Clearing the Kobold Lair, Investigating Sites of Death, and Traveling to the Keep on the Shadowfell
June 20, 2011 19:28
June 13, 2011 20:15
The Remnant of Szartharaax
Waking several hours later, the PCs found the secret door and used the key to unlock it. The wall slid away to reveal an even darker chamber ahead, and a wave of cold air rushed out. They ventured through the portal, and the further they traveled the further down into the earth they seemed to go. The temperature steadily dropped, and the carefully crafted walls of the dungeon gradually gave way to the rough walls of a subterranean cavern. After another short series of stairs leading down, the party found themselves in a large dark cavern with a pool of frozen water in its center.
Snow drifted down and narrow ledges ran along the walls of the cave. Leaping from hiding, a zombie white dragon attacked the party. As they rallied against this new threat, the group saw two kobold zombies rise from unseen graves and shamble over to join the fray. Throughout the fight the dragon used its icy breath and knocked stalactites free to rain down on the heroes. Raven began to notice the Obsidian Orb was growing very cold, and after he began to become physically harmed by it he thought to insert it into one of the gaping wounds of the dragon. Slowly, the dragon began to swell in size, and dark tendrils of necrotic energy began coursing over its form. Empowered, it knocked over a large pillar in the room, incapacitating Melech and Tharn. As Clarence and Varis struggled with the kobolds (who seemed unwilling to stay down, regardless of the amount of damage dealt to them) Raven kept attacking the dragon until it finally collapsed into a heap of fetid organs and rotting flesh. Seizing the skull as a prize, the heroes raided the dragon’s treasure stash where they discovered gold, gems, and a hammer of exquisite quality.
The heroes returned to Fallcrest, where a shocked Lord Markelhay congratulated them with a feast in their honor. The group informed the Lord of their work and requested more information regarding Vanamere’s Tower. The Leader of the Watch still scoffed at them and told them any attempts to travel there would result in their deaths. The group began gathering information in an effort to find work, and it was Tharn who was approached by a Shadar-kai witch who maintained the altar of the Raven Queen in one of the temples in town. She informed him that rumors were growing regarding a demon cult of Orcus in Winterhaven, and as agents of the Raven Queen it was their sworn duty to stamp these out. She warned Tharn that another traveler had recently passed through and she had requested his help as well. The man had given her great unease.
Tharn shared the information with the rest of the party and they set out immediately for Winterhaven.
Ambush on the Old King’s Road
June 13, 2011 20:13
Journey to Fallcrest/ A Lord’s Favor
Taking the letter of recommend from Lord Padraig, the party traveled a few days’ time to the great city of Fallcrest. Though merely a shadow of its former glory, it still remains the largest and greatest settlement in the Vale. The group made it’s way to the nearest in, the Silver Unicorn, where they attempted to garnish information. Later, upon being received by Lord Markelhay, they were tasked with investigating the area near Kobold Hall for any Kobold brigands. Supply lines to Winterhaven have been ambushed more frequently and the Lord hasn’t the men to deal with it himself, owing to some business taking place near Vanamere’s Tower. The heroes wished to travel to Vanamere’s Tower, but the Captain of the Watch refused to hire them for the task and warned them that they were far from prepared for such a challenge. Kava caught wind of news regarding her family, so she decided to stay in Fallcrest for a short while until she could gain more information.
The short trip to Kobold Hall was uneventful. As the party arrived, they spotted the ruins and dug around until they found a trapdoor. Opening it, they followed a steep set of stairs down into a dimly lit chamber where they discovered a large pit filled with some sort of sticky slime. A small band of kobolds put up mild resistance, but the heroes quickly dispatched them. Raven slid between the bars of a portcullis so that he could pull the control lever and raise the iron bars, thus letting the rest of the party travel deeper into the lair.
Scouting ahead, Raven found a room with several sarcophagi lining the walls and resting in the chamber itself. At the far end of the room opposite the entrance were three kobolds staring at some sort of religious alter. The party quietly piled into the room and attempted to catch the monsters by surprise. As they moved into the chamber, several dart traps were set off, immobilizing the heroes for a short while. After killing the guards, the heroes investigated the room more closely and found that the coffins had been raided and otherwise desecrated. The altar appeared to be dedicated to Tiamat, and so the group tore it apart and took the tithes located on it. Moving into the next room, they found two more sarcophagi with bones piled on top. Across the chamber were two large wooden doors flanked by a ten foot wall. Atop the wall on either side of the doors stood kobold slingers and warriors, and one of them held a slime-covered rock fixed to a rope tied to the ceiling. He threw the rock at the party, who all dodged the attack, and it swung in a wide arc until another kobold on the opposite side of the platform caught it. As the slingers prepared to volley rocks and glue pots at the PCs, Raven lured them off the wall and they fell to their deaths on the chamber floor. Raven next climbed up the wall on the right of the chamber where he encountered another kobold as well as two guard drakes. The rest of the party tried to break the door down but struggled with the task until someone thought to just smash it with their weapons. Having reduced the door to splinters, the group rushed forward to aid Raven. Ahead of them, the chamber narrowed into a 20 foot hallway. the next chamber at the end of the hallway had a 20 foot high wall where two more slingers stood posed to attack the party. As Melech and Raven made their way forward, a large stone was released and began to roll straight for them. A small winged drake swooped down and stole Melech’s healing potion, though the heroes quickly killed the beast and recovered it. As they moved deeper into the room, careful to avoid the path of the circulating boulder, they engaged two dragonshields and a wyrmpriest. On the body of the wyrmpriest was a map of the dungeon showing the location of a secret door. He also had a small silver key. Seizing his bone mask and the staff he was using (which Varis identified as possessing some arcane enchantment), the party made camp in the room for a number of hours in an attempt to rest up.
May 15, 2011 22:30
ot wishing to waste any time, the party finished their drinks as Kellar gave them the details of the assignment and then left the noise of the tavern for the still darkness outside. After a brisk walk they came upon the barn where one of the villagers was attacked and Clarence studied the tell-tale marks of goblins. Carefully noting the quantity of different tracks, he quickly led the band of travelers toward their origin. Tharn grumbled to himself about how inconsiderate Elves were as he struggled to keep up, due equally to his short stature and his preoccupation with the odd Tiefling that also seemed to be struggling to move quickly. His agitation increased as he perceived the tall horned man take only half-steps and grumble to himself as though he too were irritated with the elf (or simply mocking the dwarf, Tharn noted). Clarence stopped abruptly and held up a closed fist to signal the rest of the party to do the same. “Here,” he breathed quietly. The group stared at the entrance to an old mine shaft, now boarded up and left for ruin. They had expected as much; Kellar had informed them this was likely the place where the goblins were launching their raids. As Kava began prying some of the boards off, Raven quietly slipped between loose planks where the small goblins likely passed into and out of the mine. The taller heroes stood alert as Kava ripped more of the boards free, and after a short and uneasy silence they all descended into the darkness.
Accustomed to seeing in dim light, the party nonetheless struggled to peer into the absolute dark ahead. Only Raven seemed truly at ease, quickly moving ahead of the rest. As they fumbled through the mine, Varis broke the silence with a single word. “Lux,” he spoke, and gradually a small pinpoint of light grew in luminescence on the top of his staff until the tunnel was dimly lit. The party quickened its pace.
After a brisk march, Clarence noted flickering light ahead of the group and heard the guttural bickering of goblins. Again motioning the group with a hand-arm signal, he positioned himself at the end of the tunnel where it seemed to adjoin to a small chamber. Varis quickly extinguished his light and let Kava and Tharn take up positions in front of him. As Clarence readied an arrow, he peered out into the chamber again to get a count and single out his target. His quick glance revealed three goblins in leather armor playing cards and arguing at a table in the center of the room. Light was dim, and the chamber was empty sans the card game in its center. A smile formed on Clarence’s face as he noted Raven standing in the shadow of one of the goblins, but admiration for the halfling’s bravery and stealth quickly turned to mild horror as it sneered its face to reveal fangs. As quick as a scorpion’s tail, Raven sunk his teeth deep into the goblin just as Clarence loosed an arrow into one of its fellow gamblers. As the monsters screamed in pain and fury the third quickly reacted by flipping the table, just as two more arrows embedded themselves into it.
Kava and Tharn charged into the room and began melee combat as Raven faded back into shadow. Suddenly, he felt himself grabbed from behind as another goblin stepped from hiding. A fifth goblin emerged from the shadows on the other end of the cavern, and Tharn promptly charged toward it. Melech sauntered into the room, looking around absent-mindedly as though he were in a shop without any particular goods to buy. Noticing the battle quickly escalating around him, he felt himself slipping into one of his characteristic rages. Singling out one of the goblins, he swore an oath of enmity on it, making a pledge to the Raven Queen to end this foul creature’s life. Moving with a sense of purpose, he drew his sword and joined the fray. He and Kava seemed to work well together, flanking the smaller creatures and forcing their attention to be on the fighters instead of the dwarf, who was silently uttering prayers for the safety of his new companions.
Finally striding into the chamber, Varis looked around slowly and carefully noted the location of each creature. Time seemed to slow as he took everything in, and after only a few seconds he had all the information he needed. Without any haste he reached into the folds of his robes and pulled out some strange herbs and other spell components as he began to chant, “culmen flammae.” A bright pillar of flame erupted on the other end of the cavern, though Varis didn’t seem to notice the flash or the screams of pain and surprise as the acrid smell of burnt flesh filled the chamber. Already he was focusing on his next spell, bending the invisible webs of aether in the room to suit his purposes. Without much effort, the party was able to dispatch of the goblins, and Tharn gave thanks to his patron as he cured the wounds of the others. Raven drained one of the goblins for sustenance and the group quickly moved deeper into the mines, pausing only to bandage their small wounds and search the bodies of their enemies.
Continuing down a short L-shaped hallway, Clarence and Kava entered a second antechamber where much debris littered the floor, apparently from a cave-in. Varis noted to himself that this was most likely what caused the mines to be shut, and Kava cast a disdainful glance at the filth and detriment that had accumulated in the room over unknown time. Across the chamber, a goblin hexer was standing near some sort of brazier filled with fire. Eldritch components and small bones were scattered about his feet, and a small entourage of goblin warriors stood at alert, apparently having heard the struggle in the previous room. Kava boldly rushed into the room as Clarence quickly fired off a few arrows, missing his mark. As Kava drew near to her opponents she noticed the hexer was in some sort of trance, mumbling strange incantations. Suddenly two large beetles erupted from the debris near the entrance where Clarence was standing with the rest of the party to his back. Each spewed a cone of fire into the entrance and hallway, but it was Clarence that took the brunt of the assault. Before anyone could react, rats began emerging from other piles of filth in the room, clearly driven insane by some primal magic. They swarmed around Kava, isolating her and allowing the goblins to slowly move in as they assessed what they were up against. Raven, Melech and Tharn moved forward to aid the others, and Tharn began healing the burns that Clarence had sustained. Melech charged for the beetles, hoping to draw their attention from the elvish archer. Just as Raven was about to slide past the fire beetles to help Kava the room plunged into a deep darkness which not even his eyes could pierce. The incantations of the hexer could still be heard as he prepared his next curse, and the sound of battle resonated from the darkness as Kava struggled against invisible foes. The party tried to hold their ground in the entryway and deal with the beetles as Varis finally moved up to asses the situation. Since he could only see the beetles he began launching missiles of arcane force at them to help wear them down. Clarence, still recovering from the initial attack, fell back into the hall next to Varis since only the beetles were visible and melee combat against them was outside of his abilities. After a short struggle which left many of the group at least partially wounded, the darkness ebbed and then faded entirely as the hexer gave up sustaining it and decided to run. His allies were all dispatched, save a single goblin and a pair of rats still fighting with the Dragonborn and he clearly found discretion to be the better part of valor. As he pushed through two large wooden doors deeper into the cave Raven ran after him, hoping to stop him before he made an escape.
After dispatching the remaining foes, the adventurers heard a cry from Raven in the next room, signaling trouble. Rushing in, they found the hexer smiling maliciously next to a robed hobgoblin with a staff. Also occupying this final chamber were a small host of hobgoblin warriors, a small timber wolf and a large dire wolf penned in a cage behind well-built portcullis. Raven stared intently at the warcaster, beckoning him forward and into a deep pit in the floor, adjacent to a worn statue of some demon. The warcaster quickly recovered, climbing from the pit and throwing Raven back with a pulse of energy. One of the warriors ran to a lever on the wall and threw it up, and Raven noticed that the portcullis began to slowly rise. As the party rushed into the room to help the warriors set up a defensive formation and moved forward while the timber wolf began pouncing on the heroes, knocking them prone before moving to the next victim. The warcaster kept moving around the chamber, attempting to stay out of melee range while launching invisible orbs of force at the party. The hexer began cursing the PCs, robbing individuals of sight or forbidding them from moving. Things looked grim for the group until they banded together and turned the tide, felling first the warriors, then the wolf and warcaster, and finishing the hexer last. Varis conjured up a magical hand that was able to throw the lever down just as the dire wolf was beginning to slide underneath the portcullis.
Surveying the room, the Varis noted that the statue was built in the likeness of Orcus, the demon prince of the undead. As servitors of the Raven Queen, the group decided to desecrate the statue by pulling it into the pit it overlooked. As it crumbled to pieces at the bottom, Raven sifted through the rubble where he found an orb of deep obsidian. Wrapping it in a heavy cloak and storing it in his pack, he made a note to inquire about it later.
Searching the body of the warcaster, Varis found a vellum scroll with marks on it. Though he could not decipher the goblin language, he was able to read a single word in Common: Thunderspire. Melech found a map of the village with the lord’s manor and the brewery circled in red, and the group decided to quickly report back to Kellar to collect their pay and relay what they had seen.
May 15, 2011 22:00
ld Kellar felt tired. Not the physical drain that accompanies a full day’s toil on the crops, leaving the mind awake and eager for an evening reprise. He felt mentally exhausted, and noted for the third time since he bought his last drink that he couldn’t remember the last time he didn’t feel cognitively sapped. Since being elected Village Elder his dreams of a quiet and modest retirement were shattered. Nearly all his time was spent settling minor squabbles, budgeting Harken’s meager resources, tabulating taxes and negotiating with traveling merchants on his Lord’s behalf. A confirmed bachelor, he was glad to have his evenings free to enjoy the Cliffside Brewery’s signature ale and the company of the townsfolk when work was off their minds.
However, the past few nights had given him little sleep and others had noticed him absent of his jovial demeanor. Whispers passed of goblin raiders and dark wanderers. These whispers were more than rumors to Kellar; they were his secret burdens. The goblin raiders had been annoying enough, but petty larceny could be compensated from the baron’s purse. Recently the goblins from Harken Forest had grown braver, and had gravely injured Varrow Del when he caught them in his farmhouse. Kellar knew better than to ask Baron Stockmer to activate the militia; a fighting force had never been seen in the Harkenwold and the local volunteers were mostly adolescent men trying to impress each other and the handful of unbetrothed women in the province. No, what Kellar needed was a solution, and a discrete one.
As he absently packed his pipe he felt a sudden hush descend in the brewery. A short figure in exquisite garments not seen in the Harkenwold gently closed the tavern door behind itself and pulled the hood of its heavy cape lower over its face. Kellar’s eyes narrowed as he tucked his tobacco pouch into his tunic pocket and he fumbled for a match. “Now who could this be…” he
grumbled under his breath. The figure never looked up, only made its way to a vacant table and sat without making the slightest sound. Gradually, the tavern transformed back into the bustling hub of social activity it was meant to be, and Kellar felt a quick smile play under his beard as he noted the look of relief flood Marrek the bartender’s face. Kellar’s expression turned dour again as he followed Marrek’s gaze to another dark figure seated in the corner opposite to the most recent arrival. The taller man seated there also had a hood pulled low over its face, and had been sitting there since Kellar arrived. As he wondered to himself he struck up a match and began puffing on his pipe. He absently waved his hand to extinguish the flame and noticed the hooded figure turn its head to stare at the short newcomer. Silently, the figure stood and walked out of the tavern. The short traveler didn’t seem to notice, and Kellar thought nothing of it.
Throughout the night more strangers began to arrive; two Elves, one with a great bow of intricate design and the other wrapped in loose robes with a sturdy walking staff and a bound tome. Then came a Dwarven cleric, though Kellar could not identify the deity to whom the cleric paid homage. Next came a Dragonborn, and several of the patrons again hushed themselves to stare at the odd sight. Lastly, a Tiefling arrived, though it walked in a peculiar way that made Kellar feel as though it thought itself shorter and more stout than it actually was. As each new traveler arrived they all settled at the same table, though their expressions made it clear they did not know each other. A plan began to form in Kellar’s mind, and he look a sip of ale to wet his lips as he sauntered over to the strangers.
“Good friends”, he greeted as he approached their table. “Allow me to purchase beverages while we discuss a matter of grave importance. We have been trying to keep this as quiet as possible. Creatures have been raiding the village in the dead of night, emerging from the caverns nearby to plunder our homes and businesses. In recent days, they have become more bold, wounding one of our farmers. Dealing with creatures such as these is beyond the talents of simple villagers such as we; but for adventurers such as yourselves, it should be an easy matter! What say you?”
The eclectic table of would-be heroes turned to him in an uneasy unison, as though unaccustomed to being greeted as a group. It was the hooded halfling that first spoke:
“You say these creatures attack at night? How very… convenient.”
Kellar tried to ignore the unease the comment caused him as he set about informing the party of the specifics. He ordered Marrek to clear their tab and offer them dinner courtesy of Baron Stockmer, then retired back to his table. As he watched the group finish their drinks and walk out into the night he couldn’t help but feel that this was a momentous occasion. He felt a little more lively for the first time in a fortnight and allowed himself another ale as his refilled his pipe.
April 01, 2011 05:00
This campaign runs on the “points of light” concept, i.e. there are small settlements that provide a degree of solace and civilization in an otherwise hostile world. Vast stretches of wilderness are littered with brigands, monsters, and natural perils and travel is generally avoided by most folk. Enter the adventurers, stronger-than-average would-be heroes who are motivated by lore, treasure, or simple wanderlust.
Our story takes place in the Nentir Vale a century after the collapse of the great Nerath Empire. The Nentir Vale exists in what were the northernmost reaches of the Empire and as such has remained relatively unchanged by its fall.
The following is general history that most educated individuals (nobles, wizards, scholars) know, though most inhabitants of the Vale care little for events outside their own lives:
Up until four centuries or so ago, the Moon Hills and the surrounding Nentir Vale were thinly settled borderlands, home to quarrelsome human hill-chieftains and remote realms of nonhumans such as dwarves and elves. Giants, minotaur, orcs, ogres, and goblins plagued the area. Ruins such as those on the Gray Downs or the ring-forts atop the Old Hills date back to these days, as do stories of the hero Vendar and the Dragon of the Nentir. With the rise of the Empire of Nerath to the south, human settlers began to move up the Nentir, establishing towns such as Fastormel, Harkenwold, and Winterhaven. A Nerathan hero named Aranda Markelhay obtained a charter to build a keep at the portage of the Nentir Falls. She raised a simple tower at the site of Moonstone Keep three hundred ten years ago, and under its protection the town of Fallcrest began to grow.
Over the next two centuries, Fallcrest grew into a small and prosperous city. It was a natural crossroads for trade, and the Markelhays ruled it well. When the empire of Nerath began to crumble about a century ago, Fallcrest continued to flourish—for a time. Ninety years ago, a fierce horde of orcs known as the Bloodspears descended from the Stonemarch and swept over the vale. Fallcrest’s army was defeated in a rash attempt to halt the Bloodspears out on Gardbury Downs. The Bloodspears burned and pillaged Fallcrest and went on to wreak havoc all across the Nentir Vale.
In the decades since the Bloodspear War, Fallcrest has struggled to reestablish itself. The town is a shadow of the former city; little trade passes up and down the river these days. The countryside for scores of miles around is dotted with abandoned homesteads and manors from the days of Nerath. Once again the Nentir Vale is a thinly settled borderland where few folk live.
The main settlements now are Winterhaven, the Harkenwold, and Fallcrest (all predominately human), Hammerfast (occupied by dwarves and orcs), and Thunderspire (not really a settlement, but occupied by mixed races). Fallcrest, though drastically deteriorated, still remains the largest and strongest settlement in the Vale. Players will find this the best “base of operations” due to its size; goods are readily available, information can be gathered quickly, and work for adventurers is in high demand.
Humans, dwarves and halfling are abundant in the region now. A clan of elves lives in the woods near the Harkenwold, there are some non-feral minotaur around Thunderspire, and many Tiefling and Dragonborn pass through Fallcrest from the lands to the south. Tiefling and Dragonborn are generally at odds with each other do to the ancient conflict that dismantled the Nerath Empire. Also abundant are kobolds, goblins, and a small clan of hobgoblins. Orcs can sill be found in mountainous regions, remnants of the Bloodspear Clan that nearly wiped out the Vale generations back.