said how many people were with her?"
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

  23. - Top - End - #23
    Eldritch Horror in the Playground Moderator
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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (3 Weeks without a horror story!)

    I feel like it offers a key insight into your players RL psychology when they insist that fear of retribution is the only thing that could possibly keep someone from misbehaving. In the confines of an RPG, there can be no genuine retribution, thus there is no reason why they should not act out as much as they want to.
    Quote Originally Posted by Red Fel, on quest rewards View Post
    "Is a stack of ten pancakes too many pancakes to give to the party, even if most of them fell on the floor and one or two were stepped on? I wanted to give my party pancakes as a reward but I'm unsure if it's too much. The pancakes are also laced with blowfish poison so the party would have to get an antitoxin before they could eat the ones which weren't pulverized by shoes."

    I don't think anyone would want those pancakes even if you paid them to eat them.

  24. - Top - End - #24
    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (3 Weeks without a horror story!)

    Talakeal,

    One of the issue seems to me to be one of ego validation. Your players want to be proven right and are taking steps to ensure they are proven right. One of your players in particular thinks you are an unfair railroady type GM. He wants to show other players that you are andin doing so ends up sabotaging the game. He isn't trying to sabotage the game, but that is the side effect if proving himself right.

    Now if he’s doing that in character inside the game there is a different set of remedies, but when he is making OOC comments to the players that effect the game then there are several ways to handle it.
    1) Call a time out and address the OOC issue OOC. I don’t recommend this but it may be necessary for something truly game breaking.
    2) When Bob says something like there is never a point to trying to ask a question of an NPC as you will never ask the right question and only end up more confuse then get every other member of the party to make a wisdom (or charisma or whatever you think is appropriate) check. For the players that succeed pass them a note to the effect that “You feel this NPC has some valuable information if you ask some more questions”.
    Make sure the player returns the note to you, never leave anything like that lying around.
    3) If the players come up with a plan that is truly stupid and game breaking like splitting the party and trying to solo a 6 person quest then feel free to send a player or two a premonition, an omen, a psychic dream, a message from their god to the effect of “I’ve got a bad feeling about this”. Part of your role of DM is to prevent disaster. Maybe because of previous criticism that you railroad players you are giving them freedom. Now if the disaster is happening because the characters are making bad decisions inside the game then you can let the chips fall where they may, but if they’re making bad decisions in game because of OOC behavior of one of the players then it’s OK to give the characters a little in game guidance.

    Generally speaking players will sabotage your game inadvertently all the time for many different reasons. As a GM you don’t have to let that happen. Just try to distinguish between a player issue (OOC commentry, meta gaming etc) and a character issue (but that’s what my character would do). You have to respond to these differently.

  25. - Top - End - #25
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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (3 Weeks without a horror story!)

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    They return and report their findings. After much deliberation, Valentine decides that Krystal is the only one who has a chance of traversing the Cliffside, let alone wandering the city undetected, and plans to send her in alone.

    ...

    Krystal doubts she can climb down the cliffs, and knows she can’t climb back up, she doubts anyone with a human shape could. Instead she finds a break in the cliff and plans a route where she can jump from stable ledge to stable ledge using her infernal powers.

    The devil girl descends into the town, cloaked by her magic and never leaving the shadows
    So this I wonder about. Was Valentine wrong? Because it sounds like Krystal did require her teleportation and stealth powers to even get as far as she did. Was there an alternate path which the entire group could have taken?
    Last edited by icefractal; 2021-09-12 at 04:08 AM.

  26. - Top - End - #26
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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (3 Weeks without a horror story!)

    Quote Originally Posted by Pauly View Post
    Make sure the player returns the note to you, never leave anything like that lying around.
    3) If the players come up with a plan that is truly stupid and game breaking like splitting the party and trying to solo a 6 person quest then feel free to send a player or two a premonition, an omen, a psychic dream, a message from their god to the effect of “I’ve got a bad feeling about this”. Part of your role of DM is to prevent disaster. Maybe because of previous criticism that you railroad players you are giving them freedom. Now if the disaster is happening because the characters are making bad decisions inside the game then you can let the chips fall where they may, but if they’re making bad decisions in game because of OOC behavior of one of the players then it’s OK to give the characters a little in game guidance.
    I just feel like I am caught between a rock and a hard place here.

    If I give them enough rope to hang themselves; I am seen as a killer DM. If I try and tell them not to do something, I am seen as railroading.

    Its very hard to find the right path.

    Quote Originally Posted by icefractal View Post
    So this I wonder about. Was Valentine wrong? Because it sounds like Krystal did require her teleportation and stealth powers to even get as far as she did. Was there an alternate path which the entire group could have taken?
    Valentine has wings and bluffing skills, Kim has the ability to reshape earth, and Anani has illusion powers. Feur and Quincy are also pretty agile and athletic. Between the group I didn't expect them to have any problems getting to the bottom of the canyon and infiltrating the city in a variety of ways; if they wanted to go the more direct route they could have simply sent in a scout (or used some form of divination) to find the temple where she was being held, drive the juggernaut into the city through the canyon's mouth, and done a smash and grab before the defenders could really mount a defense.
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

  27. - Top - End - #27
    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (3 Weeks without a horror story!)

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    I just feel like I am caught between a rock and a hard place here.

    If I give them enough rope to hang themselves; I am seen as a killer DM. If I try and tell them not to do something, I am seen as railroading.

    Its very hard to find the right path.
    .
    I know it’s easier said than done. When I GM I try to make a distinction between player errors and character errors.
    If a player makes an error through forgetting something the character would know, or makes an error through meta-gaming/bringing outside knowledge into the game then I’m happy to try to nudge the character back into the boundaries of the game.
    If the character makes the mistake, then I’m happy to let the character bear the consequences of their actions.

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    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (1 Day without a horror story!)

    Well, we finished the adventure.

    I have to say, we are back in the swing of things. And I do not mean that in a good way.
    Spoiler: Session 3 Part Two
    Show

    Feur asks Krystal to tell him everything that happens, ignoring her insistence that they get as far away as possible, before the Omikudae can marshal their forces to scour the region for the invaders.

    Feur then tells the group that he is going to try one last desperate gambit, and that they need to protect him as long as possible so that he can make everything all right. He begins a ritual within the juggernaut, even as enemy forces come over the canyon walls.

    The group does their best to hold them off, and when the ritual completes Feur is gone, leaving his allies to be overwhelmed by the centipede people until they are consumed by darkness.

    Feur then rewinds himself to dawn, and candidly explains the situations to his incredulous allies. He is an honest sort, and tells everything how it is. When he mentions Krystal’s bargain with the Pumpkin Head, he tells her that she is still bound to it, and she tells him that she has no intention of honoring a deal she never made.

    In light of the new information, they decide to maneuver the juggernaut down from the mountains and park it in the flatlands where they can approach the mountain cleft openly, but far enough away that it is out of sight.

    As they trudge through the ash wastes, they are stalked by a pack of creatures that resemble a cross between diseased rats and large wolves. Quincy shoots one, hoping to scare the others off, but instead they charge. Kim stands between them and the group and is knocked to the ground for her trouble, but her companions are able to make short work of the beasts.

    They cannot identify them, although they remind Kim of the Mogdug, scavengers of the underworld that she remembers from stories of the Aesir she heard as a child. Judging by their malnourished and scabarous bodies, they look to have long since resorted to cannibalizing the smaller members of their own pack, which explains why they were so desperate to attack armed travelers.

    As they approach the city, Kim, Fuer, and Anani are bound together in loose chains. She keeps Quincy armed, saying that they still need to look like it would be more trouble than it was worth to simply enslave her in turn.

    They are stopped by a worm-headed patrol who asks their business in the Triumvirate’s lands, and Valentine says she is here to sell her slaves in the market and that Quincy is her guard. The creature is able to smell Krystal, and at first Valentine tries to feign ignorance before admitting she has a demonic advisor.

    They are allowed entrance into the city and make straight for the ziggurat where Ashley was being held.

    Kim realizes that the city in mountain cleft is not of the same architectural style as the ziggurats on the canyon walls. It was built by human hands, and she thinks it was an outpost of Casmir, a kingdom that was once a great power in the south, renowned for its art and warrior poets, before falling under the sway of a vampire queen.
    They were allied with the Black King, and after his fall, the city of Casmir was sacked by the people of the nation of Kassandra whom they had long oppressed.

    Several of her companions are unfamiliar with the story of the Black King, and Kim explains that he was the lord of all the undead who nearly conquered the world before being destroyed by Imperial Templar five hundred years ago.

    Likewise, when they approach the ziggurat, Kim realizes that it is actually the top of a pyramid, half buried in ash and with the covering stones worn away by time and harsh weather.

    They boldly stride forward and Valentine insists to the guards that the Poisoner sent for them. History repeats itself, as when they send one of their number in to check she returns with a long purple gash across her torso, punishment for disturbing the Poisoner.

    Valentine charges her, while Quincy shoots her companion and their allies throw off their chains.

    They have the element of surprise, and Feur casts a haste spell to allow them to charge up the steps with great rapidity.

    Krystal transports herself onto the Buraq’s back and slays its rider, while Kim, who has magically warded herself from blades, gets the beast’s attention and is scooped up into its cavernous jaws.

    Anani, strangely, casts a spell which unmakes one of the ziggurat’s steps. She also senses a malefic presence in the air and catalogues the spirit’s Ren.

    Valentine flits about the head of her foe, forcing the centipede creature to rear up to reach her, but failing to strike true time and again.

    The sound of Quincy’s rifle attracts reinforcements, and he is soon overwhelmed at the base of the pyramid.

    Feur doubles back to help him make his escape, but Quincy stumbles and falls into the gap in the steps created by Anani, and Feur is soon bitten several times, and though he is able to purge the poison from his system, he is still gravely wounded.

    Anani creates a shadow gate between the darkened chasm and the door at the top of the stairs, and she and Feur step through it to bypass the Buraq and the surviving guardian. Kim casts a spell of fortification upon herself, slides free of the Buraq’s jaws, and scrambles up the side of the pyramid after them. She then commands the gate to seal itself behind them, and the walls seamlessly slide together, trapping the Buraq outside along with the rising tide of reinforcements.

    Feur collpases, and they don’t know where Quincy is.

    The four bipedal guards inside of the pyramid are soon taken down Kim, Krystal, and the shade, and even Anani is able to bludgeon one into unconsciousness with her staff.

    Krystal then makes for the room where she though Ashley was being held based on the description that Feur repeated back to her, but finds it empty.

    Then a magical gateway opens in the pyramid’s side, likely the work of the Pumpkin Man.

    Down their best fighters, Valentine knows they will soon be overwhelmed, and surrenders.

    She is taken, along with Anani and Kim, from the pyramid. Krystal is overlooked and Feur is left for dead.

    They are brought to an office and interrogated by some sort of agent of the Triumvirate, a woman with the body of a long venomous worm.

    They tell the truth, mostly, although when threatened to reveal their accomplices, she does attempt to implicate her old enemy Valen. They plead that they are just mercenaries with no loyalty to the Immaterium, and will gladly fight on behalf of the Omukudae to pay off their blood debt. The interrogator doesn’t seem to buy it, but before she comes to a solid conclusion the ground begins to shake, and she leaves to find the source of the commotion.

    Meanwhile, Quincy has been stumbling around in the dark for several hours. Lacking a match, he wandered the darkened halls beneath the pyramid, and found himself in a chamber filled with what he assumed were terracotta warriors. Thousands, perhaps tens or hundreds of thousands, of armored humanoid figures standing in ranks, still in the darkness. And then, their eyes began to glow like soft orange candles, and he could see that they were skeletal men wearing ancient rusted armor.

    Then the pyramid began to rise from the earth, shaking of centuries of ash, and exposing its lower layers, and the skeletal legion began to march outward into the city, slaying any they came across. At the pyramid’s apex was a human woman clad in armor of frozen bone, a blinding corona of magical energy about her, as she surveyed the city with eyes that burned with blue light.

    Krystal snuck into her teammate’s cell and freed them in the chaos, and when they emerged they saw the massacre of the centipede people and their slaves in the street below, as well as greenish gas oozing down the streets and alleyways that reanimated the dead and compelled them to join in with the legion.

    Kim looks down at the apocalyptic scene, and wonders if the Omukadae Poisoner failed in whatever it was trying to do. Or perhaps, she wonders, if it simply succeeded too well. Could it have been betrayal on his part or on that of the pumpkin demon?

    She doesn’t have much time to ponder, for the building they are in will soon be surrounded by the walking dead.

    They flee, but notice Anani is not following. Instead, she whispers to herself “She will never be able to survive this. It is over.” And then black smoke pours from her eyes and her shadow grows so large that it blocks out the sun, causing night to fall over the mountains. And then, throughout the city, black fires start, consuming the buildings and mountains, the living and the undead.

    Kim flees from this apocalyptic horror, but soon finds herself caught in a dead end, surrounded by a mass of crawling disfigured flesh. Then, there are several gunshots, and she is hauled to her feet by a man who identifies himself as Nathaniel Bloodbourne. He is one of about a dozen men and women clad in ornate but battle worn black armor with crimson highlights who are battling the undead and clearing debris. She starts to ask questions, but all he can say is that they are here to rescue who they can, and escort her from the city and out into the ashen desert before departing.

    It grows so dark that she can see nothing beyond her feet, and she trudges through the ash; for how long she doesn’t know. But eventually she loses consciousness.


    In the pre-dawn light, Zara’s juggernaut is moving swiftly through the desert. Her mercenary clients, Velentine, Krystal, Quincy, Anani, and Feur sleep in the back. She spies a figure collapsed on the side of the road, and asks Valentine if she should stop. The half-angel thinks for a second and nods.

    The sudden stop jostles them and sends Feur and Krystal spilling onto the floor but does not wake them, both are notoriously deep sleepers.

    They drag the redheaded woman onto the juggernaut and lay her on the workbench in the back. Anani says she is in bad shape; several days exposure without food or drink, been chewed up by some large creature, and several poisonous insect bites, but she is tough and will likely survive.

    After being given water, Kim comes to her senses, and is overjoyed to see that all of her companions made it out alive, but is puzzled to find that none of them recognize her.

    She babbles about her experiences, and even shows them her journal to verify that she isn’t just making it up. Valentine plays along trying to get more information out of her, while Krystal suspects she is one of Valen’s assassins, for that is the only way she could know so much.

    Valentine orders Zara to return to the cleft in the mountains where the Omokudae city once stood and Kim is horrified and protests, but is ignored. Once they are within sight of it, they see that it is as Kim described, but without any sign of an undead apocalypse or unnatural firestorm.

    Valentine and Quincy go off to investigate, and she tells Feur to make sure Kim and Krystal don’t kill one another while she is gone.

    While they wait, they compare histories, and find them to be remarkably similar; although Feur and Anani insist that they never found anyone buried beneath the nameless city. Likewise, they couldn’t find the Dandelion People, and have spent the past few days wandering the desert looking for any clues as to the whereabouts of the missing missionaries.

    Feur gets an idea, and decides to read from the scroll of aeons and scan Kim for temporal anomalies, and finds that she appears to be flotsam that is somehow left over from an alternate timeline that has since collapsed. It’s extremely unusual, but not completely unheard of.

    Valentine and Quincy return with a cloth wrapped bundle. She explains that they got here too late, that Ashley died under interrogation, but she was able to purchase the body. Kim wants to look inside, but is shooed away and told that it will start to stink, and Feur performs a minor ritual to stave off rot and preserve the body until they are home.

    The group returns to Golgotha, and Kim does her best to catchup with those she thought were her friends and to gain some measure of Krystal’s trust.

    Anani tries to commune with her god about the whole thing, but finds it strangely silent.

    Back in Golgotha, they return to the Immaterium. Father Genero is saddened by their failure, but thanks them for their tenacity in bringing back what they could. Kim smiles sadly and tells him that he has no idea.

    Father Genero talks about how disappointed he is that it turned out this way. Ashley had a bright future in front of her, that she might have even been the next Deacon after Zoltan stepped down. She was a troubled child, full of all sorts of demons and hoodoo, but through years of therapy and faith they were able to transform her into a righteous young woman.

    Velentine ask more about what the Immaterium does, and are told that they take in lost souls, witches and those possessed by demons, and guide them into the light. Anani asks if they are exorcists and is told they are not; and Kim says that surely they don’t attempt to bind demons to their will, and Father Genaro merely gives her a conspiratorial smile.

    Father Genero reimburses them for their time and their expenses, but does pay out the promised reward. He does tell them that he will keep their name in mind for future missions if they are looking for a second chance to prove themselves. He asks what their company calls themselves, and they all shrug. The priest says that they should come up with one; it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out something catchy with the gimmick of an angel and a devil working together to lead them.

    Valentine takes Kim to meet Tatters, who likewise has no memory of her. Kim thanks her, saying that if it wasn’t for her guidance, she would still be buried in stone. Valentine prods Kim to tell her story, and Tatters says that she knows of Kim’s mysterious rescuers garbed in Red and Black, although she didn’t get their names.

    When her house collapsed in the battle between the city’s defenders and Lady Umbriel last year, the same warriors pulled her from the rubble and escorted her away from the fighting to sanctuary in the old cathedral.

    Upon hearing the name Umbriel, Feur perks up and asks Tatters for more information about the attack. She doesn’t know much, but suggests that the local Templar might.


    Well, so this follows the old pattern of bad sessions to a tea.

    1: The players approach a fight with a gimmick without any thought and bash their heads against it.
    2: The dice get cold and the players get in over their heads.
    3: The players get frustrated and decide to suicide their characters rather than changing tactics or falling back.
    4: The players insist the mission was impossible.
    5: I get defensive and start listing out tactical mistakes the player's made that could have changed the outcome.
    6: The players think I am calling them dumb and get mad.
    7: We start gas-lighting one another and then the screaming starts.
    8: The players calm down and admit it wasn't impossible, but still insist it was not "balanced".

    Now, in this case it felt really bad because this was their second attempt at the mission. Honestly, I can see why they sent Kyrstal in alone, this scenario kind of requires a mixed approach where one or more PCs create a diversion while one or more PCs infiltrate the pyramid, and turning it into a straight fight against the entire city guard didn't work out any better.

    At this point I really want to try having one of them run the scenario for me so that I can show them how its not impossible, but I am sure that will only come across as rubbing salt in their wounds.

    The odd thing was that it was actually Quincy's player Johnny who got mad rather than Bob, although that kind of makes sense as Krystal didn't get a scratch the whole session while Quincy was the one who was beaten up and sidelined first. I still maintain that he could have avoided this by not standing alone a hundred paces behind the rest of the party in hostile territory or by buying some mundane gear like rope or a match, but I can see why it was frustrating.

    What got the argument really heated was him insisting that he was surrounded on the first turn. My recollection was that the party got a surprise round, won initiative, get a bonus turn due to Feur's hate spell, and Quincy was out of range of both the reinforcements (who couldn't act on the turn they came in anyway) and the pyramid's guards. So no matter how you count it, it was at the very least the second turn and more likely the third or fourth turn before he was surrounded, but he wouldn't budge. Likewise, the players insisted that I had doubled the number of rooms and guards in the pyramid even though both my memory of the event and my adventure notes disagree.

    I actually tried to point out a mistake they were about to make to Brian at one point, and as usual he took it as criticism and got mad. Still don't know how to offer advice, it seems like damned if you do damned if you don't.


    At that point I was ready to end the campaign, but everyone insisted they were still having fun and wanting to play, especially the new guy who I was afraid we had scared off.

    So, I had to figure out how to end this. I had planned on the Immaterium being long term patrons, and also having Ashley be a long term villain, ally, and / or love interest. So, I had to think fast, and I decided to compress her entire character arc to into a single session. I also leaned a lot more heavily into the time travel stuff, which was always intended to be a core theme of the story, but was supposed to be a lot more subtle and gradual.

    As a result, the latter part of the session probably seems like a lot of crazy stuff that came out of nowhere, but it was really just premature. What was going on will hopefully be revealed in time, but if anyone has any questions or needs any explanations I will be happy to answer them.


    One last note, damn COVID delay. I knew that the players would assume I ripped several plot points off from the Disney+ Marvel shows, and sure enough as soon as the collapsed timelines talk occurred they all started talking about Loki's TVA, and I was like "No guys, really, I came up with all this back during the last campaign in 2019" and they were all "Uh huh sure."



    So, on a tangent that might be worthy of a new thread, I also heard that weekend that one of my former players is warning people away from my game because I "raped his character." The instance he is talking about is when he decided to seduce an NPC, made his seduction roll, she followed him to the bedroom, and fade to black. When asked why he considers that rape, he said because I took him initiating the seduction as consent, and he was too embarrassed OOC to say anything to stop it, but since I never explicitly asked for his consent OOC it counts as raping the character. Or something. Wierd web of IC and OOC issues that may warrant or a new thread or may just cross a line.
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

  29. - Top - End - #29
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    ClericGuy

    Join Date
    Nov 2013

    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (1 Day without a horror story!)

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    So, on a tangent that might be worthy of a new thread, I also heard that weekend that one of my former players is warning people away from my game because I "raped his character." The instance he is talking about is when he decided to seduce an NPC, made his seduction roll, she followed him to the bedroom, and fade to black. When asked why he considers that rape, he said because I took him initiating the seduction as consent, and he was too embarrassed OOC to say anything to stop it, but since I never explicitly asked for his consent OOC it counts as raping the character. Or something. Wierd web of IC and OOC issues that may warrant or a new thread or may just cross a line.
    I put the question to a few of the more left wing people I know, and the consensus is that you didn't really do anything wrong. My advise would be to apologize for your part in the miscommunication, and to ask him to stop telling people you raped his character.

  30. - Top - End - #30
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Flumph

    Join Date
    Oct 2007

    Default Re: Talakeal's Campaign Diary (1 Day without a horror story!)

    Some pretty interesting events! First off, some things I think needs clarification -

    Why did this happen?
    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Then a magical gateway opens in the pyramid’s side, likely the work of the Pumpkin Man.
    What's going on here? Clearly some funny business with time-lines, but I can't tell from the IC record what actually happened. Is a Kim a new PC being introduced?
    Then the pyramid began to rise from the earth, shaking of centuries of ash, and exposing its lower layers, and the skeletal legion began to march outward into the city, slaying any they came across. At the pyramid’s apex was a human woman clad in armor of frozen bone, a blinding corona of magical energy about her, as she surveyed the city with eyes that burned with blue light.

    ...

    They flee, but notice Anani is not following. Instead, she whispers to herself “She will never be able to survive this. It is over.” And then black smoke pours from her eyes and her shadow grows so large that it blocks out the sun, causing night to fall over the mountains. And then, throughout the city, black fires start, consuming the buildings and mountains, the living and the undead.

    ...

    After being given water, Kim comes to her senses, and is overjoyed to see that all of her companions made it out alive, but is puzzled to find that none of them recognize her.

    ...

    Valentine orders Zara to return to the cleft in the mountains where the Omokudae city once stood and Kim is horrified and protests, but is ignored. Once they are within sight of it, they see that it is as Kim described, but without any sign of an undead apocalypse or unnatural firestorm.

    ...

    Feur gets an idea, and decides to read from the scroll of aeons and scan Kim for temporal anomalies, and finds that she appears to be flotsam that is somehow left over from an alternate timeline that has since collapsed. It’s extremely unusual, but not completely unheard of.

    Secondly, I don't think you should be surprised that the players are taking this as a failure to be at least IC upset about, and it's not unnatural for that to bleed OOC a bit. They survives, yes, but here's what happened, from a slightly negative viewpoint (aka the viewpoint players who are frustrated by their previous plans not working probably have:
    Father Genero talks about how disappointed he is that it turned out this way. Ashley had a bright future in front of her, that she might have even been the next Deacon after Zoltan stepped down. She was a troubled child, full of all sorts of demons and hoodoo, but through years of therapy and faith they were able to transform her into a righteous young woman.
    "You ****ed up and you should feel bad. Let me explain how your ****-up is a tragedy."
    Father Genero reimburses them for their time and their expenses, but does pay out the promised reward. He does tell them that he will keep their name in mind for future missions if they are looking for a second chance to prove themselves.
    "You don't deserve the full reward, because you suck. Perhaps in the future you could prove yourselves not to be such losers ... maybe."


    And that leads to the third point - I think you actually made this scenario too difficult.
    Quote Originally Posted by Talekeal, After Session #2
    if they wanted to go the more direct route they could have simply sent in a scout (or used some form of divination) to find the temple where she was being held, drive the juggernaut into the city through the canyon's mouth, and done a smash and grab before the defenders could really mount a defense.
    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal, After Session #3
    Honestly, I can see why they sent Kyrstal in alone, this scenario kind of requires a mixed approach where one or more PCs create a diversion while one or more PCs infiltrate the pyramid, and turning it into a straight fight against the entire city guard didn't work out any better.
    You yourself would not have been able to complete the scenario successfully without the benefit of hindsight. That's too difficult. You currently think that a diversion + assault plan would work, but are you even sure? Isn't there potential defenses the city could have had against that tactic also?

    I wonder if you're falling into a trap that I've fallen into myself when GMing:
    "I know what this group's resources and level of preparation are, so I don't need to determine their exact defenses ahead of time. I'll just fill in what would be reasonable when it comes up."

    This sounds reasonable, but it's basically Schrödinger's Wizard in organization form. Because if the organization is equally or more powerful than the party, then there is likely to be a "reasonable" defense against anything that the party can do. Usually the only way that an underdog wins, other than sheer luck, is by exploting a blunder that the overdog makes. So if your opposition can be described as an "overdog" (more powerful than the PCs in aggregate, which is usually the scenario) then they need to make blunders! They need to not have thought of every contingency. So while it might seem like "an organization with many intelligent people in it should logically have better preparation than what I, a single person with other responsibilities, can provide", that's a path that leads to the PCs logically failing unless they outright overpower their opposition.

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