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Archive for December 26th, 2010

The party begins the battle surrounded: Kalarel at the dais, The wight at the other end, and 8 skeletons all around.

2010 brought about many changes, such as the beginning of a 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons campaign. We started the year with fresh 1st level characters and closed it outas veteran 9th level heroes entering the paragon tier. Our first adventure was the seminal 4e starter module The Keep on the Shadowfell. The campaign also began before this very blog got its start, so that the first few sessions have no associated reports. Thats too bad.

The party of adventurers began their careers as part of the Pathfinder Society, a loose affiliation determined to bring back civilization by making the roads safe and driving back the darkness whenever and wherever they can. Their first mission was to the town of Winterhaven where they got caught up in the dreams of a death priest of the evil god of Orcus, who discovered a portal to the Shadowfell in the bowels of an old ruined Keep. He attempted a ritual to call the dark lord through the portal, which the heroes of Winterhaven strove to prevent. It is interesting to note that of all the original “Pathfinders” to set foot in the Winterhaven region, Felipe is the only one to remin from the beginning. Other players and characters changed over the course of those 9 levels and the year to form the current party into a veteran squad of fantastic adventurers.

A story from those early days relates to the kobold chieftain White Hand. The party was dispatched by the Lord Padraig of Winterhaven to see about the increase in kobold raids, and the party tracked the kobolds back to their lair. As they went down the path, they met a poor old one armed kobold. He told a sad story of being the chaiftain of the kobolds of the white hand, and that he had the white hand to prove his heritage. When the horrible goblin Irontooth arrived to take command of the tribe in Kalerels name, he hacked off the hand of the chieftain, and said now that he had the White Hand, he was chief. The decrepit kobold begs the party to bring back his hand if ever they defeat Irontooth, so that he may die with honor. They agree to do whatthey can, and eventually spare a young white handed kobold they find in the cavern complex, to honor the chieftain by sparing his heir, They do make sure the kobolds swear to leave the Winterhaven region, to which the kobolds heartily agree.

Really Terribly Evil

One of my favorite improvisational additions to the module was “the mystery of the black skull.” This “episode” took place between the outdoor encounters and the dungeon part of the adventure It seems a trade caravan arrived in Winterhaven. The Bronzebottom brothers, who were three dwarf brothers out of Hammerfast, had done some illicit trading with a group of hooded strangers in the woods, who offered them gold to deliver a sealed wooden crate to a certain house in Winterhaven. The dwarves couldnt turn down the lucrative offer, and they arrived at town early that morning, and two elves where there to pick up the crate: Delphina and Ninaren. in the wee hours of dawn, they carted the heavy container to her small home in town. There it sat taking up a good portion of the floor.

All that day a lethargy descended among the people of town, until by afternoon, as the characters returned to town, the people seemed to be walking around in a daze or stupor. It was a mystery that led the characters all over town, before resulting in the discovery of the crate in Delphinas shanty. While she was distracted by a meal in the inn, her house was vandalized, and the crate opened to reveal a glistening black skull that emanated dark magic in a very wide radius. Its large radius of evil is what made pinpointing its location so difficult. It was destroyed in a blaze that also destroyed Delphinas house, and at that moment, Delphina was discovered to be a changeling and Ninaren joined in on the changelings side, and they were chased out the front gates after a short battle. With the black skull destroyed the town was safe again from Kalarels machinations.

One tough cookie

After the episode of the black skull, the heroes of Winterhaven knew they had to take care of this problem once and for all. They hired a local woodsman to aid them in tracking Ninaren and Delphina through the woods to Ninarens cabin, which was built between the trunks of four young ash trees. On a cot the elf Delphina lay in a trance. As she sank into eternal slumber, she told a tale of woe. She was a Princess, the last elf royalty alive, and there was a prophecy that when the last royal elf leaves the world, all elves will follow. Ninaren had a magical artifact that was a soul-stealing dagger. Pricking Delphina she took the princess’ spirit, and planned to invade another world, the World of Dark Sun, with an army of Elves enslaved to her as long as she had the sould of Delphina rrapped in her dagger.

It didnt quite work out as Ninaren hoped. She was knocked out, blown up, shot down, torn up, and cut down in the deepest chamber of Kalarels temple to Orcus. Ninarens dagger was taken and Delphinas soul returned safely to her body. The party became the Heroes of Winterhaven. In addition, the heroes Poooy the Elf and the barbarian Thokk even bought the rights to the Keep for 500 gold, and were given titles and rights to all the land they could survey from the tallest spire of the Keep on the Shadowfell. They planned a VERY tall tower. For now, the party headed towards Fallcrest, the capital of the Nentir Vale.

The newly minted heroes were having other troubles. They brought suspicion upon themselves in the insular village of Hommlett, when they were ambushed in the Inn of the Welcome Wench by a hideous flaming Beholder with two fire hawk allies. The barn also burned down though the party managed to save the animals. The only evidence was a teleportation circle burned into a nearby field and some large black feathers. The next night, while camping outside Fallcrest, they are attacked by a flock of Crow people known as Kenku.

Tara swings from the beholder by the hilt of the Spirit Knife as Thokk looks on immobilized.

In the city they meet the White Rose, the commander of a mercenary company of mounted lancers who recently “came north” upon hearing rumours of war in the northern lands. On the second day, a strange dread overcomes them as a red star appears in the sky, faint by day but burning bright in the night sky. Fate draws them towards an inevitable event that they cannot avoid. They have an appointment with the wizard of Fallcrest, Vandaliance.

Cat like face in the clouds

On his tower they are surrounded by two of Ninarens half-sisters: one is the White Rose, the other is a hideous frost dragon who comes sweeping out of the sky just as the party examines the star through the wizards instruments. As the heroes defeat these two mad women, another face looks on from the clouds. He proclaims himself to be Gagnasdiak, lord of time and space, and that he has 7 daughters, that now 3 of them are slain. He casts a red lightning bolt which propels the party to a strange world of desert, where a dark sun beats down like a burning red eye.

Stunned, stripped of almost all of their gear, the heroes of Winterhaven limp through the desert nearly succumbing to the environment. At the end of their strength, they are attacked by a thundering herd of great reptiles, and great slaughter ensues, with the victorious draining and drinking of the great reptiles blood for sustenance. Eventually they come to a broken tower, and defend it from the mantis men who were trailing them. The next morning they look out over a valley that fills the southern horizon. It is a vast petrified forest, The ancient stone trees lean and crumble across the width and depth of the hidden valley with the desert sands weaving between their trunks and branches. In the center of this sharp edged forest is a ruined city. It is the Lost city of Nazerak.

The tower contains a raiders trove of treasure and the heroes re-equip before setting out to investigate the city. They soon meet the eladrin who call the sand blown avenues home. The city is under a curse where the surviving two factions of eladrin must forever fight a civil war through the streets of Nazerak. Even in death, the eladrin turn into Shadow eladrin, and continue the fight against all living creatures. It is a terrible fate, but a strange child recently appeared in the city. She is able to walk unmolested through the cursed city and avoid wards that only the blood of the citys last ruler, the tyrant Gagnasdiak, could overcome. The White Rose survived the battle and too was cast into the World of Dark sun when the fell red bolt was cast by her father. She had no memory of her past life as a mercenary.

The White Rose, with the characters help, re-unites the warring eladrin clans and ends the curse on Nazerak. While there, they se a vision of their world, and the town of Winterhaven is overcome and destroyed by an army of giants led by Gagnasdiak. They also soon discover that in the world of Dark Sun Gagnasdiak is a sorceror king of the city of Tyr far to the west of Nazerak. After saving the city of Nazerak, the White Rose sends them magically to infiltrate his palace to discover a way home. A portal in his lowest treasure chamber sends them to a lifeless world of horror. It is here Gagnasdiak has chosen to keep his soul hidden, in his tomb of Horrors.

...a hill of skulls stood out against the featureless plain of bone dust...

The heroes learn that Dark Sun is the future for their own world, and that here at the end of this portal is the ultimate expression of Gagnasdiaks evil triumph. His black undead soul is the last thing to inhabit a cold lifeless world. The heroes of Nazerak have a thing or two to say about that. They commence to work their way through his elaborate traps and guardians, before finally destroying him in an epic battle.

Soon enough they are met by a strange figure in a sled pulled by polar bears. “Ho ho hail and well met, I am Santos!” He gives them each a (rather lame) gift, and takes them to the city of D Argent, a city outside the dimensions of time and space. An eternal city where heroes come to rest from their heroic deeds. The characters retire to D Argent for a few days of rest and relaxation. A festival is held in honor of the slaying of the Lord of Time and Space. Finally the heroes are shown a magical portal and told of a few possible destinations they can step through to return home. They choose an island off the coast of D Erte called the Isle of Dread. So ends a year of gaming.

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