Thursday, February 19, 2015

K42 - Much ado about a bride.

Summary of the campaign so far

The date is June 24th of the 15th year of the Fourth Age. We are approximately three months since the expedition to reclaim Khazad-dum left Erebor. Since, they visited Thrandhuil hall and chaseda wraith there. They then entered Mirkwood, fought off orcs, killed a sorcerer, discovered a way to the underworld and were humbled by blighted-corpse. Thordar got cursed and knows that he will, in turn, become a blighted corpse upon his death. They made friends with the new elf Queen of Lothlorien, entered Moria and found it littered with the animated bodies of generations of ancestor dwarves. They fought off hunting orcs, delved to the 4th Level to discover that the ancestors had been animated by a race of canine creatures known as the Infernals (The infernals were released in Middle-Earth upon the slaying of the Kraken by Gandlaf, Elphir of Dol Amroth, Beorn, Gwaihir and Quickbeam during a side quest). There, they pried the mythical mother of the 7th incarnation of Durin from the clasp of a black pudding. Deema (aka "The Bride") unwillingly (?) bewitched all dwarves who set eyes on her. Mayhem ensued amongst the accursed dwarves. Their loremaster discovered that the ancestors' souls were harvested to revive the Balrog. 

On their way to the 4th deep, they ran into Durbagash orcs and an important goblin prisoner. The prisoner was a prince of the Snagaii kingdom of goblins. A deal was struck to cooperate to defeat the orcs and the infernals festering in the depth of Khazad-dum. While attempting to rescue the viceroy's butler, Khazek, a dwarf secretely  prophesied to sire the 7th incarnation of Durin, plummeted to his death in the endless chasm. The expedition to recover his body met the ranger's wandering soul, and ran afoul of a small number of infernals. 


Roghel MoonOath, reluctant coup leader.
Bain, the Viceroy of Khazad-dum, was pulled out of his dream travels through the old city by an aide. Attack-Lord Roghel MoonOath was demanding an audience with him. Bain made him wait in silence while his aide pulled together a breakfast and a huge mug of coffee.  Roghel explained that the dwarves were weary and rumour was that they were slating him as a replacement for Bain's failing command. Roghel confessed that Bain was seen as too close to elves for the dwarves' taste. He demanded that Lathmelen be expelled, that he gave up his elven amulet, and cleared the rumour about a witch clouding his judgement. 

Bain use a straightforwards approach and explained in details the reason why the elf was useful to the expedition. He also explained that the amulet was critical to speak with the spirit of Khazek, and that anyone seeing the witch would be prey to an irrational obsession. Roghel was most satisfied by Bain's diplomacy, and felt privileged to be now included in the viceroy's inner circle. 

They decided to rotate the troops such that Mithril and Silver attacks would stand down to recover from the curse. In their stead, Drolf's Adarcer-Attack, Drolf's private army, would move forward to keep the approaches from undead and orcs alike. 

Little murder between friends

Thordar and Gror were laid side by side in the infirmary to recover from life threatening wounds. The cuts, made by infernal blades, reluctantly started to scar with the help of elf magic from Lathmelen. A disease was growing in the mind of Gror. He was convinced that Thordar had killed Khazek during his rescue so as to eliminate romantic competition for the heart of Deema. His rumination grew until Gror reached the tipping point. He slipped out of his bed and climbed on Thordar's. He began smothering the butler with a pillow. 

Thordar tried to fight back while he still could. He eventually managed to stun Gror using an ear clap (good thinking here, son). He tossed him to the ground and regained his breath. Gror convinced the orderlies rushing in that Thordar was a murderer. The orderlies did not even paid attention to the protests of the butler and isolated him into another room. 

When informed of the event, the viceroy met with both dwarves. He forbade Gror from approaching Thordar. He then ensured that Thordar had done nothing wrong once more. Thordar suspected that his liege had a hand into the attempted murder. The viceroy made a concinving case against this delusional belief. 

Beardless in Khazad-dum

Thordar was in a terrible shape. A eunnuch, he spent the best of his life compensating with outrageous machismo. But now, his false beard had fallen in the endless chasm, revealing a unhealing wound to his cheek where the blighted ghouls had tore his flesh. He felt exposed, weakened. 

A walk to the dining hall didn't help. Dwarves were laughing behind his back. He could feel now that the respect due for being the viceroy's string man had somehow vanished. For the first time in his life, Thordar felt weak, his legendary and foolhardy self-confidence melted away. In an audience with the viceroy, his request to be released was turned down. Bain explained that his wild ways weren't the reason why he was his butler, and that much work was to be done to unravel the leader of the Putsch against him. 

Bain just knew which button to press and Thordar felt better about himself. The survival of the viceroy depended on his ability to find and eliminate the threat. Who else would be able to do this?

A wedding since death do them apart

Deema the irresistible.
Khazek wandered away from the living as they hiked back to the Eastern Gate of Khazad-dum. The torches, the chatters and the living folks were grating against his better nature. He set out to visit Deema. Although he was dead, his attraction to the mother of all dwarves was still strong. 

He found her quarters by flying through the endless chasm. The guards were clearly instructed not to approach and were playing dice on the floor at the other end of the atrium. The place, a former dwelling for surface farmers, was quiet as a tomb. He hid his elven sword on a high ledge, and entered her room through the front door. He found her quietly sitting on a chair, cross stitching. 

She was visible and audible as her body existed both in the real and the world of the shadows. Unlike in the past, she was relaxed and pleasant. She asked many questions to Khazek, and revealed that she knew that her husband would reveal himself as a spirit rather than a dwarf in the flesh. She insisted that Khazek's body be given a proper burial and be laid to rest on the 4th level when all this madness was sorted out. 

Their souls and their hands touched as another page in the history of Middle-Earth was being written. There would be no need for fanfare nor large ceremony. Their communion was sufficient to ensure that the last of the Durin was to rule once more. 

They were both happy, peaceful.

The inquisitors

Peaceful that is until a loud knock on the door interrupted their private time. Khazek poked his head through the door and sent half a dozen running in fear. The light of the torches was irritating, but Khazek was capable to see enough to act. He reached for the chest of two of the nearest dwarves. His icy wraith hands chilled their hearts and the two dwarves fell to the ground either stunned or unconscious. The other dwarves got so frightened that one of them fell from the balcony to the ground a story below.
Khazek recognized the insigna and identified the dwarves as part of the Mithril attack. All now seemed quiet, so Khazek returned to Deema.

A wheel set in motion

The session ended as Gror was consuming liquid courage (we'll roll for your inebriation level next session) so as to pay a visit to Deema himself. He was sure that she would choose him now that Khazek was dead and Thordar disgraced. This is when a group of Mithril battle-guard burst into the dining hall, spouting that the witch was real and had killed many dwarves. A general call to arm was raised. Terror and panic had come to the dwarves from within.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

K41 - The infernals are here!

This report covers a two-session encounters against the campaing's villains and the PCs. To make things more interesting, I gave the steering wheel to one of the player whose PC was there only through a dream projection. What a good move on my part.

Where we left (A month ago)

We're on the 4th deep of Khazad-dum. Gror lead an expedition of Axe-dwarves to recover the body of Khazek, friend, colleague and dead PC. They ran into Khazek's wraith instead and things went sour. A mutiny took over the expedition and the bulk of the dwarves ran back to the East Gate. Gror lead 5 dwarves to find Lathmelen, an ally elf noble, struggling in the dark and calling for help. When Gror saw Khazek's wraith, he fell to a panic attack while the others kept their distances. Khazek tried to help Gror, but his wraith body nearly drained Gror off of his life force.

Tordar, the Viceroy's butler and spymaster arrived late and tried to talk to Khazek. Meanwhile, Khazek was in a conversation with the Viceroy who had traveled to the 4th deep in a dream using his amulet of Irmo.

Snuff out that light!

Khazek was most offended at the torch light and wandered away, barely able to contain his anger. Bain, overing in dreamscape, tied to calm him down while Thordar passed on his torch to Shortneck. Lathmelen roused Gror from his embarrassing slumber and brought him back to his feet. He was cold and pale after an accidental body slam with a wraith.

In the distance, goblins from the Snagaii kingdoms were coming down (or up) the endless chasm. They got near, then faded out to silence.

The Infernals are round the corner.

Unblurred infernals: Now imagine an army of 'em.
Three shapeless masses appeared from their rear. They couldn't pin down their appearance as their body seemed to flicker like the flame of a candle. They were tall, canine looking, armed with shortswords and shields and moving in rather fast. Without skipping a beat, they engaged the company.

The combat as difficult, in between the blur and the low light, the PC had to set their strikes very carefully. The infernals fought together very well: keeping close and striking hard.

One of them dropped his sword as he was pushed back. The third one entangled Lathmelen with his whip, but got skewered by Thordar Ithilnaur's knife (which cuts through steel like it was lead). Khazek joined in. All 8 dwarves struggled to keep on top of the two infernals. Thordar neck nearly got severed by a powerful attack to his neck, he got whisked away by a dwarf and healed by Lathmelen. The other infernals delivered a deadly blow to Gror, who fell to the ground bleeding profusely. By then, Khazek had knocked the last burning torch off the hands of Shortneck and the light was waning. The two most powerful warrior were on the threshold of death (nearly -1*HP). Khazek managed good strike from an overhead position and sent the infernals running. One was knocked down the stairs, the other barely escaped with his life.

Thus ended the combat. Blood loss was put under control despite the evil properties of the infernals' blades. The dwarves didn't spend too much time reflecting on their victory and left the two dead infernals behind on their way back to the East gate.

What about the dreamer?

Bain, Viceroy of Khazad-dum and dreamer was roused by an aide. He rushed to his feet. While he was rubbing his eyes, Roghel MoonOath entered the room with a serious look in his face. Roghel was the commander of the Silver-Attack, the elite unit of the invasion force. Bain understood that this was not a social call.

"We need to talk.", he said in a grave voice.

Gaming note

Giving the villains to a player meant that Arne got to play, try something new, and give a rough ride to the PCs. This is the second time that I give monsters to players: the stakes are higher, player death more imminent. I will reward Arne's character for his ruthless playtest of the infernal with bonus on all important loyalty check at the onset of the next episode.