Wayward Son

Of Catacombs, Chickens and Cockatrices
08/07/2016

Story:
We finish off our conversation with Marsha, who shows us a sketch of Helm (who we’ve promised to ensure leaves the city for good) and tells us where we are likely to find him. We make our way over to the smithy where he works and see him about to depart; with a laden mule, and with someone who looks like maybe his brother. The city is abustle with preparations for the Midwinter Festival and it is easy to follow them out of the town. (Like all good bandits) we wait until they are alone on the road before approaching them. Tesora (with some verbal backup from Rudolphus and some mostly non-verbal backup from Verion) persuades Helm that he had better keep going, and not come back for many, many years. Helm’s not happy about it, but he agrees. Helm’s brother is also not happy about it, but we give him a few coins, and a few more threats, and escort him back to into town without incident.

We head to Roffa the Sightless’ and tell Marsha we’ve completed the job, arranging to come back at night. Althia spends the intervening time chatting up Maurice to find out what more she can about the catacombs. We also buy some Holy Water from the temple; leaning heavily on Tesora’s paladin-ness. And, finally, we meet up with Anne (the priestess), who gives us some more holy water, an elixir of revivification (which she’d like back if we don’t use), and a request. She would like us to find Edith (who, in life, loved books and is recognizable by her ruby pendant), and make sure that she is fully at rest. Before departing for our meeting with Roffa, we buy a a sack full of chickens.

(On the way to see Anne (and thus Roffa) we weren’t quite able to evade some city guards who wanted to question us about the ruckus at the Rooster†. We persuaded them that we didn’t start the trouble, are only here for the festival, and will be staying out of trouble until we leave in the very near future.)

Marsha greets us in what we think is maybe finally her true face and takes us to confer with Roffa. Who is indeed Sightless. And surrounded by black and white cats, cages filled with birds, and, in one case, a dangerous creature called a cockatrice. She is happy with the short work we’ve made of the Helm mission and will take us to the entrance of the catacombs. She gives us some more details about what we can expect to find below. And some ____‡, in exchange for us bring her another cockatrice; should we find one.
cockatrice.jpg

Marsha then guides us to the House of Death. We’re obliged to suffer the indignity of wearing hoods as we’re guided through, and then the further indignity of listening to the priest of death being smug at us. We’re led past whatever gibbering ghoul or ghast they’re holding in check and taken to a small hole in the wall that we’re going to have to crawl through. They will open the hole back up in 24 hours, and again 24 hours after that, and then they won’t be opening it any more. We are urged not to emerge from other exits – it wouldn’t go well for us
.
We crawl through the passage, over some fortifications, and then decide where we want to go. We decide to avoid the warrenous area that ‘The Beast’ prowls and head south toward ‘The Museum’. The way is transected by many, often dead-ending, side-passages. We are (kind of) ambushed at one of these by a pair of ghouls, who growl at us, and urge us to leave, but are willing to accept a few chickens in lieu of actually fighting us. We tail them further south where we overhear them talking to someone who seems like their leader.

Tesora, Althia and Rudolphus go in to parlay with this individual and Verion hangs back. We find out the Edgar is the keeper of this …. Gallery. It is lavishly decorated, with the carcasses of the dead and pennants of the past. We offer up the last of our chickens and persuade Edgar that, since we’re not here to loot, he should let us pass. And yes, of course we would like a tour of his gallery. During the tour 1) we find a very old book of sketches – that weirdly contains the portrait of Lord Snow. 2) We hear about the history of the gnoll skeleton – one of his prized exhibits. 3) Verion sneaks his way to the other side of the room, without attracting attention. And 4) We use the ‘television’. Spill some blood into it and it will give you a vision. Rudolphus’ vision is of Dracian arguing with his brother.§ Althia’s was of ____‖. And Tesora’s faded to darkness. Edgar also told us that the librarian, Lilu, who does not like visitors but does like new books. Devoid of chicken, and anxious in spirit, we continue on.

† aka The Cock
‡ Seriously, what did she give us here? More holy water? I think she gave us something because we promised we’d bring her a cockatrice. Maybe we’ll just get paid for it when we return.
§ About? My memory fails me.
‖ What? How can my mind fail me so badly.

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Witchhunt
06/05/2016

It was getting late at the temple and we decided to let our friend (kidnapee) Marco go, after Tesora gave him a stern talking to behind closed doors. Anna, our contact at the temple, said we shouldn’t even be talking about going to the catacombs while we’re guests at the temple, but, we should definitely talk to her before we embark… anywhere.

Althia and Morwys
The next day, Althia goes to visit Morwys (Maurice?), the temple’s head scribe, to try and glean more about the Underworld from the temple’s books. Unfortunately, even with Anna’s recommendation, Althia’s charms aren’t enough to persuade Morwys to let her see the special books, but he does let her look at the regular histories of Salverenia. Fortunately, Althia is awesome at reading books and gets a lot of info about the catacombs from even those meagre sources. She learns that there are at least three entrances: 1) under the castle, 2) in a guard tower, 3) in Death’s temple in the witch’s quarter. She also learns that the undead we are most likely to face are Ghouls (whose touch is paralyzing to all but elves and half-elves) and Ghasts (whose touch is paralyzing to all). Rarely, we might also encounter spectres or shadows – but they can be fought with corporeal weapons just as the ghouls and ghasts can. Althia tries one more time to gain access to the better books, but ends up wasting the afternoon listening to Morwys pay suit instead.

Bartering with Jin
Meanwhile, Verion, Tesora and Rudolfus head to the witches quarter to 1) get some grasshopper legs for Verion’s jump spell and 2) get some details on this Rofa the Sightless – namely how can we get her to open the door to us. We come to Jin’s stall and Verion, after he gets his legs, starts pressing him for information about Rofa. (Tesora also gets a jar of spiders.) Jin says he could set up a meeting with someone who could introduce us to her, but it will cost 10gp each. Tesora puts on some pressure – almost causing a scene in the market – and manages to drive the price down to 3gp each (and another jar of spiders for good measure). He would tell us more the next morning when Rudolfus comes back – alone.

Spied On in the Market
The next morning, Rudolfus and Althia go to visit Jin with Tesora and Verion (less and more) unobtrusively waiting in the wings. He grumpily tells them that one person should go to the Sapphire tavern at dusk and order the Blue Dragon tea. One of Rofa’s contacts will approach. We agree and Verion notices that a woman is watching us. He confronts her, but she walks away. We toy with the idea of following her, but don’t know what we would do if we caught her and so decide to drop it.

At the Sapphire
At the Sapphire, Rudolfus is approached by a raven-haired half-elf who strangely resembles his daughter, but seems to be of no relation. She says she is Rofa’s apprentice and that we can’t pay Rofa gold to get the info we want. Dracian, who she hasn’t seen in over a month, purchased access to the Underworld by performing jobs that Rofa needed done. She has two that need doing. Completing one will gain us access to the Underworld; completing both will also gain us protection. Job 1: go to a visit a pagan elf hermit and persuade him to part with his carved wooden idol of a swan. Job 2: deal with some zealous ruffians who are picking on magic-users. This woman, Marsha, fortunately pays the 3gp that the tea costs. Rudolfus will meet her later with out answer.

Temple of Death
We quickly agree that there is no way we’re going to steal from some poor guy living on his own, but that we all (especially Verion) have no problem roughing up some prejudiced thugs – assuming they’re behaving as badly as Marsha says they are. We proceed to do some reconnaisance to find out – hence, back to the witch’s quarter. On our way, we realize we might be able to bypass these missions and just go down into the Underworld by way of the Temple of Death. And so we pay a visit. Knocking on the door of nondescript building summons a doorman/priest who doesn’t believe that we have come to visit because we have lost someone. Althia wants to turn into a wolf (or a huge spider). Verion wants Althia to turn into a wolf. Tesora wants to push this door in and march right down into the catacombs. Rudolfus, in a moment of weakness, gives the okay. Things happen quickly. Tesora forces the door open demanding access to the Underworld, but the priest loudly accuses us of breaking the law and summons guards. We hear mailed bodies approaching and Verion hears something inhuman demand “Meat… Hungry…”. We hesitate and the priest says he’ll forget all this if we leave. Now. So we do. (Tesora spiking a spider jar on the way out.)

Snakeface
And we head to our favourite watering-hole, the Black Dog. Verion notices a guy with a snake-tattoo nursing a drink and a broken arm. He approaches him and persuades the fellow that he, and his friends, are magic-users looking to rough up anyone giving magic-users trouble. Verion is going to make a name for himself. We find out that the ringleader of the mage-bashers is a blacksmith named Helm who works in the Southern Quarter.

Rowdies at the Rooster
The Rooster, the main pub on the main square of the Southern Quarter, is not the sort of place where an elf, a half-elf and a half-orc feel welcome. We tell the bartender we’ve got business, paying business, with Helm and he says he’ll pass it on. We find a table and eventually Althia gets sent a drink by a table of young men. She decides not to drink it, but Tesora isn’t one to pass up free booze. It’s disgusting and there’s hair in it. She marches over to the table, picking out the most snickery person to inform ‘This drink is on you,’ before dousing them with it. They leap up to engage her and we leap up to back her up. It’s a quick brawl. Tesora and Rudolfus grapple some of them while Althia and Verion do some slugging. (Althia again considers the merits of being a wolf.) In the end one is knocked out, two are prone and the last one is cringing. But, the tavernmaster has a crossbow and wants us to leave. We do and our weapons are eventually chucked out after us – minus a few. Rudolfus complains and is barely able to out-intimidate the barkeep into giving us the rest.

On the way back to the temple Althia gleefully turns into a wolf, Verion jumps high and wide and Tesora uses up her final lay on hands.

A Deal is Struck
The next day we meet Marsha and agree to take on the task of schooling Helm. She says he works for Mastersmith Leonardo and has two thugs that would definitely back him up and a number of other friends who are less reliable. He also leaves the town every few weekends to do something in a nearby town, but she doesn’t know what. Rofa wants him gone from the town. Permanently. And she doesn’t care how.

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Wiping the smile off "Dracian's" face
05/22/2016

We rewound slightly and as Althia chats up the Black Dog, and Verion and Rudolfus are engaged in their farcical arm-wrestle, a lone half-orc ronin enters the tavern. Once she and Rudolfus notice each other, the recognition is immediate. They had trained together! This was a warrior whose strong arm we could certainly use on our mission. Since Tesora was eager for work, she was only too glad to join the small group on their quest – Verion’s protests notwithstanding.

Dracian enters with a small possee, but the dog upholds its end of the bargain and we know that Dracian isn’t who he seems to be. While Tesora and Verion pick up their armor and weapons and head to the back alley, Rudolfus and Althia approach Dracian to 1) see if he recognizes Rudolfus and 2) lure him out back if he doesn’t. Dracian greets Rudolfus as ‘Marcus’ and is interested in hearing news from home, even in private, but will only follow Rudolfus so far. Althia brings Verion and Tesora towards the front of the tavern while Rudolfus spins a yarn. Verion notices that one of Dracian’s crew is watching them from the back alley. We don’t jump Dracian then, but Rudolfus confirms that Dracian’s voice is deeper than it should be. As Dracian, his thuggish friend, and his three hanger-ons head to their next watering hole – we attack.

Althia uses entangle and thunderwave, while Tesora uses her shield to bash Rudolfus’ thug into unconsciousness. Rudolfus tries to knock faux-Dracian out, taking severe burns in the process, but it’s Verion’s arrow (!) that does the job. Dracian’s face distorts into that of someone else! Someone his thug-friend calls Marco! The hanger-ons basically all flee, but Althia stops one in his tracks. We quickly stabilize Marco and then make off with him and his cowering friend before the town guard can come upon us.

In the shelter of the dilapted stables of a haunted-looking house, we interrogate the two men. (Well, Tesora interrogates them by acting like we already know everything and Verion’s bow adds emphasis to her words.) We find out that Marco and Dracian often liked to switch faces as a lark. Marco hasn’t seen Dracian in a couple of weeks, but he thinks he and his girl Roznai must be in the Underworld: the Salvaranian Catacombs. They have traveled there several times in the past weeks, but not been seen recently. The only way he knows of how to get there, other than through the castle, is by asking Rofa the witch. That’s how Dracian did it, but Marco doesn’t know the details. He does know that we are standing in front of her very stoop.

hauntedhouse.jpeg

We knock, but no one answers and we are eventually obliged to move on when the guard start to get curious about why we’d choose to linger at Rofa the Sightless’ door so late at night. We see a shadow watching us from a window as we go…

We are fortunate enough to run into ___, the priestess who said she would help us. She takes us to her church, sees to our comfort, and tells us what she can of the Underworld and Roznai. Roznai is a young woman who came to the town several months ago and asked to peruse the old texts about the Underworld; offering her own knowledge in exchange. She was clearly fascinated. Although most worship the three Gods above, there are also those that worship the three Gods below. Devils. Ancestor spirits. Sometimes they will appear in the guise of the departed dead to exert influence on the living. Hundreds of years ago, when heathens observed ancestor worship, the catacombs housed their dead. Now, it is said it is also where they continue to walk. Foolish adventures sometimes enter the catacombs to seek riches. But it is only after a lengthy petition process that Lady di Tama would grant access to the catacombs through her passage. Rofa may be our only option.

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To Salvarenia We Go
04/24/2016

Story:
Althia is a young half-elf druid who has recently left the forest to find her fortune in the world. (And maybe find her father.)

Verian is a young elfen ranger who only wanted to be left alone. When two hunters wouldn’t leave him be, he killed them. Helping Lord Snow is his only chance to avoid the noose.

Rudolphus is Lord Snow’s right-hand man. A human monk in his early fifties with a half-elf daughter he hasn’t seen in years.

Lord Snow‘s son, Dracian, is an arrogant and brash young sorcerer and he is either deliberately flouting his father’s will by staying away from home so long – or something has happened to him. The ruler of the nearest city (Salvarenia), that Dracian likes to dally in, is not on good terms with Lord Snow. Dracian’s friends themselves are the sort of unsavory people who might wish him harm. And there’s an outlaw called Critchley the Invisible who has been causing trouble in the vicinity.

On our way to the town of Salvarenia (Dracian’s favourite haunt when he’s supposed to be studying magic with his aunt Marta.) Althea overhears two ruffians pressuring a man for his gold. After beating the crap out of them, we find out that they are Critchley’s people, and proud of it – for he takes from the rich and gives to the poor. After making sure they’ll be taken to Snowhaven for trial, we continue on.

The guard at the gate to Salvarenia takes interest in the fact that we are Lord Snow’s people, but doesn’t stop us. We pursue our cover-story: that we are taking a small figurine to the Temple of the Python (or the tranquil pool?); ostensibly returning it to Priestess Ana from Cicero, Lord Snow’s chamberlain. We tell Ana of our mission and ask if she knows anyone in the Witch’s Quarter who might help us. The Witches Quarter, specifically the Black Dog Tavern, is a place Dracian liked to frequent. She doesn’t answer directly but seems to imply that she’ll help.

The Witches Quarter smells peculiar – there’s an unusual fungus that grows on the walls and in the alleys. Also the cats are all either black or white. The Black Dog Tavern is not well-patroned and Verian and Rudolphus are obliged to arm-wrestle to distract the tavernmaster while Altheia talks to his dog. The dog is not forthcoming about many things, but does say that he can recognize witches when they come in – they smell different than they look. Althia is able to persuade him to tip us off with a bark if any come in – in exchange for some soft beef.

As the evening wears on, the tavern slowly fills and eventually a young man – Dracian – enters, with a posse of friends. And the black dog barks.

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