Thursday, March 09, 2006

Gathering Between Life and Death (part2)

Catacombs of Ogrebound's cemetery

1- Ghouls and skeletons
2- Walls with trapped undead attempting to grasp the living walking down the corridors
3- Undead Centaur with warhammer
4- The riddle chest
4b- Obstructed passage
5- Cave where the PCs meet the mojh
6- Garsh and Ivor Hogfist
6b- Hidden Chalice's location
7- Exit to the surface (through a ruined mausoleum)


Granted, the exploration of the crypts began with a fall in the stairway beneath the sarcophagus. But it was a brilliant fall. The adventurers now have to struggle against many undead. William is able to determine that the corpses were probably animated because of an unbalance in the energies of the place. The Chalice is not whole; its parts need to be put back together.

The adventurers fence their way through the crypts, fighting ghouls and animated skeletons mainly. But the biggest undead challenge of the crypts was ahead of them: a centaur of the Great Host has been animated, and it swings a great warhammer at whoever wants to go further beneath the cemetery. The combat is tough, to say the least, and greatly complicated by the presence of shadows trying to grapple and pull them within the walls of the crypts. William and Nuwah-Kawah are both swallowed by the demonic walls, but finally, the adventurers prevail, and the victims of the shadows are literally regurgitated by the walls.

In the crypts’ next room, a huge chest is standing, a door just behind it obstructed by a giant stalagmite. Opening the chest, the adventurers find it empty beside a sentence written on its bottom: “Put Your Worth On Me.” Jezabell tries a number of options on the chest: put some gold, some dirt, among others. Nothing happens. Then, it becomes clear. “Your worth on me”… in weight! Jezabell jumps inside the chest, and the huge stalagmite barring the door moves out of the way. The confrontation is near, and our adventurers step inside the cavern that lies ahead.


This is a huge cavern cut in two halves by a flowing stream that is possibly a subterranean arm of the Altalus. A bridge joins the two halves. On the adventurers’ side, a mojh is waiting. It greets them rather ironically, and tells them calmly that he is waiting for the Chalice “to be delivered to him”. Perhaps the thieves were ordered by this mojh to still the Chalice in the first place? Or perhaps the mojh has the intention to buy it but has nothing to do with the reason of the theft. No matter the answer to this question, the adventurers decide they have no time to spare with the mojh. They just spotted Garsh, the goblin sneak, on the other side of the stream. William is the first to step on the bridge, while Bischen flies ahead and looks at the human “friend” of the goblin running away, then starting to scarify himself with a his dagger.

Whatever it is… this is not good.

When William reaches the other side of the bridge, the mojh, suddenly invisible, crosses the bridge as well and attacks her. It proves to be a gifted mage blade, and as the battle rages on, Bischen witnesses the metamorphosis of the “human” into an absolute monstrosity: a 9 feet tall wereboar. Things almost get out of hand, but thanks to the combine powers of the group, with spell and swords, all enemies are brought down. A search of this side of the cavern allows the group to retrieve both halves of the Chalice. The whole group of goblins helping them has been decimated within the crypts, with just one survivor who killed his leader himself. He wanted to be the last warrior standing, and does not care for the obsidian part of the Chalice. In exchange for the silence of the adventurers, he is willing to let the obsidian half go. William connects with the akashic memory and puts the two halves back together, ending the cycle of undeath within Ogrebound’s cemetery.

The assault on the cemetery's catacombs had all the players focussed on the Dwarven Forge set-up.

Next time: The Tale of the Last Captain begins with the PCs starting their trip towards Laelith!

Gathering Between Life and Death (part1)

Sarted on October 11, 2004

Bischen, Blu, Jezabell, Mandingo, Nuwah Kawah and William were natives Ogrebound, not far from the High Waters, wrapped around the banks of the Altalus river flowing within the Arkhanian Vale.

Ogrebound has two main particularities for the region: the first is a graveyard. Due to the proximity to Manifest, a city south to Ogrebound along the Altalus that is supposed to have been built above the very gates to the Underworld, the settlements of the Arkhanian Vale (and well beyond) no longer use any graveyards. Instead, they form pilgrimages to Manifest to meet with the Ghosts of the departed and accomplish whatever deeds were left unfinished by the dead.

The tombs of Ogrebound date back to the legendary Battle of Amaranth between the Lost Kingdom and the Great Host some centuries ago. Other cities and villages on the Seven Spires still have graveyards and use them, but Ogrebound is the only one in the Arkhanian Vale, beside Manifest itself of course. The second particularity of Ogrebound is the Chalice of Life and Death, a relic that has been found in the graveyard generations ago and is used today as a symbol for rituals and ceremonies performed for the ancestors within the graveyard. Nobody dares to go there: the living have to respect the eternal slumber of the dead, it is said among the hamlet’s inhabitants.

Ogrebound is a peaceful hamlet. It is under the command of veteran adventurers Maeve and Malvolo d’Osterande. Maeve was a mercenary who survived numerous campaigns fueled mainly by the rivalries of the different fiefs of the Seven Spires. She came to Ogrebound a few years ago. At this time, Ogrebound was under siege. The Mabluk goblins living not far form the hamlet believed the Chalice to be an artefact of great power. They wanted it for themselves. This is when Ogrebound hired the services of the Withered Blades, Maeve’s company. After weeks of taunting skirmishes, the goblins managed to sneak within Ogrebound. They shattered the Chalice of Life and Death and took its obsidian part (it has two parts respectively carved from pure obsidian and emerald jewels) before being found by the Blades and chased through the Spirit Wood. Today, the goblins are still in possession of the obsidian half of the Chalice, and Maeve is in command at Ogrebound. She is helped in her duty by her personal bodyguard, a violent and paranoid giant going by the name of Li-Caraon. The Withered Blades, now under the command of the sibbecai Thendren Aranradh, still stick around, though not within the hamlet itself.


This particular day of spring was special: first, this was the day of the celebration of the Oath between the people of Ogrebound and the souls of the Departed within the Graveyard. Second, two faen coming from Laelith via teleportation, Armanil and Naella, asked for the Chalice to use it in a ritual to save the Holy City of their God-King.

Laelith was built on a gigantic subterranean complex accurately named “The Maze”. There, beings whose natures are unknown to the faen are roaming free. A few weeks before the celebration in Ogrebound, an Emerald Death started to spread within the walls of the Holy City. The Emerald Death is a sickness of the Green that propagates because of an unbalance of the forces of nature to the profit of the Dark. The virus present perhaps for years in unaware victims of prior infestation then succumb to the incubation of the microorganism, a sort of greenish mold, which covers the body entirely. After the death, the mold takes control of the nervous system of the host, thus using it as its own body. The development of the Emerald Death in Laelith thus has to do with the Dark strengthening within the city.

Spellhold, the school of magic where the faen come from, is built on the Seal holding the Maze shut. The Council of Spellhold thinks that the Seal is slowly shattering, and they need the Chalice to balance the energies around the Seal so that it remains intact.

Thus in Ogrebound, after the Celebration of Life and Death, it was agreed by Maeve to lend the Chalice to Armanil and Naella. Bischen, Blu, Jezabell, Mandingo, Nuwah-Kawah, William and most of the village’s inhabitants are witnesses of the agreement on a place of Ogrebound just beside Maeve’s house. While she goes inside to take the Chalice, the adventures of our heroes begin.

The Altalus nearby comes to life, literally, and spawns a water elemental. The mercenaries of the Withered Blades stand guard at each street corner. The adventurers decide to take matters in their own hands, with the (somewhat useless) help of Thendren Aranradh. The elemental leaves the river and races toward Armanil. Naella, scared, flees from her brother’s side. Most of the adventurers help Armanil while Jezabell races inside Maeve’s house. Mandingo hears some noise in the house’s backyard, and finds a goblin fleeing from the house. It is too late to stop the goblin, but it leaves no doubt as to what happened: the Chalice of Life and Death has been stolen!

Looks like the DM has all the fuel needed for the afternoon...


After discussing with Maeve and her giant body guard, Li-Caraon, who wants nothing short of beating up Armanil to get some information from him, the adventurers learn that a goblin clan, the Mabluk, live in an old tower nearby. They also learn that a scout of Ogrebound name Ivor Hogfist disappeared some weeks ago while striding near the Mabluk’s encampment. This should have been a warning sign, perhaps. Furthermore, Maeve reveals that the Chalice of Life and Death was in fact not whole: its obsidian part was stolen years ago during one of the many attacks of the Mabluk on Ogrebound. The very battle in which Maeve was proposed leadership over Ogrebound by its inhabitants, she tells them.

The most obvious option is to go after the Mabluk clan. But did they really steal the emerald part of the Chalice? That remained to be found out.

The adventurers go to the old tower with Thendren. There, they realize the Mabluk are brawling, arguing between them. Diplomacy seemed to be the best option, and the adventurers approach the encampment. It was necessary to threaten the Mabluk with a possible attack of “their waiting army under the forest’s cover” against the Tower if the adventurers didn’t come back alive, but in the end, the Mabluk proved to be cooperative, albeit in their own violent ways. The Mabluk tell the adventurers that they had harbored a goblin sneak going by the name of Garsh with a human friend of his. They also reveal that Garsh vanished recently… with the obsidian part of the Chalice. It seems like both Ogrebound and the Old Tower have the same enemy this time around. The adventurers strike a deal with the Mabluk: they will lead the adventurers to their scouts following the thieves, and help them retrieve the emerald half of the Chalice at least, since they seem to be far more interested in vengeance than getting their obsidian half back.

Negotiations with the Mabluk clan at the Old Tower.

The adventurers thus follow the trail of Garsh and his human friend, or rather their stalkers, during a few hours through the Spirit Wood. Strangely, the road was known: they were in fact coming backwards, to the village!

Following the trail closely around the village, the adventurers discovered that the thieves should be hiding within the village’s cemetery. They sneak inside themselves: they do not want the village’s watch to spot the Mabluk goblins with them. The cemetery is a quite morbid place. It seems obvious something is going wrong with it. As they try to enter the massive mausoleum, its black marble doors become liquid, arms trying to grab them from within. When they are inside, they notice just a sarcophagus in front of the door. Nothing else remains in the mausoleum. Not even dirt, which cannot be a good sign. They investigate the place, and finally find a trapped mechanism beneath the sarcophagus.

Legend of Ogrebound's Map
1- Area where the Chalice ceremony takes place. The cemetery is just to the North East of this location.
2- Maeve's house
3- The Altalus River. Where the water elemental is spawned.
4- The Drunken Puss - the local tavern
5- Ruined, half submerged clock tower
6- Mill
7- The Altalus river is a bit larger in this spot. This isn't a lake.
A- Gate towards Hornsdeep and Skullcape
B- Gate towards Manifest
C- The cairns. Direction to the Old Tower.

Original Cast and Scope

Player-characters (PCs) were created using Monte Cook's Arcana Unearthed (AU) and the Bard of The Complete Book of Eldritch Might. At the time, I wanted the players to feel they had a wide range of options but not overwhelm them with choices.

All the players but one were complete newbies to role-playing games. As a result, I didn't want their characters to be too weak to face what I thought of as "cool threats" at the time. So I decided they were going to create 3rd level characters with a bit of backstory behind them.

I started by distributing a few handouts to the potential players.
First, the handouts explaining what a role-playing game is:
What is a role-playing game? PDF - part 1
What is a role-playing game? PDF - part 2

Then, the handouts concerning the Seven Spires and the aims of the campaign at the time:
Players' Guidelines PDF
One page history of the Seven Spires PDF

Reading through the Players' Guidelines, particularly, shows me how much the setting and campaign evolved over the last two years.

For instance, I state my intention to use Harry Potter as a source of inspiration for the campaign. In practice, this never went further than the backdrop of Spellhold, school of magic. Originally, Spellhold was to have a much more important role in the events that would unfold during the course of the Emerald Death. This never truly happened, since the game focussed instead on the trip to the school until the very end of Season 1.

It also transpired from the same PDF that I wanted the setting to be much closer in themes and scope to AU and its Diamond Throne setting. A bit like Greg Stafford's Glorantha setting. This dimension of the game hasn't been really explored during the last two years. It remained in the background the whole time.

For their first characters, all the players used the "short way" described in the Players' Guidelines. Step by step, this means they:
1- chose a character concept
2- chose a character race
3- chose a character class
4- rolled 4d6-drop-lowest six times and assigned the results to relevant ability scores

All the other parameters (skill ranks, equipment etc) were managed by me, according to the AU rules and DMG guidelines (character wealth, for instance).

Here is the original cast of the Seven Spires campaign, with the first name of the player included.
Bischen (Spryte Mage Blade 3) - John
Blu (Sibbecai Greenbond 3) - Lisa
Jezabell (Quickling Faen Winter Witch 3) - Tiana
Mandingo (Male Elf Hummingbird Totem Warrior 3) - Domingo
Nuwah Kawah (Female Uladhrim Bard 3) - Nerissa
William (Female Giant Akashic 3) - Caroline

The Spellwardens, from left to right: Jezabell, Nuwah Kawah, William (in the background), Bischen, Blue (in the background) and Mandingo.