The campaign in Erillion continues! Here is a campaign report of the past three sessions of my players. They’ve traveled along the coast, stayed in Gont, sailed on to Baklin, and now have entered Tetuphor! I really thought they were going to sail north to the Forgotten Grottoes of the Sea-Lords, but they desire magical arms first, which is sensible.
Bornuonor “Bruno” Nornuonor, Dwarf Fighter 5
Mornir Two-Towers, Northman Sailor 5
Barnacles, Northman Sailor 4/Cleric 1 of the Sea-Our-Mother
Grunt, Northman Thief 1/Archer 4
Gravy, War Dog
At the docks of Gont, a false cleric of Trilgar the sailor imported to the party a secret: that he actually serves the Sea-Our-Mother, and is looking for willing adventurers to brave the forgotten Grottoes of the Sea-Lords to resurrect her powers! Barnacles the sailor immediately carved a triangle into his forehead in devotion to the mission, and became a cleric to the watery god.
However, the company was in need of some magical arms. The smiths of Gont could not help, so the crew west along the cost to Baklin. Their business partner Hagguk arranged for the trip to be profitable by smuggling sunfish fish oil in the ports of Baklin on behalf of their patron Grave-Wight, at old storerooms notoriously neglected beneath the city streets. “Bushels” was there to greet them and staged a diversion with beggars painted up as lepers to distract the city watch from taxing the cargo. They delivered the goods, and Bushels paid them well enough to cover the cost of the trip plus a few week’s stay in the city. He told them to stop by the Nine Doors for grub sometime, and bid them farewell.
With the cargo offloaded, the company temporarily headed topside so the dwarf could commission Ragorlak, the famous smith of Baklin, for a silvered mace of custom make. North of the market at the Cauldron & Bellow, Bruno handed over the crucial piece to the weapon: the skull of his former body! The smith soberly considered the dwarf skull carefully for the rigors of a lost-wax casting process, then agreed to make this skull-topped weapon for the dwarf. “Return in two day’s time,” the smith growled.
Returning to Baklin’s Undercity, the company wandered the former catacombs and dusty passageways. Mornir perused some empty catacomb niches left over from the days of when Yolanthus Kar did not inter Erillion’s deceased in Barzak Bragoth. A false bottom in one of the niches revealed 12 bags of silver! Feeling flush with success, the pressed on deeper beneath the city. They found the underground entrance to the Master’s Guild (and the fiery coals saved for those who like to tamper with the door locks of the Master’s Guild). The archer found an invisible statue and decided to amuse himself by outlining a stick figure in charcoal upon it- but the charcoal chipped at the wrist, revealing an odd seam. Twisting the hand, a niche opened in the cave wall, and inside, discovered an invisible pouch filled with invisible dust! The dwarf thought about a taste-test, but in the end the archer-thief kept it and saved it for identification by a wizard in the city.
Looping back around the halls, the company ran into the bizarre floating eyeballs that they had avoided from a distance earlier. Barnacles, former shipwrecker and devotee to the Sea-Our-Mother, turned two of the eyeballs and commanded them into a leather pouch on his person. The rest of the eyes were readily slain, and the party returned topside to find a place to sleep for the night.
The closest establishment was The Ink Bucket, and although there were but two scribes in the common room, it was a full house…save for Room #6. Lady Vandrallen offered it for free, but warned of the ghost haunting it. Unafraid, Grunt, Bruno and Barnacles marched upstairs to do away with the spirit. Peeping into the room, they were immediately greeted by a fanged phantasm floating towards them with clawed hands. Grunt fired off two arrows uselessly through the apparition. The evil cleric turned out the evil eyes in their pouch, but immediately lost control of them- and so the door was swiftly shut, and the crew decided to plead for sleeping on the tavern floor instead.
However, the princeling of the group Mornir Two-Towers was not to be discomfited in any way and went to the suite to demand it for himself. Who answers the door but Kusub the Cardsman, diviner of mysteriously bound fates! Asking Mornir again if he is absolutely sure he wants the suite, the princeling soon finds himself in the middle of a tarot reading. The diviner promises of a stranger visiting the suite at dawn- and what may come of the meeting, Kusub cannot guess.
Morning comes, and black flags are raised on the towers of Baklin. The cheesemonger is the first to stop by the Ink Bucket and relays fresh gossip: Huberic of Haghill has died! In his place a Lord Otchcall now resides, and with Huberic’s wizard still missing, a Godfred Perladon has been appointed as his wizard and vizier. The company took this news gravely, for they all wore gold rings given to them by Huberic and had been out questing for some time now for a way to deal with the feared Grendel in the Forest of Death. Not only this, but they had met Godfred Perladon once before- crawling out of his crypt in the ruined Perladon Manor! This did not bode well, and they pocketed their rings so as not to be recognized as Huberic’s men; there had been rumors in Gont of someone looking for them by that description as well, along the farmlands between the port city and Perladon Manor.
Bruno picks up his mace, and the smith says reluctantly that his magic is fading- the mace is inert until it has drunk hag’s blood (unknown to the smith, the dwarf had been reborn in the opposite alignment after eating a hag’s pearl). Ragorlak bids him to speak to The Piper in the Forest of Woe, a day’s march north from the coastal village Nex. He promises them magical arms all (!) if they get the Piper to bring back his good luck. Before leaving Baklin, Mornir and Grunt stop by The Blue Bottle for curios and to barter with the invisible powder. A deal isn’t struck, but they do leave with a poem describing the tomb of Yrrtwano the Hunter.
They exit Baklin, and walk on the old stone road west, passing by two wee thorps along the way. Between the imposing peaks of the Kordwas Mountain lay the broken and wooded terrain of the Forest of Woe, crisscrossed with ravines, canyons, and gulches. Reaching the Forest of Woe by evening, the crew makes camp in a ditch underneath a rocky overhang off the side of the road.
They woke to stormy weather, heavy rains and clouds. And to Grunt’s ears, the sound of creatures above the overhang. Grunt performs reconnaissance, climbing up the overhang, and spies three Xvarts on patrol! Mornir is the best dressed of the party and attempts to parley with the group, but one reacts poorly to the sneaking thief in the party, and a quick and deadly combat ensued with the last Xvart captive. Through pantomime and liberal ration-gifting, Mornir is able to have the Xvart let them deep into the woods for hopefully the Piper…it is by evening-time that the Xvart halts in a gulch. It points to where a mossy statue of a piper rests, then flees into the thickets.
Investigating the statue and finding nothing of interest but a broken stone finger in the grass (someone must have stolen the flute), they wander north and find two cave entrances.
They take the eastern one, walk past the charred skeleton of a giant snake, and again Mornir quickly parleys with 8 bandits who were moving in to rob the party. Some gold is placed in dirty palms, and information is given about the bandits, who have started working with some orcs to unseal caves to old elemental gods. Unfortunately one bandit tries to cut down Mornir, and so are all quickly cut down by arrows, a harpoon, and a throwing hammer.
Moving on through the caverns, the party finds charred skeletons (“TOWARDS AN ELEMENTAL UNIVERSE” written on the wall), sleeping skeleton mercenaries, and an altar to an elemental god, which was destroyed with prejudice by the cleric. The company is now in a large cavern with a collapsed ceiling in the center, showing the storming night sky above. The cleric has been taken surprise by a Megabat, and that’s where we ended the session.
Our campaign takes place on Erillion (Echoes from Fomalhaut 1-6, 8-9, Baklin), and Huberic of Haghill (Judge’s Guild Installment K) was a significant starting point. Tetuphor is by Gene Weigel. The Forgotten Grottoes of the Sea Lords (not that we’ve made it there yet) is by Expeditious Retreat Press.
Hexes and Crawls: The game up until this point had only seen travel across a few hexes or so; my efforts in getting a reasonable hexcrawl procedure onto a single page proved very useful. Erillion is written with 12 mi/20 km hexes which gives a nice feel for traveling long distances in a short amount of game time. Hunting (in this case, fishing while anchored) found good use, sights were seen, and any notion of “fast-traveling” somewhere evaporated in the promise of exploration. I’m still learning how to easily grok lairs and encounter tables at the same time. Should I roll for someone who’s wandered off the road from the city, a resident monster, or something completely different? It’s largely a matter of preference that only time will clarify. For example, when I started DM’ing, I used an “overloaded encounter die”: 1=Encounter, 2-3=Omen, 4-5=Nothing, 6=Optional Encounter. In my last session I just went with the typical 1:6=Encounter, and gameplay felt faster. Rolling an omen can provide interesting context and add tension, but it can also drag down decision-making by overwhelming players with sensory input. Rat turds, torch butts, and scuffed floors are ok, but “you hear footsteps” 2-3x just makes things confusing. I’d rather trust the dungeon dressing and room entries and focus on encounter distance instead, which also seems useful for outdoor encounters.
City life: In the cities I’m still unsure what the perfect mixture of “fast-travel” and “dungeoncrawl” ought to be; sometimes they feels like wonderful places to explore and learn history, but they can also feel like they’re getting in the way of a proper adventure, especially when it comes to buying sundry items. I’ve been using BFRPG’s excellent Equipment Emporium; perhaps I should compose smaller lists for different businesses…the trickiest business of all being the Magic-User’s shop. List of Magic-User spell components, magical reagents, and curios, anyone?