Opelenean Nights

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The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10
Opelenean Nights


The Characters:
Ethlyn - Tirenean Swashbuckler Bard. Str 11, Int 9, Wis 10, Dex 14, Con 10, Chr 17.
Young, lithe, blonde, blue-eyed, and beautiful, a 15-year old former slave of an Opelenean sage who stole away on a ship for a life of adventure.

Raziel - Opelenean Bravo Assassin. Str 18, Int 9, Wis 11, Dex 16, Con 10, Chr 10.
A short, muscular man, aged 18 years, with a neatly trimmed beard and gravelly voice, he is dedicated to Kalefa, goddess of life and death. He carries and fights with two scimitars.

Sharik - Opelenean Deranged Alchemist Warlock. Str 9, Int 18, Wis 9, Dex 10, Con 13, Chr 11.
A dark-skinned man, 29 years of age, he affects a long beard, robes and turban. A sinister jinn in the form of a desert toad perches on his shoulder, marking him as a sha'ir.

Senef - Kemeshi Snake Handler Shaman. Str 13, Int 14, Wis 18, Dex 13, Con 10, Chr 9.
A heavily tanned man, aged 22, with skin weather from a life outdoors. He wears weatherbeaten desert robes and bears a twin snake rod. A small python coils around his shoulders.

Mahmud - Opelenean Champion Paladin. Str 13, Int 10, Wis 8, Dex 10, Con 13, Cha 16. 
A noble-looking man of 23 years with a fine beard, dark skin, and piercing eyes, wearing lamellar armor and carrying a scimitar and round shield. He worships Imran, god of law and light (whom the Aurans call Ammonar).

Tor - Dwarven Machinist Mechanic. Str 7, Int 18, Wis 13, Dex 13, Con 10, Cha 8.
Fated to die before his appearance could be recorded for posterity.


The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Session One.
A caravan en route to Alakyrum, Pearl of the  Desert, was struck by a terrible sandstorm. In the chaos, six members of the caravan were separated from the main body. When the storm finally cleared, the six strangers found themselves lost in the desert with the caravan nowhere to be found. 

Striking out east, they traveled for miles, burning through their water and food. Near death, the travelers stumbled upon the ruins of an ancient city. Rising from the wreckage of walls and buildings was a stepped pyramid, its pinnacle topped with statues of three great gods. Mahmoud, who had received religious training prior to setting off on his warrior's pilgrimage, recognized them as archaic representations of Orn, Lord of Storms; Annara, Goddess of Love and War; and Istanul, God of Secrets.

With few options, the travelers warily approached the pyramid. They were gladdened to find a secret door into the pyramid, but disturbed to find a beastman dead just within the entrance. Tor, a mechanic by nature, cautioned of the possibility of traps. Past the secret door, the travelers found three metal shafts stretching floor to ceiling. As they investigated the shafts, Sharik's toad began to croak unceasingly and the travelers felt nauseous. Fearing some sort of poison gas, the travelers randomly opened the middle shaft's hatch and clambered down the ladder they found within.

They dropped down into a chamber lit by the hideous glow of giant beetles. A brief melee ensued, in which one of the beetles knocked down Ethlyn, who hit her head on the hard stone floor. Raziel and Mahmoud proved formidable fighters, however, and the creatures were soon dispatched. Sharik greedly began carving the phospherescent glands from the dead beetles while Senef proved himself an able healer and roused  Ethlyn back to consciousness. She was a bit dizzy but otherwise unharmed. Tor busied himself searching the room, and found it filled with spare parts for automatons - a useful find for one with his inclinations. He also gathered up some vials of smoky oil, which he and the alchemist, Sharik, split.

The travelers were greatly concerned that as of yet they had found no water, so they decided to press further into the pyramid. It did not take long for them to plunge into danger. Entering into an abandoned bedroom, they were assaulted by two giant desert lizards who had been feasting on a corpse. The travelers fought the creatures off, but in the course of the fighting, Raziel the two-sword fighter had his hand bitten off. Senef was able to staunch the blood flow, but Raziel was in no shape for continued fighting, and Tor's gleeful offer to affix a blade to the stump did little to make him feel better.

The corpse that the lizards had been eating was that of a strange, white hairless man wearing a golden mask of a bird. The corpse was still wet, so the travelers surmised water must be nearby. Senef decided to risk communing with the jinn. A long and exotic ritual followed in which the Kemeshi shaman danced, chanted, and hissed at the spirits. When his ritual was completed, he announced with confidence that a source of water was nearby and to the right.

The jinn proved right: Within a few minutes, the travelers stumbled upon a band of men wearing bronze masks of a stern-faced god. These strangers, speaking an archaic dialect of Opelenean, pronounced themselves the Brotherhood of Orn and demanded to know whether the travelers were in league with Zargon. Fortunately, Sharik spoke Old Opelenean, and was able to communicate with the Brotherhood. The ancient desert guest-rites were honored, and the Brothers offered up some food and precious water to the travelers. The travelers spent the next few days with these strange, hairless albinos, allowing Raziel to recover from the loss of his hand, and learned some of the strange facts of the city they were in, called Cynidicea. While it was clear that the Brothers wished Mahmoud and Raziel to join their group, the travelers wished only to reach Alakyrum, and begged their leave.

Sadly the Brothers did not provide the travelers with anywhere near enough water to brave the desert, so the travelers were forced to venture further into the pyramid. By means of a circuitous route, they stumbled upon a large store of treasure guarded by a host of giant bees. This was surely a sign that Fate, whom even the Gods must serve, was smiling upon them! Perhaps with this treasure they could buy enough water from the Cynidiceans to make their escape? The travelers quickly developed a cunning plan: Tor coated a narrow hallway with the smoky oil that Tor had gathered earlier, and drizzled a fuse to it. Raziel then incited the bees into following him, even as Tor lit the fuse. The travelers had noticed that the stone doors of Cynidicea tended to slam shut quickly, and took advantage of this fact to trap the bees in the hallway, where the thick smoke choked and killed them. Fate laughed aloud at their cleverness.

After taking the treasure, the travelers found a passage to a lower level of the pyramid. After a brief but heated discussion, they decided to venture downward. They soon encountered a miracle of stonework, a revolving stone passageway. Tor was able to figure out how the mechanism worked, and the travelers decided to methodically work through the revolutions of the contraption. The first exit quickly lead them to the Temple of Istanul, where a dozen sorcerers in faceless masks where performing rites of worship. The travelers humbly introduced themselves and asked for guest-rights. The sorcerers obliged, introducing themselves as the Magi of Istanul. Their leader, Aytollah, was fascinated by the opportunity to speak with sorcerers and learned folk from outside Cynidicea, and the party enjoyed a lengthy discussion over kefir and mushroom kabobs. Ethlyn sang songs of the Auran Empire, which Aytollah had never heard of, his people's interactions with the surface world having ended not long after the fall of Zahar.

Eventually, Aytollah offered Sharik and Ethlyn membership in the Magi, and the two agreed. Swearing an oath by the Staff and Crescent of Istanul upon the crescent-shaped stone altar in the temple, the pair had Istanul's sigil burned into their palms and were given faceless masks to wear.

Aytollah then asked them if they would undertake an important mission for him. Somewhere in the tiers below, he explained, the great Queen Zenobia was buried with her royal scepter. It was said that the bearer of this scepter had such majesty as to be able to freeze a man in his tracks with but a word or gesture. Aytollah believed that with this scepter, he could defeat the priests of Zargon and restore wisdom and order to Cynidicea. None of the Magi had ever found the scepter. But, he explained, the travelers were clearly the Instruments of Fate, sent by that omnipotent power to serve at this moment! 

With visions of ancient treasure dancing in their eyes, the travelers agreed to undertake this quest, shouting "The Staff and the Crescent!" to show their enthusiasm. None could see the evil cast on Aytollah's masked face... 

Thomas Weigel
Thomas Weigel's picture
Joined: 2012-06-20 11:57

I am very much looking forward to this.

James C. Bennett
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Joined: 2012-01-17 20:17

This is great! I'm looking forward to see how another group handles this module.

The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Session Two.

Aytollah gave the travelers instructions how to reach the fourth tier of the ziggurat. Following these instructions led them back through the rotating passageway, and then rightward, down a sliding floor. They dropped down into the curious tomb of a jester, and amused themselves for a time with the tricks and marvels the long-dead clown had left behind.  Mahmoud and the other Faithful left coin in respect, and the party exited to explore the fourth tier.

They soon encountered a half-dozen beastmen who uttered fierce war-cries of “Zargon!” and attacked. Only now did the heretofore unassuming sha’ir Sharik reveal his power. As the beastmen charged forward, the very ground beneath their feet became as slippery as the shifting sands. Losing their balance, the beastmen fell in disarray and were soon dispatched.

Pressing past the corpses, the travelers came upon the sealed tomb of some long-dead warrior. While the warrior’s mummy lay in eternal rest, his skeletal guardians did not, and had to be dispatched through force of arms. After the leaving the warrior’s tomb, the travelers circled eastward to a tomb with eternal flames flitting from brass jars. The jars were immovable, but in searching near the jars the party found a map indicating there was some sort of trap door in the tier. They didn’t recognize the location on the map, so they decided further exploration was warranted.

As the party exited the tomb of flaming jars, they heard the thunderous sound of stone crashing on stone. Their torchlight revealed a granite boulder rolling down the corridor towards them, giving them barely enough time to duck back into the tomb and avoid being crushed. The dwarf, Tor, advised that he was an expert at finding traps, and offered to search the doors more thoroughly to avoid such incidents going forward.

In the next room they visited, the travelers were alerted to a lair of giant rats by the horrendous croaks of alarm coming from Barnabas, Sharik’s toad-jinn. There were almost a dozen of the foul rodents, and many of the party took fierce bites. Ethlyn, however, fought particularly well, impressing even grim Mahmoud, who shared his water with her afterwards. Sharik then asked Barnabas to explore the lair, prompting a series of croaks: “Oh, most investigatory and delegatory of masters, your humble servant thanks you for the opportunity to expose his tender skin to the pestilence these rodents litter their lair with.” There was, however, 300 gp and 4 golden topazes scattered in the lair, the rats having a penchant for collecting small shiny things.

The travelers were by now quite exhausted and laden with several wounds, so they decided to seal themselves up in the warrior’s tomb to rest. There was little rest to be had, however. Not more than an hour after they settled down, Brothers of Orn burst in upon them. The Brotherhood had been searching for the party ever since they stole the treasure from the bee-hive – as that was actually the Brotherhood’s treasure vault. In the Brotherhood’s eyes, this was a shocking betrayal from people they had given guest-rights to. Worse, the party had since joined the Magi of Istanul! Such treachery could only be repaid with cold steel. The fight with the Brothers was savage. Only fierce swordplay by Mahmoud and Ethlyn turned the tide, but Raziel, Tor, and Sharik were all incapacitated. Raziel and Tor proved only to be have been dazed, but Sharik took a shield-smash to his hip which left him lamed.

The travelers found themselves in yet more need of rest. This time they took the precaution of spiking the doors shut, and maintaining noise and light discipline. They were disturbed during the night to hear a strange wolf-like howling and shuffling, but their precautions held. The next day, the party re-mapped some of the areas around the warrior’s tomb, connecting up various tunnels and passageways to create a clearer representation of the fourth tier.

With the north-eastern portion of the fourth tier mapped, the travelers headed westward. The hall ended in a nobleman’s burial room. The nobleman’s tomb had become the lair of two savage white apes, who unleashed a barrage of hurled rocks at the party. Senef, the shaman, was struck down by stone to the groin; his immediate unconsciousness spared him the horror of knowing he’d been castrated. The beautiful singer Ethlyn took a rock to the face that reduced her teeth to porridge. Mahmoud, Raziel, and Tor charged in to melee with the creatures, but the carnivorous primates were even more fearsome in melee. Raziel managed to dispatch one ape, but was then struck down, his left eye a torn and bleeding maw, by its mate. The surviving ape then pounced on Tor, tearing his arms off. The machinist’s slender fingers were still twitching with finely-tuned muscle memory as he died in screaming agony a few feet away. Mahmoud, filled with the rage of Imran, finished the final ape off, but it was hard to call the battle a victory. The one consolation was a marvellous scimitar with a golden hilt carved in the shape of a falcon, its pattern-welded blade seeming untouched by the years. Mahmoud claimed the blade as his own. 

After catching their breath and doing what they could for the injured and fallen, the battered adventurers decided they had no choice but to return to the Magi of Istanul and report that they had failed to find the scepter of Zenobia.

The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Session Three.

When the party reached the sanctuary of the Magi, Aytollah expressed sympathies for their loss, but urged them not to abandon the quest for the scepter. “The Staff and the Crescent!” cried the travelers, swearing they would find it.

As a thank you for their efforts on behalf of the Magi, Aytollah gave them a gift of a Thrassian slave. The lizardman had been found wandering in the desert a few days earlier, manacled to a locked chest. While dehydrated and famished, the Thrassian was powerfully built, with razor-sharp claws, rippling muscles, and more than a few sword-scars. In halting common, the creature, Rakh, explained that it was an arena champion being shipped to Alakyrum to do battle in the coliseums there. It had been separated from its caravan during a sandstorm. Surmising that this must have been the same caravan and same sandstorm that had brought the party together in the first place, Mahmoud saw the Instrument of Fate at work, and claimed Rakh as a warrior-companion. The Thrassian, failing to understand that it was free, vowed to serve Mahmoud loyally. [Paul’s PC, Tor, was dead. He had rolled up Rakh, a 1st level Thrassian Gladiator, as his replacement.]

While Rakh was meeting the rest of the travelers, the mumble-mouthed Ethlyn tried to find an associate of her own. Fortunately her lisping voice was still attractive, and the faceless mask of Istanul concealed her disfigurement, so she was able to recruit a young mage, Majid, to join her.

After several days of rest, the travelers – now with Rakh and Majid in their company – felt confident enough to sortie again. Making their way back to the fourth tier, they found themselves face-to-face with another war party from the Brotherhood of Orn, ever-intent on revenge. Filled with hatred for the Brothers, Majid unleashed a cone of fire from his hands that left the Brothers badly burned. Those still capable of fighting were caught in the slippery sands summoned by Sharik, and soon dispatched.

Not long after fighting off the Brothers, the travelers found the burial room of a former high priest. This august chamber was the lair of a pack flesh-eating ghuls, but Fate smiled on the travelers again and the fight was speedily won.

From the high priest’s tomb, the travelers began exploring a long, twisting corridor. Their progress was halted by the dreadful appearance of long dead Iskander and Zenobia, the lost monarchs of Cynidicea, warning them to turn back or face certain doom. Many of the party members decided to head this advice and fled in panic, and it took almost thirty minutes for them to re-organize to continue their exploration.

Senef, wise in the way of spirits, deduced that the presence of the apparitions suggested that Iskander and Zenobia’s tombs must be nearby. He decided to commune with the jinn. After an exotic ritual involving much hissing and dancing, the shaman announced that a secret door was to be found on the south wall of the passage. Even armed with this knowledge, it took the travelers nearly an hour to locate the door; already they missed their fallen friend Tor, whose knowledge of stone mechanisms had been unparalleled.

Past the secret door found a long gallery with a floor marked in red and white checkerboard tiles. At the far end of the gallery, a narrow gap cut across the east wall, where the falling stone of some long-triggered trap had only partly sealed off the exit. Raziel was certain the room was heavily trapped, but trusting to Kalefa, led the way. Progress was slow, for at each tile he stopped to prod it with a spear before proceeding forward. All told it took almost two hours to traverse the room, but by being so careful the party was able to avoid the three dreadful scythes that might have otherwise sent them to their next life. They then cautiously scuttled through the narrow gap into what they assumed would be the tomb of the Cynidicean monarchs.

It turned out to be a false tomb, used to mislead tomb robbers. The travelers were not fooled, quickly ascertaining that the jewels were paste and rock, the coins counterfeit. They felt confident that the real tombs had to be close by, and commenced a thorough search of the false tomb. Still lacking anyone with skill at searching, it was a ponderous process, but they did eventually locate two secret doors, one on the north and one on the south wall.

They decided to traverse the southern door, and in this, they chose poorly. The tomb they came upon was none other than the resting place of King Iskander, who lingered in this world as a macabre spirit. As the ghostly king chanted lays of death, all of the adventurers felt their vital energies slipping away. Most fled immediately; only Mahmoud, Rakh, and Raziel stayed to fight. Mahmoud’s falcon-scimitar cut swathes of energy from the spirit, but Rakh and Raziel’s non-magical weapons couldn’t even harm the ghostly king. With their life energy beginning to ebb under the king’s chanting, Rakh and Raziel pried open the king’s sarcophagus and seized his ancient, gleaming blade, turning the ghostly king’s own scimitar against him.

At this moment, Mahmoud realized his vital energy was about to give away completely, and he turned to run. His knees buckled, and he pitched forward, his head smacking onto the edge of the sarcophagus. The grotesque angle the impact left his head in could only mean his spine had snapped. There was no time for pity or compassion: Rakh snatched up Mahmoud’s sword and he and Raziel continued to strike at the ghostly king.

A moment later the king chanted out a word of death, and Raziel and Rakh both fell stricken, their flesh blackening with necrosis. The chanting ended. In the next room, Ethlyn realized that her comrades had fallen, and resolved to avenge them. Chanting with all the elan her shattered mouth could muster, she charged into the king’s tomb, picked up the fallen magic swords, and struck. With a wail, King Iskander vanished! Rakh and Raziel were dead, however, and Mahmoud was paralyzed from the neck down. “Imran,” the paladin wailed. “Why did you not grant me the glory of death in battle?”

The survivors gathered up the bodies of the fallen and the treasures of Iskander and retreated to the sanctuary of Istanul once again.

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Joined: 2012-02-06 14:12

This is great stuff, thanks for sharing! I meant to ask, how did the player of the two weapon fighter take it when they lost a hand?

The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Oh, he took it really well. Raziel's player is John Moulton. John Moulton was one of the original ACKS playtesters, having taken his fighter Marcus from level 1 to level 14 in our Borderlands campaign. He's pretty stoic about the ups and downs of RPGs!

Marcus Odysius
Joined: 2011-07-29 01:49

Fate has a cruel sense of humor: with both hands I couldn't land a hit despite having one of the best chances in the party, but once I lost one it seemed I couldn't miss.

The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Session Four.

[Session Four was a special session of ACKS: Opelenean Nights, as we had the participation of all but one partner in Autarch LLC. Tavis Allison had flown in from New York for our semi-annual strategy meeting, so Greg Lincoln, Newton Grant, and Greg Tito all came out to play, too. The additional four players meant our group numbered ten for the evening. Some of the course of the gameplay is best understood in this context.]

Again the party had returned to the Magi of Istanul without the scepter of Zenobia. However, their tales of confronting Iskander meant they were close, so close! It is possible that in his cunning mind, Aytollah had visions of seeking out Zenobia’s tomb himself, but surveying the wreckage of the adventurers, he decided it would better for them to continue the quest. Sadly there were in no shape to continue any sort of quest at all. Mahmud was a quadriplegic. Ethlyn was mush-mouthed and disfigured. Sharik was lame. Senef was a eunuch. Rakh was dead. And Raziel was one-eyed, one-handed, and dead.

Aytollah convened a quiet discussion among his elder brethren and returned with a plan. “Fellow Magi of Istanul, there is no power within our order that can heal your friends. You must seek the solace of the surface world. From our occasional forays, we of the Magi know where a caravan trail can be found. Majid will lead you there, and from there, perhaps you can get the healing you need. But you must pledge, in exchange for this guidance, that you will return to the service of Istanul!”

It’s likely that the battered and demoralized travelers would have agreed to sell their genitals to Iskara if it meant a chance to live whole and healthy, and all quickly swore oaths by the Staff and Crescent to return when their health was recovered.

A few days later, they were on a desert caravan trail, heading eastward. The paralyzed Mahmud had been strapped into a sand-sled, to be easily dragged; from his sandy litter, he prayed at dawn and dusk for Imram to take him to the Heavens. Rakh and Raziel were shrouded and also placed on litters, and the three survivors pulled the three casualties eastward.

It was here that Fate again smiled upon them, as a caravan of merchants came upon them from the west. This caravan was headed to the nearby town of Kirkuk, a day south-eastward. The youthful Ethlyn managed to convince the caravan master to allow the party to accompany the caravan. In the caravan, the party became acquainted with several fellow travelers, including Audarius, a Tirenean cleric of Ammonar; Avda, a veiled Opelenean priestess of Annara (Ianna); Kempt, a Zaharan ruinguard; and Kamishar, a Somirean mystic. These new adventurers were roused to great interest by the tales of treasure they heard, although the sorry state of the travelers seemed a cautionary tale.

Ten days after they had first gotten lost in the sandstorm, the travelers found themselves in the village of Kirkuk. Kirkuk had once been the site of a Thrassian temple, and ancient lizard graves pock-marked its hills. Subsequently it had become a Zaharan fortress, and the ruined remnants of castle walls still encircled the town. Now it was a thriving trade post en route to Alakyrum to the east. The oasis waters that fed Kirkuk were said to be holy, and a powerful cleric of the Empyrean Faith oversaw the village’s sacred grotto. It was to this cleric that the travelers turned to for aid in restoring their friends.

After two days of arduous spell-casting, all the travelers were restored. Sharik noticed that Raziel and Rakh had taken on a strange immaterial glow that he was worried would warn undead of their presence. Ethlyn and Senef, less grievously injured, both returned fine, save for the fact that their right arm seemed occasionally under the control of an alien entity. Mahmud alone seemed to carry no ill side effects.

All of the adventurers agreed that it was the Instrument of Fate uniting them, and that it was not for them to disagree with Fate! Thus they resolved to all go together back to the lost city. Still, 30 days passed in Kirkuk before the adventurers felt ready to travel again. Sharik used the time to learn a new dweomer from the local astrologer, while Mahmud, Ethlyn, and Avda recruited three young men – Abiram, Cleopas, and Wazir – to join the band. Kempt bought a camel and hired two light infantry to guard it.

It was now late summer, and the three day trek back to Cynidicea was miserably hot and desiccating. When the party accidentally stumbled over an ancient Zaharan cemetery and had to fight off a dozen skeletons, the fighting was almost reinvigorating compared to the sandy drudgery of travel.

When the party reached the lost city on the third day, they headed directly to the Aytollah’s chamber to let him know of their return. His words were kind, but his ever-present faceless mask denied them any sense of his true expression. He did have a heated conversation with Majid, Ethlyn’s mage, before sending them again to seek out Zenobia’s tomb.

The adventurers were confronted by seven giant bats that had taken roost on the fourth tier, but these were quickly dispatched. A trio of spitting cobras was shooed away by Senef the snake-handler. Thereafter the party reached the false tomb without incident, and moved towards the northern secret door, which they deduced to be Zenobia’s tomb.

Like Iskander, Zenobia lingered on in undeath. Her vile form was of a life-draining wight. Before the creature could even strike, however, the cleric Audarius strode forward with the Winged Sun in hand. “By the Law and Light of Ammonar, I condemn you!” the fiery priest shouted. The wight wilted before this unexpected display of celestial power, and was quickly cut down. [Audarius rolled a natural 20 to turn the wight!] With the queen sent on to her next life, the party was able to claim the long-sought scepter!

Strangely, they did not return immediately to Aytollah with it. Perhaps flush with their own success, they decided to further explore the fourth tier. Their continued wanderings led them into battle against a trio of giant blood-sucking varmints and against five shadowy creatures of chaos, a battle that led to a considerable horde of gold and a colorless, odorless fluid that Sharik identified as a potion of invisibility.

As they delved deeper into the fourth tier, the party now also began to encounter Cynidiceans who did not belong to one of the three religious factions they had heretofore learned about. These encounters were quite surreal. One such group they encountered, a half-dozen men and women wearing painted human masks, became absolutely convinced that Ethlyn was the reincarnation of Queen Zenobia. When she pointed the scepter at them, they were utterly awed, and henceforth began following “her majesty” around. A later encounter, with four Cynidiceans in feathered masks, was even stranger, as the dream-absorbed albinos invited the party to “come fly with them” as they flitted around the stone galleries of the tier. The last the party heard of them was the rumbling of a great stone boulder trap being triggered…

The next tomb the party opened  confronted them with a most hideous sight: A great centipede-like worm, reared up to the height of a man, its disgusting maw surrounded by writhing tentacles. “It’s ZARGON!” screamed the Cynidiceans that accompanied them. “Then Zargon shall die!” shouted Mahmud, charging into the fight.

The creature was not Zargon, merely one of that foul god-beast’s hideous spawn, and it fell swiftly. Still, the fight with the pseudo-Zargon had reminded the party of the risks they were taking. They decided to return the scepter to Aytollah to see what reward awaited their loyal service to Istanul. Aytollah met them with an honor guard of his most loyal mages, and took the scepter from them in gloved hands with a gracious bow. Raising the scepter, he pronounced they had done a great service to the “Staff and the Crescent” – and with these command words triggered the wand’s paralyzing blast. All but Senef, Audarius, and Avda were instantly held.

The three of them gaped in horror at the treachery, then drew their weapons. Senef launched a telling blow on Aytollah, but then one of Aytollah’s minions spoke a dweomer of slumber and put Audarius and Avda to sleep. Magical missiles slammed into Senef, but he managed to wake up Audarius with a swift kick.

The enraged cleric then proceeded to stave in Aytollah’s head, and the fight degenerated into a crazed frenzy of unskilled combat, as a horde of robed mages battled a shaman, a cleric, and a priestess. In the course of the fighting, the paralyzed Kempt’s throat was cut, and Kamishar’s throat was almost cut – a last-minute shove causing him to lose an ear instead.

When the fighting ended, the party was still standing and the magi of Istanul were not, save for one – Majid. Trembling in terror, he tried to explain that the party would not have been harmed, that Aytollah merely feared them, but his excuses carried no weight. Majid was judged a traitor, and Raziel ceremoniously broke all his bones in the most agonizing way possible before sending him to the next life.

With the Magi of Istanul dispatched, the adventurers scoured their quadrant of the third tier, gathering up a silver rod with a crystal tip, an ornate flanged mace, and many silver masks and daggers. This, combined with Zenobia’s treasures, was quite a haul, so the party decided to return to Kirkuk, bringing their dead and wounded with them.

There were on the road but a day when a terrible war cry pierced the sandy dunes. A dozen fanatics, wearing hideous Zargon masks, fell upon them. Unluckily, Raziel was cut down with a vicious blow, and their loyal henchmen Wazir and Abiram were also felled. Rakh’s inhuman ferocity became apparent as he made a mound of corpses around himself, and he and Mahmud carried the day.

Senef’s healing arts and Mahmud’s laying on hands were able to save Raziel, though his wounds healed stiff and scarred. As for Wazir and Abiram, naught could be done. The party decided to burn their bodies, and that of Kempt as well, that their spirits might be freed. Audarius gave a solemn service pledging their souls to Ammonar’s Light, and the travelers headed home.

Beedo's picture
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Joined: 2011-07-12 13:55

Great session reports - I love the Lost City, and the modest reskinning adds wonders to the narrative. Low level games are so bloody.

The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

My personal delight has been that the bloodiness has been so ironic. The bard having her mouth crunched, the two sword fighter losing his hand, and the snake handler losing his snake... I couldn't make that up.

The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Session Five.

The party safely returned to Kirkuk, where some reorganization was in order. The fire of adventure seemed to have been exhausted in several of the travelers, and they spoke of heading on to Alakyrum for a more settled existence. [E.g. Tavis, Newton, Greg, and Greg were no longer playing.] Mahmud made a rousing speech, declaring that Fate had brought them together and each of them should serve as Her Instrument. Afterwards, Audarius agreed to serve as Mahmud’s chaplain and spiritual advisor, and Avda offered to guide Ethlyn in the ways of Annara. Kamishar surprised everyone by swearing to serve Rakh – the mindful Somirean apparently not sharing the prejudices of less-conscious men.

Stopping by the Mosque of Abundant Dreams to purchase holy materials, the adventurers encountered a merchant named Tavish ibn-Bahadur, who was supervising the treatment of several poisoned comrades. Tavish wove a great tale of woe, declaring that he had lost valuable goods to an attack by enormous scorpions on the caravan trail west of the village. His men were too afraid to go back, but he had heard from the Prayer Leader of the mosque that the travelers were men of repute and boldness who might help. After some haggling, the adventurers agreed to destroy the scorpions in exchange for a 50% share of the goods they recovered.

Setting off from Kirkuk on the now-familiar desert trail, the party soon encountered a large band of nomads led by Urabi al-Hussein. The two groups warily greeted each other and were already passing each other by when Raziel said “Beware masked desert raiders!” At this, Urabi al-Hussein wheeled around and demanded to know more. It turned out that Urabi’s cousin’s son, Mehmet, had been kidnapped by masked men that the adventurers recognized as Zargonites. “If you can find and return Mehmet to me, you would earn my eternal friendship in word and deed. And each of you shall receive his choice of a fine Opelenean stallion from my herd.” Solemn vows were sworn, and a nomad, Bechir, joined the party, so that they would have someone who recognized Mehmet and knew where the trail had gone cold.

The party knew that this new quest was likely to lead them back to the lost city, so they decided they should first recover Tavish ibn-Bahadur’s treasure, which was only a few miles away. The wreckage of Tavish’s caravan was easily spotted.  Horses and camels had been dragged away by the monstrous scorpions, each themselves the size of a horse. The arachnids were laired in a rocky cave a few dozen yards from the east-west trail. As the adventurers approached the scorpion’s lair, the sha’ir Sharik conjured up fanatical mujahedeen from the very sands. [Summon Berserkers!] These death-seeking warriors immediately engaged the scorpions. Sharik then muttered some words of power and the distracted scorpions collapsed into a torpor, easily dispatched. “Most mystical master, you have successfully deprived your comrades of great glory!” exclaimed Barnabas the jinn toad.

The next day, the adventurers were back in Kirkuk and had returned Tavish ibn-Bahadur’s share of the goods and coins to him. Tavish was very grateful and swore to introduce them to his friend Urabi al-Chukri, a traveling alchemist. Sharik took advantage of the stop-over to purchase a surgical saw, a scroll, and a potion from the local herbalist-astrologer-sorcerer-barber, while Raziel befriended Bechir the Leper, a beggar, and asked him to be on the lookout for ruffians.

The party stayed in Kirkuk only long enough to do business, then departed directly, taking advantage of the cool evenings to begin their westward march. During the second night of their travel, Mahmud and Bechir the nomad stayed up late, swapping fables and tales of heroism. Their pastime was interrupted by a horrendous cry coming from their pack camel. A monstrous grey sand-worm had erupted from the sands by the camel and was chewing its legs off! The adventurers succeeded in killing the creature, which Sharik dubbed a “caecilian,” but not in time to save the camel. Using his new surgical saw, Sharik sliced open the creature’s gullet. Mingled amidst the guts and gore were some old Zaharan coins and an pattern-welded jambiya with an upper panel on each side carved with animals in a gold inlaid border, and an ivory hilt chiseled with busts of Opelenean kings and birds of prey. Ethlyn had fought valiantly against the worm, and sought to claim the jambiya, but Bechir stopped her. “Only one with desert blood can wield a jambiya,” he intoned. The nomad then ceremoniously cut his and her palms with his own jambiya, mingling their blood. “Now you may claim the jambiya.”  

The following morning, the adventurers were greeted by a glorious omen: A flight of 7 lammasu, soaring amidst the clouds. “One for each of the 7 Empyrean Gods!” pronounced Audarius. Subsequently, the party reached the campsite where Mehmet had been kidnapped. Amusingly, the only skilled tracker amongst them was Barnabas, but despite considerable croaking and tongue-flicking, the jinn was unable to find a trail. It was an easy guess that Mehmet had been taken to the lost city, so the party headed off eastward towards Cynidicea.

Unfortunately, either Cynidicea was not eastward or the adventurers were not heading east. In either case, the adventurers became quite lost. Barnabas attempted to blame Sharik, but the rest of the party heard only the croaking of a mad toad. They blamed Sharik regardless for telling them that his toad could navigate. Senef made shamanic inquiries with the local jinn and discovered that the lost city was south east of their position.

Around noon the next day the adventurers reached Cynidicea. They promptly began descending, figuring that if the various brotherhoods controlled the upper levels, the Zargonites must control the lower. En route, they were attacked by vengeful Magi of Istanul. These sorcerers quickly enslumbered seven of the party, but their magics did not stop Mahmud and Raziel from wreaking death upon them.

At length, the party reached the fifth tier, a deep level they had not previously explored. In a well-furnished apartment on the fifth tier, they picked up a strangely-preserved white cloak, which they hoped would prove magical. While the others were arguing over who’d get the garment, Kamishar noticed a secret door and revealed a treasure vault with a huge locked chest. Raziel and Kamishar entered the treasure vault and began searching it for traps, neither realizing that the beautiful tapestry that hung over the chest was in fact a horrific shape-shifting abomination. The shape-shifter almost instantly incapacitated the two treasure-hunters, but the rest of the party members were able to slay the abomination. Raziel had merely been knocked out, but Kamishar was bleeding badly where two fingers had been crushed on his left hand. Sharik gleefully offered the services of his surgical saw.

After dealing with the wounded, Senef the shaman entered a mysterious trance. When he emerged from the trance, he declared that he had detected no curses or evil influences on the chest, though it was a source of magic. He also swore he had seen a spirit immanent within the white cloak they’d found earlier. Attempts to communicate with the spirit ultimately failed, however.

For the next two hours, Sharik slowly sawed through the lock on the chest (as they had no thief). The treasure within proved worth the effort, as in addition to substantial coin, they found a suit of seemingly ageless chainmail, a colorless and odorless potion, and a pattern-welded with silver wire inlaid leafy vine engraving on the blade and hilt. Audarius claimed the chainmail, Ethlyn claimed the jambiya, and Sharik identified the potion as one of invisibility.

Moving on from the treasure vault, the party made its way through the fifth tier. Senef guided the party past two ancient pythons that might otherwise have attacked them, and the party reached a gallery with beautiful iron statuary and tapestries on the walls. The party was suspicious that the statues were animated and would attack, and these suspicions were confirmed by a backhand blow that sliced out Rakh’s eyes. As the Thrassian went down in screaming agony, the rest of the party rallied to the fight. Non-magical weaponry got affixed to the statues with each blow, so only a few of the adventurers could reliably harm the constructs, but eventually they triumphed.

Senet and Mahmut were able to save Rakh’s life, but he was blinded and very weak. It was clear the party would have to fall back.

James C. Bennett
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Joined: 2012-01-17 20:17

Five sessions in seven days. The envy, it burns.

The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

No, no, no. We play once per week. I just hadn't written up my notes. Our next session is this Monday. :)

Ludanto's picture
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Joined: 2012-04-30 11:52

Seven sessions in seven weeks. The envy, it burns.

The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10


Session Six

With Rakh blinded and near death, the party decided to fall back to the surface. They had stationed a pair of mercenaries in a shady ruin not far from the pyramid, and it was to these two soldiers-of-fortune that they entrusted the life of their Thrassian friend, as well as the corpse of their nomad friend Bechir.

The party considered resting, but they were concerned that the nomad youth Mehmet might be harmed before they could rescue. They decided to gamble on pushing onward without Rakh. Descending back to the 5th tier, they advanced into a room guarded by a pair of monstrous winged statues. These gargoyles were invulnerable to non-magical weapons and would certainly have doomed at least one of the adventurers, had Sharik not unleashed the scepter of Zenobia, paralyzing the fell creatures.

The door from the gargoyles’ chamber led to a four-way intersection. As the party reached the junction, a trapdoor gave way beneath their feet! Mahmud, Raziel, Cleopas, and Senef all plummeted downward onto the spiked floor below. Cleopas had the misfortune to plunge downward in a cruciform posture in such a manner that the great iron spikes pierced his body where his upper arm bones fit into his shoulder blades, instantly shearing his arms off. His death from blood loss still took an agonizing ten seconds, during which Senef’s healing prowess offered no succor. They were barely even able to escape with Cleopas’s body, as giant lizards hungrily descended the pit in search of carrion.

Devastated, the badly hurt adventurers now had to retreat. Mehmet, wherever he was, would have to survive another day un-rescued. Back in the glittering light of day, the party came upon their mercenaries toying with the blinded Rakh. Had they not returned so swiftly, it was likely the hirelings would have hurt the “lizard thing”. To assure Rakh’s safety, Senef promised the mercenaries a bonus equal to 6 month’s wages should the Thrassian return home safely. The rest was otherwise uneventful, and the party returned to the lost city the next afternoon (10th Nethelen, Imperial Year 381, representing the 55th day of the campaign).

Now making sure to avoid the pit trap, the party advanced forward through the four-way intersection and entered a vast but ruined temple to the gods of Cynidicea. Beneath the shattered statues of the old gods were two red-haired Cynidiceans in fox masks, a man and a woman of magnetic demeanor. The pair welcomed the adventurers to the temple, and asked them to donate that the old gods might be restored. Senef was quickly bewitched by the enchanting female, Luin, and made a large donation to the “temple”. Avda and Ethlyn found themselves swooning for the male, Philistro. At Philistro’s request, Ethlyn donated most of her treasure and her marvelous dagger to “the gods”. Strangely, Philistro began swooning for the priestess, Avda, whose service to the Goddess of Love gave her a seductive allure and an enchanting aura. [Avda succeeded in a Mystic Aura reaction roll that charmed Philistro; meanwhile, Philistro had charmed Avda]. Mahmoud and Raziel interrupted the blossoming romance and demanded to know where they might find the priests of Zargon. Luin obliged and gave them detailed directions leading south-east. As the party prepared to leave, Philistro pulled Avda aside and warned her that his sister did not mean well, and to be careful. Avda warned Philistro to be careful as well, as not all of her comrades were enamored of him. Their mutual admiration was broken up by the rest of the adventurers departing.

Following Luin’s directions led the party through a series of rooms wherein Cynidiceans were dreaming together in strange and disturbing gatherings. One group seemed enthralled by a horrific nightmare; another danced to chamber music only they could hear. The third group was by far the most interesting, for they were engaged in extravagant games of chance. The adventurers began to participate in the games, and learned that the Cynidiceans expected priests of Zargon to come to collect a tax on the games.

Raziel, for the first time demonstrating that he was not merely a fighter, disguised himself as a Zargonite priest and began to ask where he might find the tax collector. This heresy infuriated the actual Zargonite priest, Darius, who had been watching the party through a secret door. Darius immediately attacked, accompanied by his retinue of eight hobgoblins.

The fighting was quickly and bloody. Kamishar was cut down, losing his left eye to a hobgoblin’s scimitar, but the other hobgoblins were dispatched without incident. Darius was seized by an invisible choking hand, courtesy of Sharik, and then disemboweled by Raziel. Throughout the fight, the Cynidiceans just watched, dreamily.

The secret door to Darius’s chamber was still open, so as the fighting ended the party advanced into it. There they found a naked, bound, and beaten desert youth – Mehmet. “Don’t tell my tribe! Don’t tell my tribe what’s been done to me,” he pleaded. The party agreed to let the youth save face and manufactured a story that he helped fight his way free.

Meanwhile, Raziel manufactured a story of his own, dressing up as Darius of Zargon and collecting over 7,000gp of “taxes” from the dazed Cynidiceans. The party decided to flee before they recovered enough from their hallucinations to realize they were paying taxes to a priest they’d just seen killed.

Unfortunately, the party’s escape route took them back through the ruined temple, where Luin and Philistro awaited them. The two “priests” asked for more donations to the temple, and Ethlyn, Avda, and Senef agreed to give them their share of the treasure. Mahmud, the paladin, detected evil at work. He, Sharik, and Raziel decided the time for cooperation with the wicked pair was over. When Luin asked “Why won’t you let your friends do what they will with their gold?”, Raziel drew steel. It might have developed into a snarling melee had Sharik not discharged the scepter of Zenobia. He had hoped to capture all of the charmed and charming characters, and avoid a fight. He was partly successful: Ethlyn, Avda, Raziel, and Philistro were paralyzed, but Senef and Luin escaped the wand’s effects.

The madness of friend fighting friend followed. Senef had seen his “beloved” Luin attacked without provocation, so he turned his shamanic power on Mahmoud, commanding he “DIE!” Mahmoud immediately passed out. Luin put her blade to Avda’s neck and demanded Sharik drop the scepter. Sharik responded by discharging the scepter again! Horrifically, Luin avoided the ray a second time, and incapacitated Avda with a vicious stab.

Luin then seized Ethlyn round the throat, and again demanded Sharik’s surrender. Again he responded by discharging his paralyzing wand, and again Luin avoided its dire effects. The paralyzed Ethlyn crumpled as Luin stabbed her. By this point Mahmud had roused himself and he charged Luin. As the woman desperately defended herself, she began to choke and wheeze – Sharik’s choking grip squeezed her life from her. Meanwhile Mahmud cut down Philistro. As the siblings dropped, they changed shape, revealing themselves to have been magical foxes in human form.

When Senef examined his incapacitated friends, he got good news. Ethlyn’s gorget had saved her life, and she was merely dazed. Avda had taken a critical stab wound, but not a fatal wound; her worst injury was damaged knee caps, broken where she had fallen on the granite floor.

The party quickly gathered up the treasures of the werefoxes, which were ample. Most marvelous of all was a gold-hilted scimitar with a moonstone set in the hilt, its blade engraved with the words “by the light of the moon.” Uttering this phrase caused the scimitar to emit a pale light.

Encumbered by the treasure and their wounded companions the party headed for the surface. En route they had a brief but friendly encounter with strange Cynidiceans who acted like insects, but when they safely reached their camp in the sunny lands above, they felt like they had achieved a great success. All that remained was to the trek home, where they could return Mehmet to his clan.

Imran seemed to be smiling upon them as they traveled home, for within a day’s walk they met a trio of traveling pilgrims, clerics of Imran. These men – Eliakim, Idan, and Ophir – offered to join them on the trip to Kirkuk. Alas, Fate had offered good fortune with one hand only to offer worse fortune with the other. On the second day of their trip, the party was set upon by a warband of gnolls, numbering three dozen. The creatures were armed with bows, and the party was encumbered with treasure and slowed down with wounded comrades. Battle was the only choice.

Sharik sent in waves of mujahedeen. These were slain. He emptied the scepter of Zenobia at the onslaught, but still they came. The heroic clerics that had joined the band charged forward, and were slain. Audarius, Ethlyn, Mahmud, Raziel, and Senef fought like caged lions. But slowly, slowly, the ceaseless tide of foes ground them down. After personally slaying a dozen gnolls, Raziel was hit from behind; his neck snapped and he fell to the ground limp. Mahmud cut a bloody swathe through champions to get to the chieftain, only to have a scimitar blow sheer off his manhood. He fell screaming in agony. Ethlyn revenged her friend, cutting the carotid and jugular of the chieftain at once with her magical daggers. Her victory was ephemeral; a moment later she was knocked to the ground and trampled, her beautiful legs shattered beneath the last gnoll champion’s clawed feet. In the dim swirl of the dust, Audarius felled this final foe. The battle was over.

But at what cost? Audarius, Senef, and Sharik began to tally the casualties:

·         Avda: Maimed knees. Incapacitated.

·         Bechir: Dead.

·         Cleopas: Dead.

·         Eliakim: 2 teeth knocked out. Incapacitated.

·         Ethlyn: Lamed legs. Incapacitated.

·         Idan: Dead.

·         Kamishar: Blind in left eye. Deaf in left ear. Lost 2 fingers in left hand. Incapacitated.

·         Mahmud: Manhood lost. Incapacitated.

·         Ophir: Leg lamed. Incapacitated.

·         Rakh: Blinded. Incapacitated.

·         Raziel: Paralyzed from neck down. Incapacitated.


 “Oh great and wise master,” mentioned Barnabas the jinn-frog. “I hesitate to bring this up at such a tragic moment, but it seems we strayed slightly from the trail and I am not entirely sure as to which way Kirkuk is.”


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Joined: 2012-02-06 14:12

Damn that is a meat grinder! I'm really enjoying reading these reports. Some of my players have read them and said, yeah...uh, no. Interestingly, its merely luck so far that has kept things from being as bad.

Can I ask a few questions about the party make up? Is anyone level 2+ yet? Does anyone wear platemail or are they sticking to cultural conventions?
How did you run that swirling melee with the gnolls?

The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10


Levels: Level advancement has been rapid. The fastest-advancing characters reached level 2 on session 3, level 3 on session 5, and level 4 on session 7. In general my group is very aggressive. They will descended to deep dungeon tiers in search of treasure. High risk, high reward. 

As of Session 6:
Ethlyn, Mahmud, and Senef are 3rd level.
Audarius, Raziel and Sharik are 2nd level. 
Avda, Bechir, Kamishar, and Rakh are 1st level.
Cleopas is 0th level.

As of Session 7 (which we played last night):
Ethlyn, Mahmud, and Senef are 4th level.
Audarius, Raziel and Sharik are 3rd level. 
Avda and Rakh are 2nd level.
Bechir and Kamishar have left the party.
Cleopas is permanetly dead. 

Armor: Opeleneans do wear plate armor. I've described it as Turkish-style mirror armor.

Gnoll Battle: I ran it using standard ACKS rules. Each of the six gangs of gnolls (3-6 gnolls + champion) got its own initiative die roll. The gnoll chieftain also got his own initiative roll. The battle started at a range of 170 yards. The party charged and took one round of missile fire before closing into melee. The players took out one gang with hold person and one gang with a wand of paralysis. That left four gangs (24 total gnolls) and the chieftain versus the melee combatants, consisting of Audarius; the 4 summoned Berserkers; Eliakim; Ethlyn; Idan; Mahmoud; Ophir; Raziel; and Senef. The shifting tide of individual initiative led to clumps of 2-3 PCs each fighting one gang of 4-6 gnolls. As gnoll gangs got cut down, the victorious PCs would rush to join other clumps, or conversely, if a clump of PCs got incapacitated by a gang, the gang would swarm other clumps. The fight took about one hour.






The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10


Session Seven

Lost in the desert, with only three adventurers in fighting condition, the party was in grave danger. Their survival depended on getting back to Kirkuk without incident. They spent a day constructing litters for the wounded and dead, and prepared to make what they estimated to be a two-day march back to Kirkuk.

Unfortunately, Barnabas’s navigational skills seemed to collapse under the strain. Though Kirkuk lay to the south-east, he led the party north-east for the entirety of the 13th Nethelen. On the 14th, he realized his error, but over corrected and steered the group south-west. When the party sighted a gathering of vultures over a heap of gnoll corpses, they realized they had wasted forty-eight hours traveling to and from their own camp site. The party was furious with Barnabas’ failures, and only through deft diplomacy was Sharik able to save his familiar from becoming a toasty toad.

On the 15th, the party set off again, this time correctly heading south-east. Their trek led them through the hunting ground of a gigantic tuatara lizard, but the beast was speedily dispatched with the scepter of Zenobia. As night fell, Barnabas (wrongly) began to worry that they might be heading in the wrong direction, and Senef resolved to consult the local jinn to ask for directions. After minutes twirling in an exhausting shamanic ritual, he was able to summon the resident spirits of the sands, who confirmed that Kirkuk lay to the southeast.

The 16th found the party traveling across a stretch of sand dunes on their way home. As the dusty foothills that nestled Kirkuk came into sight, however, the dark shadow of some draconic monster fell over them. The party was in no shape to fight a bat, let alone a wyvern or dragon, and their only hope was to evade the creature. Sadly, their slow-moving and encumbered party had almost no chance of escape in the dunes. But almost no chance is not the same as no chance, and the Hand of Fate saw fit to grant them a reprieve in the form of a rocky hideaway out of sight of the beast. [Sharik rolled an incredible natural 20 on a Wilderness Evasion throw, saving the group from a party wipe!]

And so it was by this miracle of Fate that the adventurers were able to return to Kirkuk on the 17th. Urabi al-Hussein was overjoyed to have his cousin’s son Mehmet returned to him, and tales of the adventurers’ exploits and rich treasure soon filled the camps of the nomads. At the local mosque, the adventurers turned to the grim task of spending their treasure on restoring their maimed and slain comrades.

Here, the Fates did not smile upon them. Cleopas’ soul was lost to darkness. Bechir, the nomad, was barely restored, and his ruined flesh had only a bare pallor of life. He would live out what passed for the rest of his life as an outcast. Mahmud, too, carried the pallor of the grave with him, and Rakh spoke of an evil jinn that seemed to now inhabit his claws. Kamishar, the monk, awoke to terrible, bottomless hungers. Overcome with woe, he left the party, declaring “the gods have cursed me. I must spend my remaining years in ascetic contemplation to atone for the misdeeds of this life and those that preceded it.” Raziel was restored vigorously, though he seemed especially hirsute.

Ethlyn, alone, seemed unscarred from tampering with mortality. Since the rest of the party was exhausted and bed-ridden, she decided to meet with Urabi al-Hussein to secure the fine stallions that the party had been promised. Urabi had picked out a beautiful white steed for her, but every time she approached the animal, it reared up in a panic and fled. Belatedly she realized that she, too, carried a curse from tampering with mortality. Crestfallen, she settled on a camel and selected some fine horses for the rest of the party. In a gesture of generosity, Urabi also gave her a map of Southern Opelenea, showing the locations of many oases. The map ominously warned against visiting “the Howling Emptiness” to the south-west and “the Desolate Desert” to the south-east.

Though excited about the prospect of new areas to explore, the party nevertheless had to spend the next four weeks in Kirkuk, recovering from their wounds. As Raziel recovered, he sought out Bechir the Leper, who had promised to find a ruffian for him. Bechir sent him to meet a certain Zoya, a Celdorean “locksmith.” Quickly assessing how Zoya was motivated, Raziel recruited her by promising to double the size of her gold earrings.

Meanwhile, Ethlyn decided to hire a navigator familiar with the local terrain. The local caravan master recommended to her one Yaghoub, a caravaneer with a good reputation. Though pricey, Yaghoub was confident that he could help the party avoid becoming lost on their next wilderness trek.

Sharik, who was uninjured, was able to devote the month towards alchemical pursuits, working for the local barber cum sorcerer, astrologer, and storyteller. The barber was a font of rumors and fables. Among his many tall tales, he reported that:

·         A sealed tomb complex lay below the town’s Zaharan ruins

·         The Zaharan tower on the outskirts of Kirkuk is possessed of strange and powerful magics… It is always warm and stands in defiance of gravity

·         The Well of the Prophet in the center of town was a repository for efreeti bottles tossed there by the prophet Al-Sindor (Azendor) himself

·         The Well of the Prophet in the center of town was an ancient burial ground of Thrassian kings and priests

·         The bones in the burial caves of the Thrassians on the edge of town show signs of fighting…after death

·         A giant roc in the hills is the sacred guardian of a powerful artifact known as the Carnelian Idol

·         All babies born in the 5th month after the summer solstice always die

The party didn’t know whether these were the ravings of a mad old man, or credible information. Senef called upon the jinn of Kirkuk to give him answers, but what he learned did not bode well. Yes, there was a tomb complex below the town; but it was inhabited by powerful things. Yes, there was an efreeti bottle in the Well of the Prophet; but it, too, had powerful guardians. Yes, the Carnelian Idol was in the nearby mountains, but it was guarded by a roc, which was likely beyond their power to defeat.

On the 22nd of Innelen, the adventurers were finally fit for combat again. They had resolved to start by exploring  the alleged tomb complex below Kirkuk, and headed over to the ruined remnants of the Zaharan fortress that ringed the town. There, they found the living quarters of the local beggars, who found the ill-reputed ruins a comfortable haven from the hot sun. Strange, blind Mussa was heard babbling cryptic phrases – “she slumbers in the crystal prism…” Elemental fire…” but the party could make nothing of this madness. Buzurg, a middle-aged beggar with consumption, warned the party away. Strangely, Senef didn’t find any sign of consumption when he tried to treat the beggar, and Mahmud detected palpable evil from Buzurg. Buzurg left hastily before he could be questioned. The party’s friend, Bechir the Leper, led them through the surface ruins to a hieroglyph-carved bronze door within the last standing tower.

Try as they might, the party was unable to budge the door. Zoya the locksmith pronounced it magically sealed, and the dweomer was outside the powers of Sharik to dispel. The party would have to look elsewhere for adventure…

The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10


Session Eight

With the tomb complex beneath Kirkuk magically sealed, the adventurers decided to pay a visit to the local sheik, Ramman al-Saddam, to inquire as to how they could assist the village. They were respectfully ushered into Ramman’s court, where he was handling a mercantile case involving a sale of lame horses by Abu the Horse Trader. After dismissing Abu, Ramman entertained the adventurers with coffee and dancing girls, then turned talk to business.

The sheik explained that bandits from the Al-Baki Hills to the south had been striking at caravans entering and leaving Kirkuk. The accuracy of their attacks had led Sheik Ramman to conclude that there must be a spy in the village. He tasked the adventurers with rooting out this spy, and discovering the location of the bandit’s base. “As strangers in our village, you may go places the natives would not, and ask questions we would not.” The party swore they would do this task for the sheik.

The adventurers promptly split up to begin their investigation. Senef used his shamanic powers to speak with the caravan’s horses. The horses spoke in hushed neighs of a terrifying blonde two-legged monster who brought death and despair – Ethlyn. Humorous, but not helpful.

Raziel went to visit his friend Bechir the Lame to see what the head of the village’s beggars knew. Bechir quickly shushed Raziel, saying the bandits were too dangerous, and too generous, to speak ill of. Blind Mussa bleakly warned that “women will give birth to monsters.” This was ominous, but also not helpful.

Mahmud headed to the Traveler’s Inn and conversed with the innkeeper, Tahir al-Farouk. Tahir mentioned his suspicions of Buzurg the Whiner, whom he had often seen loitering near the lizardmen caves near dawn. Tahir also spoke of a missing niece, Dalefa, with “breasts like swinging pendulums,” whom he feared had run off in a shameful illicit marriage. Mahmud pledged to discretely notify Tahir if he caught any news of the missing girl.

The next day, 24th Innelen, Raziel hunted down Buzurg the Whiner near the old Zaharan ruins. He made the wheezing beggar quite nervous by inviting him for coffee after morning prayer and asking him leading questions about the cult of Zargon. Buzurg strangely blabbered about the Carnelian Idol and its former owner Nudurapur the Sorcerer.

While Buzurg was distracted, Senef approached Bechir the Lame with an offer to have his body restored and disease cured, if he would share what he knew about the bandits. Bechir – who had two lame legs, six missing fingers, seven missing toes, one missing ear, six missing teeth, and gruesome scarring, agreed with little hesitation. Dao the Wide was worried he would not be able to restore Bechir, but Fate smiled on the old leper, and he was healed. In light of this miracle, Bechir gladly shared what he knew: Abu the Horse Trader was the brigand’s fence and spy. Buzurg was not the spy, and wasn’t even involved with the bandits, as far as he knew. Bechir did confirm that Buzurg had often visited the lizardman caves, and that he’d seen others – masked men – visiting those caves as well.

At this point, the adventurers had come to a fateful moment. Knowing Abu was the spy, they thought it might be possible to interrogate him to learn the location of the bandit’s base, or perhaps follow him to his next meeting with the bandits. Being men of boldness and action, they resolved against this cautious plan in favor of a more audacious stratagem: They would leak word of their departure to Abu, whilst secretly escorting the next caravan out of town. In this manner, they hoped to be present the next time the raiders struck, so they could deliver a telling blow and cover themselves with glory.

Mahmud and Ethlyn called upon Farouk al-Fareed, a caravaneer due to depart the next morning. Farouk was strongly against their plan. The bandits, he said, had been attacking with close to 100 men. The last time they were sighted, they had held off only because the caravan guards were at double strength. Any caravan with fewer than 80 guards was better off just bribing the bandits, he explained. Mahmud and Ethlyn were not deterred. Mahmud swore by Imran that he would protect the caravan; they had dealt with 70 gnolls – they could deal with 100 thugs! Farouk al-Fareed was swayed by the adventurers’ charisma, and agreed to the plan.

The adventurers planned out a wide circuitous path that would carry them east, then double back to link up with Fareed’s caravan when it departed. Before they left, they visited their friend the Barber, purchasing the alleged map to the Carnelian Idol, and telling him they were off to hunt the cultists of Zargon.

By the 27th of Innelen, the adventurers had re-grouped with Fareed’s caravan and were entering the sandy dunes where the bandits had most often attacked. On schedule, the brigands arrived, only they numbered 140 or more, with several sorcerers. The bandit leader, Yasir al-Achmed, demanding tribute for passing through “his trail”. Flustered at their vast numbers, Fareed begged Mahmud to pay the tribute. “We have only 25 guards and yourself. We cannot fight 140!” But Mahmud was resolute. “Come and fight us, coward!” he shouted.

After these bold words, Mahmud and Raziel drank potions of invisibility and began to prowl forward, intent on slaying the bandit’s leadership. A vast volley of arrows peppered downward behind them, skewering Farouk al-Fareed. Sharik cast a spell that incapacitated a half-dozen bandits; the enemy sorcerer riposted with a fireball that engulfed Sharik, Senef, Ethlyn, Avda, Barnabas, and Sayyid. Avda, Barnabas, and Sayyid died instantly. Sharik dove into cover headfirst, landing on his teeth and knocking six of them loose. Ethlyn turned away in time to avoid death, but had her ear burned off.

Raziel and Mahmud reached the enemy sorcerer, but he leaped away with a magical stride before they could kill him. A few moments later, the party had surrendered. Yasir al-Achmed was not as ruthless as he might have been, for the adventurer’s boldness had impressed him greatly. He spared their lives, taking only their treasure maps, their horses, their carried treasure, and their magical items. After Mahmud showed great spirit, he tossed one magical blade back to the young paladin with a roar of laughter, telling him “come find me when you’re ready to actually use this.”

Relieved to have escaped without further loss of life, it was nevertheless a downtrodden and shamed party that trekked back to Kirkuk on the 28th of Innelen. Their woes were compounded when they were confronted by the Merchant’s Guild, which was unhappy to have lost an entire caravan under their “protection”.  Since the entirety of the party’s remaining treasure was kept with the Merchant’s Guild, they had little choice but to reimburse the Guild for its losses, leaving their coffers yet further depleted.

At the Mosque of Abundant Dreams, they were able to restore Lady Avda to life, but she brought back with her some terrible evil jinn. Haunted and disturbed, she retired from adventuring for a life of contemplation and sorrow. Meanwhile, the party’s reception by Sheik Ramman was not nearly as warm as their last visit; their frolicking with the bandits had worsened his situation, not improved it. They re-gained a margin of their pride when they hand-delivered the spy, Abu, to Ramman’s keeping, but only a margin.

Thomas Weigel
Thomas Weigel's picture
Joined: 2012-06-20 11:57

Any possibility y'all could move the growing armor discussion to thread for discussing armor? I saw several updates to this thread and got excited :-(

Dwimmermount BackerDomains At War Contributor
Joined: 2012-04-16 15:29

He bandits didn't kill them all? AND you let them keep a sword? You've gone soft, Macris!

The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

The continuance of this campaign is a cruelty in and of itself. We lost two beloved characters last session (Session 9). Session update soon.

Dwimmermount BackerDomains At War Contributor
Joined: 2012-04-16 15:29

What is this...? Meta suffering?

Sifu! I apologize! I apparently have much to learn.

Marcus Odysius
Joined: 2011-07-29 01:49

As a bit of a teaser prior to the next update: after session 6, the assassin (still passing himself off as a fighter) began introducing himself as Raziel "the Lucky".

The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10


Session Nine

After their misadventures dealing with the bandits, the party decided to lay low for several weeks to recover from their wounds. They took a small pleasure in spending some of their hard-earned treasure. Sharik commissioned a set of silver dentures to replace his missing teeth, Senef had a marvelous spear forged, and Mahmud commissioned a silver mask of Imran, similar to those worn by the Cynidiceans, to hide his ghastly pallor. 

The Barber paid a visit to the badly wounded Sharik and inquired as to whether he and his friends intended to use the treasure map to go after the Carnelian Idol. “I am an old man…I can no longer adventure. I must live vicariously through you,” he explained. Sharik said they would do so soon, declining to mention that the map had fallen into the hands of the brigands. Mahmud, meanwhile, called on Prayer Leader Khamil Ibn Ravi, to make inquiries about Sheikh Ramman. The Prayer Leader said, “Our sheikh is an ambitious man who deserves better than this desolate town. But he has no connections with our Auran overlords, so this is his fief.” Senef used the intervening weeks to commune with the jinn of Kirkuk. The jinn revealed several secrets to him – first, that the magically-sealed door to the Zaharan tomb complex beneath the old fort was the only such door in the complex, and that it had been sealed to keep interlopers out; second, that the people visiting the lizardmen caves at night were up to nefarious deeds, and that the innkeeper’s niece, Dalefa of the Pendulous Breasts, was “with” them.

It was by now the 15th of Nethelen, and the party felt well enough to tackle another adventure. They decided to keep watch on the Thrassian caves to see if they saw any cultists entering them. It was a full moon that night, and from their secret vantage point the party spied a small group of hooded men enter a particular cave two-thirds up the cliff side around fifteen minutes after midnight. Raziel, the stealthiest of the party, pushed ahead to investigate, but by the time he reached the cave there was no sign of the cultists. All he found was a thick carpet of human and Thrassian bones, and obscure and ominous sigils carved on the cave walls. The rest of the party came forward and they commenced a thorough search of the cave. They soon found that the eastern wall of the cave was partly illusory, and proceeded inside.

Past the illusory wall, the party was immediately set upon by a band of hulking figures, hooded and robed from head to toe. Red glows emanated from the eye holes of their hoods, and their hands were clawed and inhuman. Sharik used his knowledge of the dark arts to take command of these, and they were revealed to be Thrassian skeletons. Sharik noticed that his necromancy seemed stronger, a sign that they had entered a sinkhole of evil.

The cave connected into a limestone tunnel network that seemed to honeycomb the cliffs of Kirkuk. Sharik used his skeletal minions to press ahead for a time, but eventually his power over them began to fade and they had to destroyed. Thereafter, Raziel took the lead. He was on point when the party entered a long, man-carved gallery with steps at the far end. Raziel’s keen ears heard movement and speech down the steps, so he proceeded forward. Alas, Fate had a cruel destiny in store for Raziel the Lucky. Only a few feet into the hall, a trap door sprung open beneath his fate. Raziel’s death was instant, for the pit below led to a burning shrine of elemental fire. As his soul was consumed, his “sacrifice” was accepted, and an efreeti summoned. Sadly, there was no priest on hand to control the efreeti…

Meanwhile, above, the party had no idea what had just ensued, though they were momentarily stunned by Raziel’s disappearance. Then the efreeti burst up through the trap door and attacked. Rakh and Mahmud rushed forward to fight it off. The rest of the party was preparing to assist when Thrassian skeletons and fanatical cultists suddenly appeared on their left flank. (Down the steps, the cultists had been alerted to the party’s intrusion and proceeded to follow a side tunnel around to flank the adventurers.)


The cultists were led by a sinister sorcerer who sent a ball of fire into the party’s midst. The fireball was particularly deadly, for the party was within a region heated by the elemental sphere of fire. Rakh, who had just retreated in search of healing, was caught in its blast and died instantly. A few moments later, he rose as a deathless minion under the command of the cult sorcerer. Sharik used his own necromancy to control UnRakh, but he lost control thereafter, and Mahmud had to cut the lizardman down, wailing at the horror of it all. The sorcerer’s henchman, a cunning crossbowman, exchanged fire with Ethlyn. Each was injured, but the crossbowman’s bolts were poisoned, and burned like fire as they pierced the bard.

The shifting tide of battle had by now carried the efreeti into the cultist’s ranks, where it indiscriminately began to attack. As the sorcerer turned his attention to dispelling the genie, the party took the opportunity to make a fighting withdrawal. Sharik conjured up a slippery lubricant over the stone tunnel, which quickly tumbled the pursuing cultists to the ground. With the cultists momentarily incapacitated, the adventurers sensed a chance to win. Casters on both sides prepared to unleash their most potent spells. Tragically, Fate was against the party. Sharik’s necromancy was resisted by the sorcerer, and Senef’s spells interrupted by the crossbowman. The evil sorcerer’s magic was not interrupted, and he succeeded in summoning up jagged pillars of rock. Audarius, Sharik and Senef were pierced horribly these teeth from the earth. Senef survived, barely, but Sharik was reduced to a red stain. Audarius was slain, only to rise a few moments later as a zombie.

Their defeat catastrophic, the adventurers fled, carrying Sharik and Rakh’s corpses but leaving behind Audarius in his damned state.  Horrible laughter followed as they fled to the moonlit surface. At the Mosque of Abundant Dreams, Daood the Wide was again persuaded to use his powerful magic upon the deceased and crippled party members.  It took three weeks for the party to recover. Senef seemed shaken by his brush with death, but otherwise intact. The others were less fortunate. Sharik returned with an ethereal glow to spirits and ghosts. Rakh returned but his body seemed to barely heal – he still looked like a zombie, an appearance that did little to further his already-low popularity with normal men and women.

When he recovered, Sharik paid a visit to his friend, the Barber. He had dimly recognized the voice of the sinister sorcerer in the caverns and needed to confirm his suspicions. As the Barber sharpened his razors, he told Sharik a strange tale. “Once, the Well of Kirkuk was a place of healing, with sacred waters that would cure any disease. So long as its sanctity was observed, it stayed pure. Then adventurers delved into the waters, meddling where they ought not, and the waters turned to poison. What does that tell you of the dangers of delving too deep, my friend?” Both the tale, and his aged baritone, seemed to confirm Sharik’s fears. Droning on, the Barber reiterated that Sharik and his friends should seek out the Carnelian Idol. Seeking to learn more about the Barber’s strange obsession, Sharik confessed that he had lost the map. The Barber seemed enraged for a moment, then proceeded to provide a perfect duplicate of the missing map. Sharik left hastily with a pledge to investigate.

Senef again called upon the jinn to gather more information. The spirits confirmed that the Barber was, in fact, the evil sorcerer they had faced in the caves. They also hinted that the great roc which guarded the Carnelian Idol might not be entirely unfriendly to the party, should they travel to it. Desirous of avoiding further confrontations with the  cultists, and encouraged by the notion of trafficking with a roc, the party set forth on 9th Nethelen to find its aerie…

The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10


Session Ten

On the 10th of Vinethelen, the adventurers had finally reached the aerie of the great roc said to guard the Carnelian Idol. At the foot of the nest was a graveyard of massive bones – bears, camels, and other, larger creatures, their ribs cracked as if by one fell swoop. Even this did not prepare them for the true size of the roc, whose wings were each larger than any ship on the seas. “Who visits Majid, He Who Flew With the Prophet?” roared the great bird.

“We have come to pay tribute,” responded Ethlyn, perhaps on instinct. The adventurers brought forward gifts, including gold coin, masks of Cynidicea, and a camel. The roc raised its great talons in the air. “It has been long since I was remembered… Your gifts please me. You may touch my feathers.” With friendly relations established, the party began to converse with the might roc.

Majid explained that the Carnelian Idol had fallen into the hands of Al-Sindor when Nudurapur was slain. Al-Sindor felt that that immortality was sacrilegious for man, but he was unable to destroy the idol. Majid was entrusted to be its guardian, and has lived for over a thousand years. “Too long… I yearn to fly again among the mountains, free of my burden. I seek another who will take up the guardianship.” Mahmud, paladin of Imran, kneeled to volunteer but the roc shook its head.

“It is no easy task to guard the Carnelian Idol. Before I can trust you with it, you must prove your worth. Return to me with wisps of darkness drawn from the Well of Shadows in the Howling Emptiness, and I will know that you can be trusted with its care.” Majid and the party swore that they would do this and solemnly made to depart. As they left, the sad old roc had words of caution. “Many have vowed to undertake this task. None have ever returned to me. May the hand of Fate deal gentler with you.”

The party decided that before it could undertake an expedition into the Howling Emptiness, far to the southwest, it would need more men, camels, and supplies. These, they surmised, could best be found in Alakyrum, the Pearl of the Desert, capital of Opelenea. Kirkuk lay along a caravan route to Alakyrum,  but getting to Alakyrum by way of Kirkuk would take six days. The adventurers estimated they could cut through the desert directly towards Alakyrum and get there in three.

Somewhere in the high, rolling dunes east of the Al-Baki Hills, the party lost its way, steering an easterly course when it ought to have gone north-east. Perhaps their brief flight from the strange, iron-skinned bulls that pursued them through the hills caused their disorientation. Perhaps it was sun sickness, or perhaps it was simply the Hand of Fate. Whatever the cause,  after three days of travel Alakyrum was nowhere in sight.

The party was following the course of an ancient riverbed, now a dusty wadi, when a sudden autumn torrent poured down on them. The riverbed quickly flooded, and the party took what scant shelter it could. The rains ran for over an hour, then passed as quickly as they’d come. Traveling further along the riverbed, the party saw that the rains had washed away sand and gravel, revealing the entrance to some ancient tomb or temple.

Surmising that Fate was smiling upon them, the party decided to explore this ruin. They quickly forced open its stone outer doors and entered a large hall. Their flickering torchlight revealed a dozen sepulchers – but did not reveal the dozen incorporeal shadows until they had already set upon the party. Sharik and Rakh, who had gained dark connections to the netherworld when they were returned from the dead, were the primary targets of the attacks. Sharik was able to summon mujahedeen to protect himself, but Rakh had no such power. As his body weakened from the draining coldness of the shadows, he fell hard onto a stone sepulcher, knocking out two fangs. Fortunately, Mahmud, Ethlyn, and Senef were able to drive off the creatures.

The adventurers retreated from the tomb and, as it was getting late, decided to camp nearby. Senef summoned the local jinn and made inquiries. The spirits told him that he need not fear the return of the shadows, but he should be wary of what lay past the entry hall in the tomb. They also told him to stop heading east, because Alakyrum wasn’t that way, an revelation which elicited great consternation from the very, very lost party.

The next day, 14th of Vinethelen, the party decided to head back into the tomb. Past the sepulchers was a stone slab, grooved hinges visible, but with no apparent handle or mechanism of entry. A name on the stone slab read “Shaddad, Terror of Genies.” Ethlyn recalled a legendary warrior named Shaddad, said to have wielded a scimitar called The Cyclone of the Four Quarters, who had brought down a curse upon himself for slaying too many genies. Senef’s shamanic powers detected a curse on the entire tomb.

Zoya stalked forward to investigate the door to Shaddad’s tomb, and quickly realized she was standing on top of a pit-trap: Only Fate had avoided setting it off. She quickly grabbed a rope from Mahmud, but as Fate would have it, when she tried to spring off the trap, she stumbled, and the pit swung open.  She crashed down below, dangling perhaps 10 feet. She could feel the cold hands of zombies clawing at her heels in the darkness below, and scrambled up in haste.

The adventurers decided to deal with the pit trap and its occupants before trying to open the stone slab door. Their plan was simple and effective: They propped open the trap door with the lid of one of the twelve sarcophagi in the room, then crushed the zombies in the pit by sliding the other sarcophagi lids on top of them. It was over quickly, and after determining that no treasure was to be found in the pit, the party turned to the tricky proposition of opening up the stone slab door.

Mahmud and Zoya carefully hammered a dozen stone spikes into the door, through which rope was interwoven, creating a handle, and then Sharik conjured a slippery oil into the door’s grooves. With the stone now frictionless, the slab door opened easily, revealing the undying figure of Shaddad, Terror of Genies, within. Shaddad warned that the adventurers that to take his sword would be to call down a terrible curse, but the lure of power had touched their souls. Battle was enjoined.

Mahmud, Bechir, and Ethlyn tore into the mummy with their magical weapons, but Shaddad was a fearsome foe, and with each sweep of his sword an adventurer took a telling blow. Bechir fell, but Senef rushed to his aid and got him back into the fight. The old ex-soldier charged in again, this time taking a gruesome blow to the knee that sent him sprawling. Mahmud, Ethlyn, Sharik, and Senef were by now all wounded and the fight seemed lost when Zoya, the thief, appeared behind Shaddad, and proceeded to break her lantern over the mummy. The burning undead creature howled in rage, and struck at her, but she finished it off with a torch.  

Senef got to work treating Bechir and Sharik against mummy rot while the rest of the group turned to the spoils of victory. Mahmud claimed the mummy’s marvelous scimitar, The Cyclone of Four Quarters, while Sharik took a fancy magical ring, and Zoya scooped up considerable coin, gems, and jewelry.

Feeling that for once, Fate had indeed smiled upon them, the adventurers departed the Tomb of Shaddad and headed north. Within thirty minutes of northward travel, they stumbled upon a caravan trail, and by the next day had reached the Oasis of Al-Danya, not far from Alakyrum.

Patreon SupporterPlayer's Companion BackerDwimmermount BackerDomains At War ContributorLairs And Encounters BackerBarbarian Conquerors of Kanahu BackerACKS Heroic Fantasy Handbook Backer
Joined: 2012-02-06 14:12

Awesome (and gruesome) stuff!

How do you handle desert travel/heat exhaustion/water consumption? My guys are going to a wasteland soon and I'd love some pointers!

Also the tomb...was that a random encounter? Did you plan it ahead of time? If it was random how did you set it up so quickly?

Anyway...always happy to read about the pain!

Joined: 2012-05-18 16:35

Thank you for the zombie pit trap!

The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10


Session Eleven

Whilst recuperating in Al-Danya, the adventurers came to meet a venturer named Jamal bin Saladin [a  new PC]. Jamal was reputed to “never get lost,” which was a highly attractive skill set to the oft-misdirected adventurers. Jamal, in turn, had heard of the adventurers: “You’re the ones who got an entire caravan killed!” “Fate has not always been kind,” explained Senef. “We’ve made errors,” acknowledged Mahmud.

Jamal was undeterred by the risk of adventuring. “Where others see risks, Jamal sees opportunity! But Jamal has one simple rule. Jamal cannot do business when he is dead.” The party agreed that this was a valuable business lesson. Ethlyn and Zoya then arrived at the meeting, and Jamal turned his charms towards them. “Who are these desert roses?” Ethlyn raised her dagger. “Oh…the rose has thorns!”

A few days more rest served to get Rakh back on his feet, and the party headed towards Alakyrum, arriving there on the 22nd of Vinethelen. Alakyrum was a breathtaking site, a city of 100,000 souls centered in a lush oasis. Salt from the south-east, silk from the west, and gold from the south all trafficked through the Pearl of the Desert. The party paid the exorbitant 20gp toll to do business in the city and entered the great bazaar just past the gates.

They had come to Alakyrum hoping to learn more about the Howling Emptiness and the Well of Shadows, so the party split up to seek out different venues of learning.

·         From Imam Mahdi al-Idam, of the Great Mosque of the Way of Eternal Truth, the party learned of the ruined remains of a pyramid rising from the Howling Emptiness. It must have been built by giants, for no surely men could have moved the titanic blocks of basalt it was made with.  

·         From Damanos, an antiquities dealer, the party learned that the Well of Shadows is a gateway to another dimension. He also warned that a great centipede, with the power to mesmerize those who gaze at it, haunts the Howling Emptiness. And he spoke of a great statue brooding in the Howling Emptiness, beneath which bubbles a magical pool; the pool can salve the soul, but is guarded by a skeleton legion.

·         From Urabi al-Chukri, great alchemist of Alakyrum, the party was able to purchase an enchanted bottle, magically sealed, that could stopper up the shadow-stuff of the Well of Shadows. But Urabi warned them not to go after the Carnelian Idol. It was created by the Zaharan sorcerer-priestess Navana at the height of the Zaharan Empire, and the Zaharans, he explained, had powers undreamt of in this sad days. Worse, Navana was merely vanished, not dead and Urabi warned she would one day return for her Idol, and that he would never lay hands on it for that reason.

While the rest of the party was gathering this information, Ethlyn fell into the company of a gladiatorial promoter named Ommador. Ommador had seen Ethlyn in the company of masked Mahmud and mighty Rakh, and surmised that these were her slave-soldiers. He offered valuable prizes should she be willing to have her warriors fight in the arena, which had “unfortunate scheduling gaps”. Ethlyn quickly agreed to have “her slaves” fight. Mahmud was set to battle Orestes the Swordmaster, while Rakh was to battle a black panther from the jungles of the Ivory Kingdoms.

After some additional commerce by Jamal bin Saladin – including selling many treasures to Lazar the jeweler, and purchasing extravagant clothing from Bassida the mercer – the party traveled to the Arena, which was a sunken amphitheatre constructed outside of the city’s walls. Its red sands were stained crimson, and the warriors fought under the baking sun. Of course the Exarch, Caiaphas ibn Süroman, the Butcher of Ber-Gathy, enjoyed a shaded pavilion, as did the high ranking sheiks and patricians of the city. All of the party laid large wagers on Mahmud and Rakh as the fighting began.

“The masked Mahmud, servant of Imran, faces Orestes the Swordmaster, the Krysean conqueror…” The gates clanged open and the fight began. Mahmud fared poorly: Imran turned his eye away from his paladin, and Mahmud was cut down with a bloody wound to his eye. He had fought valiantly enough that the Exarch gave him a thumbs up to live, at least.

Rakh found himself cast as a villain. “A Thrassian monster, from the dark days of man, captured! A savage beast, fit only to be slain by another savage beast!” It was unlikely Rakh would have received mercy from the Exarch had he lost, but he tore the black panther apart in seconds. As gold coin in the thousands changed hands, the dark grip of greed seized the adventurers. It was clear that there was money to be made in the arena, and glory to be earned…

Mahmud needed a week to recover, and the party spent the time carousing in the Patrician’s Rest, an upscale tavern catering to arena patrons. The party gathered several more rumors:

·         In the western foothills of the Al-Baki, between Ber-Gathy and Khaibar, stands the wreckage of Krak al-Shidda, a remainder of the bygone wars between Kemesh and Opelenea. Adventurers who have visited the ruins claim that the castle’s dungeons glitter with gold, but none have lived to claim it.

·         Some of the most fabulous treasures lost in the fall of Zahar were the three Star Gems. With them, the Zaharans ruled Opelenea, but all have been lost in the sands of time.

·         Al-Sindor knew that a time would come when the ancient evils he had defeated would rise again. He entrusted to the sheiks of a sacred oasis the means by which the powers of Law could be summoned when the time came

Soon a week had flown by, and Mahmud and Rakh were ready to test their blades again in the arena. Mahmud fought first. “Mahmud, the masked man, who fears no death because he is already dead, faces Malyn the Merciless, fresh from the wars...” Mahmud and Malyn’s bout last for minutes as they sweated and bled on the sands. Both warriors were near exhaustion when Mahmud saw an opening and cut open Malyn’s belly. As the warrior fell, the Exarch rose and presented a thumb’s up: A good fight. Chirugeons rushed to the sands and saved Malyn, and Mahmud strode off to the acclaim of the crowd.

Then it was Rakh’s turn. “The vicious beast, Rakh, having escaped death, returns to the arena to face the undefeated Orestes the Swordmaster, the Krysean killer…”  The crowd roared Orestes’ name. Trumpets blew when Orestes entered the field. Rakh cut him down like wheat before the scythe. Stunned silence fell on the arena. In disgust, the Exarch held his thumb down, and Rakh finished off Orestes with his own blade.

The adventurers had placed large bets and won almost 4,500gp in the games. They suspected the odds would be less favorable going forward, so it seemed a timely moment to leave Alakyrum. Jamal loaded up their camels with crates of porcelain purchased in the bazaar, which he hoped to sell during their adventures, and they departed.

They reached Kirkuk on the 3rd Genethelen. Here they were momentarily paralyzed with indecision. Investigate the Watchtower? Go to the Howling Emptiness? Descend into the tombs below the city? Explore the Desert of Desolation to the south? Finally they decided to trek towards Cynidicea.

On the 8th of Genethelen they encountered a tribe of camel-centaurs in the desert. The desert dwellers attacked, shouting “Death to the Zargonites!” Eventually the party realized that Mahmud’s mask and pale complexion had misled the centaurs as to their nature, and they were able to stop the fighting. Abaddon, the centaur chieftain, confirmed the party’s fears that the Zargonites had continued their raiding of the surface world.

The lost city was almost in sight when Fate turned her evil eye on the party. A wyvern  - the very same wyvern they had seen in the skies above weeks ago – swooped upon the band. Rakh leaped at it as it swept down, and its mighty talons tore into him, and bore him aloft. A moment later, the wyvern spun out of control as Sharik choked it to death with his dark magic. The impact of the crash sent Rakh tumbling onto the sands. Miraculously the lizardman was alive, but his right hand was a gory ruin.

With their ablest fighter so injured, the party had no choice but to return to Kirkuk. There they called on the services of Daood the Wide to restore Rakh. Daood cautioned them that between Rakh’s injuries and his many ill effects from past efforts, there was great risk, but Rakh was not willing to adventure one-handed.

Daood’s  cautions proved well-merited: Rakh’s restoration was an awful affair. The Thrassian was made whole, but he complained of terrible headaches from bright sounds and loud noises – the cry of a camel disturbed him, the brightness of a spell blinded him. In the darkness of dungeons he could still fight, but it was clear his days of battle before the cheering crowds in the suns of the Arena were over.

Rakh wept.

The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10


It would take Rakh a month to recover from his restoration, so the adventures had time to pursue some side quests. Senef began to build a congregation among the desert nomads encamped outside Kirkuk, while Ethlyn launched construction of a statue commemorating the band’s victory of the wyvern. Meanwhile, Mahmud, Sharik, Ethlyn, and Jamal travelled to Alakyrum (handily dealing with some white apes en route). Sharik hoped to learn a new spell at Urabi’s library, but his research came to naught, and Mahmud paid his respects at the Great Mosque. The rest of the adventurers spent the month carousing in Alakyrum, learning some interesting rumors.

·         When Al-Sindor swept into Opelenea, the Zaharans set against him a great pasha of the Efreet, aflame with power. But Al-Sindor summoned a vizier of the Djinn and together they defeated the Efreeti Pasha and imprisoned him forever beneath the desert sands.

·         The greatest satrap of ancient Zahara was entombed in a great city. The city was buried under the sands of time, and the power and wealth of the satrap was buried with him.

On the 1st of Vicelen, the adventurers greeted the winter solstice with the Celebration of Unconquered Dawn. Jamal threw a feast for two dozen families in the area; Rakh, still invalid, prayed from his bedside. Sharik and Mahmud found the celebration at Alakyrum disappointing, with most of the coin lavished on the Imperial army, so they held a private celebration of coffee and fermented goat’s milk.

The adventurers reconvened on the 10th of Vicelen and quickly sortied out to Cynidicea, which they reached on the 12th of Vicelen. The party decided to explore the upper level of the ziggurat before proceeding deeper, and quickly dealt with the cave locusts and giant centipedes that scuttled about. They wisely bypassed a pack of sprites that might have cursed them all, and proceeded to an abandoned corner of the first floor, where they had the misfortune to encounter green slime. The foul slime melted Rakh’s magical mace before it was burned, enraging the lizardman.

Leaving the smoking chamber of the green slime behind, the party stumbled into a room filled with old trunks of unknown provenance. The whole of the room was covered with a strange yellow mold, but the party was intrigued by the possibility that the trunks could contain treasure. Sharik summoned mujahedeen from the spirit world and sent them sallying forth. The berserkers’ movements caused the yellow mold to send up terrible spores, and the berserkers expired soon after delivering the trunks to the party. The trunks proved to have no treasure, but their removal revealed a previously-hidden door on the far side of the chamber. Sadly, the party couldn’t think of a way to get to the door without setting off more deadly spores, and so they decided to leave the mold-infested chamber alone for now.

Descending deeper into the ziggurat, the party was accosted by a gaggle of Cynidiceans wearing demonic masks. The Cynidiceans were priests of a sort, or thought they were, and spent several minutes trying to “turn” the party by thrusting holy symbols and smoky incense at them. Jamal suggested that perhaps they should capture the Cynidiceans and seek clerical healing for their madness, but the adventurers eventually just played along and let themselves be “turned” so they could go about their business.

About half an hour later, the party stumbled into the chambers of three Cynidiceans with animal masks. The Cynidiceans claimed to be worshippers of the old gods, and warned of a nearby group of ogres who had been feasting on the dead. With but gentle persuasion, the Cynidiceans were convinced to help the party against the ogres, and led them to the den of the giant beastmen.

The fighting quickly devolved into anarchy, as Bechir, Mahmud, and Rakh found themselves fighting not just ogres, but veritable dopplegangers of their own form. The party belatedly realized that the “Cynidiceans” were in fact horrific shapechanging monsters. Bechir was felled, the old man’s last words “better to die a warrior than live a leper” justifying all they had done for him. Infuriated at Bechir’s death, Mahmud and Senef rallied the party and they slew the ogres and doppelgangers.

In the aftermath of the fighting, the party found a considerable store of treasure, and decided it was time to return to Kirkuk. Their return trek was largely unexciting, though the rambunctious Ethlyn did want them to investigate some curiously life-like statues that the more experienced party members thought it best to avoid. The party reached Kirkuk on the 13th of Vicelen, but decided not to loiter there, and headed to Alakyrum directly. On the 19th they reached the great Pearl of the Desert, and began to spend their newfound wealth recruiting hirelings.

Among their more notable recruits were a Kushtu pit fighter named Masamba, a Kemeshi bladedancer named Nakhita, a magical scholar named Suad, a war mage named Balen, and a pair of Tirenean thieves named Celic and Dornethan. With the groups’ numbers now enlarged to a dozen, they felt ready to tackle an ambitious expedition. 

The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10


Session Thirteen

To make ready for what they hoped would be a final delve into the Lost City, the party left Alakyrum with sixteen camels and a half-dozen mercenaries to guard the caravan. With Jamal’s keen navigational skills to guide them, the party made fast progress and by noon on the 30th of Vicelen, they had reached Cynidicea.

The party made directly for the yellow-mold infested room they had discovered on their prior expedition. Since the party had taken pains to bring dozens of flasks of oil with them, it proved a simple task to burn the yellow mold out of the room and expose the secret door beyond. Just as her comrades were about to open the secret door, Zoya the thief noticed a trap on the door that would cause it to swing and seal shut. This prompted great alarm, and the group made care to spike the door open. Zoya probed the antechamber beyond and determined that it had a pressure plate which would seal the doors and flood the chamber if stepped on. With the door open, the adventurers decided to purposefully flood the chamber and allow the water to disburse. The exercise ultimately proved useful, as past the antechamber they came upon a treasure vault with thousands of gold pieces and five gemstones.

Satisfied with these efforts, the group decided it was worth investigating certain other areas on the third floor of the ziggurat they had as yet not entered. Most chambers bore little fruit, but in one abandoned chapel to Istanul they fought off a giant draco lizard and were rewarded with various holy relics worth several hundred gold pieces scattered about its lair.

Descending down to the fifth floor of the ziggurat, the party returned to the vast temple where they had once fought werefoxes. Heading south-east, they quickly blundered into a translucent cube of acidic gelatin. This fight might have turned against them were it not for the recent addition of the warmage Balen to their ranks. “Burn!” shouted Balen. The roasted smell of gelatin was nauseating but even more nauseating was the lack of treasure left behind in the cube’s wake.

Returning to the temple area, the party was attracted by the sound of bottles being smashed to the north east. Investigating the noise led them to a wine cellar which was under fierce attack by a drunken owlbear. The abomination was clumsy with liquor, but almost immune to pain, and it took many blows to dispatch the beast. Leaving the creature a pickled corpse, the party decided that a find of 300-some bottles of fine old Opelenean wine was too good to pass up, and they decided to spend an hour ferrying the bottles to their camel caravan on the surface.

They wisely took the precaution of having Zoya the thief scout ahead, and the sharp-eyed scout spotted a party of Istanul mages approaching while they were carting the bottles. A quick spell and a brief melee defeated the magi, and the party was soon on the surface. They caught their breath, enjoyed some sunshine, and broke open a few bottles of centuries-old wine to celebrate their success. Then it was back into the ziggurat.

Returning to the vicinity of the owl bear, they headed westward, where they came upon a strange room – a stone chest, sitting on a pedestal, in a pool of what Sharik identified as highly potent acid. Sharik summoned up his faithful mujahedeen and commanded them to leap to the chest and see what was within. Three perished in the jump, falling into the acid; one managed to open the chest, revealing gold coins and a scroll, but his weight on the pedestal caused it to begin to dip into the acid. Alarmed, he jumped off, but fell into the acid and expired in agony. So great was the berserker’s suffering as his body melted that even Sharik’s scanty conscience was slightly panged.

More to the point, they were at a loss as to how to get the treasure. Fortunately the party had previously found a scroll and potion of levitation and Sharik and Ethlyn hit upon the notion of using these wondrous objects to float to the ceiling above the chest, dip down, and undertake the laborious process of loading the treasure into sacks and shimmying them back to the party. This took almost two hours, but was completed before the levitating magic expired.

Returning to the great temple, the party decided to explore northward, the only area they had not yet been on the fifth floor. This area was actually the former grand entrance to the pyramid, though now sadly sealed by sand. From this they surmised they were actually on the ground floor of the pyramid, and when Barnabas the frog noted tracks in the dust, the party began to suspect there might be a passageway to the rumored underground city below. An exhaustive search of the entrance chamber’s many columns and murals eventually did reveal a secret door to a downward sloping passage beyond.

It was by now nearly sunset, so the party decided to make their evening prayers and give Senef a moment to commune with the local jinn. “Will we encounter Zargon if we descend below?” asked Senef. Possibly, was the ambiguous answer. “Can we harm Zargon with non-magical weapons?” asked Senef. Not permanently, was the ambiguous answer. “Is Zargon more powerful than a wyvern?” The laugh that responded was chilling.

Nevertheless, the party decided to delve downwards. The tunnel proved quite long, and at the party’s cautious rate, with careful mapping and occasional rests, it took almost three hours to spelunk. Finally, hundreds of feet beneath the earth, they came to the famed underground city – a vista of ancient Opelenean buildings around an underground lake, with a central island overlooked by a cave-pocked cliff with a red volcanic eye.

The adventurers had made only a few steps into the city when they were accosted by minions of Zargon. Ethlyn parleyed, explaining that they were the band of surface-dwellers who had dealt such damage to the Brothers of Orn and Magi of Istanul, and that they were here to open up trade relations with the Zargonites. Mollified, the Zargonites agreed to take the band to see the Rector in the Temple.

The adventurers soon found themselves in the nave of the Temple of Zargon. The interior of the Temple’s chancel featured a pool resembling the underground lake, and the Rector stood on the central island. Flanking him were a half-dozen guards, clerics, and mages of various sorts, while another dozen guards escorted the adventurers forward.

Things went to hell almost immediately, as the Rector demanded they pay homage to Zargon, and Mahmud responded by drawing the Cyclone of the Four Quarters and attacking! Such was the party’s ferocity that they managed to hack down the Rector before he could even get a spell off. Despite the Rector’s death, the Zargonites showed no inclination to retreat, and the fight was to the death. One cleric of Zargon soared overhead with magic and began to use an enchanted sling to dispatch the party’s spellcasters, before being brought down by archery fire. One of the Rector’s bodyguards seemed to possess giant strength, and was able to cut down mighty Masamba, but he was in turn dispatched. A dozen more guards ran to reinforce the Zargonites, but magical sleep from Sharik brought them low. Soon it was over. The party stared around at the red ruin of the Temple, and slowly realized they had just created a dreadful power vacuum in the Lost City…

The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10


Session Fourteen

As the party surveyed the red ruin that had once been the Rector and guards of the Temple of Zargon, they could hear muffled sounds from the floors above. They had cut the head off the snake, but the viper’s body was still thrashing. The question was whether the dying snake would come to the party, or the party would have to go after it.

After about twenty minutes, a small body of clerics and soldiers burst down the stairs into the first floor of the Temple. The intruders encountered nothing but the robed and masked greetings of fellow Zargonite priests – for the party had taken care to disguise themselves. This clever deception lasted only until Senef’s Kemeshi accent revealed the trick, but it was long enough to count - a quick fight ended with more dead Zargonites.

Now the party decided to go on the offensive, and headed upstairs. The next few floors proved to be barracks and cloisters for the soldiers and priests of the Temple, but these had been seemingly abandoned. When the party reached the 5th floor, the reason for the empty 2nd, 3rd, and 4th floor became apparent. 30 Zargonites lay in wait, lead by Siamak, hero of Zargon. Senef, disguised as the Rector, made authoritative gestures, but the cunning Siamak was not fooled, and a deadly fight began.

Rakh saw that the rear line of Zargonites was casting spells. The lizardman hurled forward, overrunning four lines of guards, and proceeded to cut down four of the six casters in a whirlwind of claws and teeth. The surviving mage unleashed a sleep spell that put Rakh, Celic, Jamal, and Dornethan into a slumber. The mages Suad and Balen were surprised to find themselves in the thick of the melee, although they gave good account of themselves. While the rest of the party struggled to beat back the Zargonites and awaken their friends, Mahmoud unleashed his righteous wrath, drawing Cyclone of the Four Quarters and smiting a foe every other second until none stood against him. Rakh, meanwhile, fought a bloody one-on-one battle against Siamak that ended when the Thrassian tore the head off the former champion of Zargon. Victory was at hand.

As the clamor of fighting on the 5th floor gave way to the cries of the wounded and dying, Zoya snuck onto the adjoining balcony to see whether their assault on the Temple had drawn attention. To her horror, there was a great crowd of dark-robed figures gathering in the broadway below – Zargonites, and scores of them, preparing for an assault to take back the Temple! The party knew it needed allies.

Nakhita strode onto the balcony and levied an angelic choir, a chorus of svelte female voices singing an ancient war-song of Annara loud enough to fill the city, holding aloft the holy symbol of her goddess to show that Annara had triumphed over Zargon. To buttress this claim, Mahmud and Rakh hurled down the severed heads of the Zargonite Rector and war leaders onto the broadway below. For a moment the Zargonites stood in dim shock. Then a cacophonic roar filled the city as the Warrior-Maidens of Annara poured forth from their compound and attacked the milling Zargonites! A bloody brawl ensued in the streets, made more confusing when the Brotherhood of Orn entered the fray, and doubly so when the Magi of Istanul began to hurl spells onto the fighters.

Unnoticed, one small splinter group of Zargonites slipped off to a massive vaulted building in the southern expanse of the city. There they opened a heavy stone door, and then scattered, as a terrible roar filled the air. Zargon had been unleashed. The street fighters began to flee in panic, and the party headed downstairs to fight off any intruders who might assault their strongpoint.

As they reached the ground floor, they could hear horrific screams and monstrous scuttling sounds punctuated by inhuman roars. The echo of such a roar was still resonating when the doors of the Temple slammed open -revealing three warrior-maidens. Magdala, their leader, explained that they had been cut off from their compound by the arrival of Zargon and sought shelter. The party quickly befriended Magdala, Avina, and Sapphira, and those three were in turn quick to make friends with Ethlyn, Zoya, and Nakhita. The warrior-maidens explained that  Zargon would feed on the hapless and wounded and then return to its lair before sunrise, after which time Magdala would guide the party to their compound. The grateful party proceeded to begin curing the injured warrior-maidens. Nakhita’s display of clerical power awed them. “Annara does not answer our prayers,” Magdala explained. “Not since the time of Zargon.”

Seeing that they had befriended the warrior maidens, the party decided that they might do well to get the Magi of Istanul on their side as well. Ethlyn ascended to the fifth-floor balcony and called out to the Magi of Istanul who patrolled the walls across the broadway from the Temple. Sadly, her diplomatic gesture was met with violent hostility. It was clear that the Magi were quite aware that the “liberators” of Cynidicea were the same party that had killed Aytollah and over two dozen other followers of Istanul. This realization was troubling, as escape to the warrior maidens’ compound would require the party to traverse for almost a minute in full line of sight to the Istanul magi. What terrible magics might they unleash?!

The party might have opted to stay in the Temple until the warrior maidens could counter-attack, but events forced their hand. A scouting mission by Zoya and Celic spotted that the vault to Zargon’s lair remained unstopped, such that the creature could emerge again at any time. Worse, the cliffs west of Cynidicea were alive with activity – hordes of beastmen and other monstrous denizens were gathering in the hundreds. “They serve Zargon,” said Magdala. “With the Zargonites dead, they come to take their place.”

The Temple of Zargon would surely be their main objective, so the party saw little choice but to either flee the city or join up with the warrior maidens for a final battle. “If we destroy Zargon, can you defeat the Magi and the Beastmen?” asked Mahmud, hand on his sword. “Perhaps… can you destroy Zargon?” “Perhaps,” the grim-faced paladin offered.

It was enough – an alliance was struck! Together with the bladedancers the party raced forth from the blood-soaked temple. Cascading waves of spells from the watching Magi struck their members with slumber, but the adventurers had prepared for this eventuality and put the physically strongest characters in the rear. These mighty figures tugged, pulled, and literally carried the slumbering comrades forward towards the warrior-maidens’ compound.

The warrior maiden’s compound doors were open -- safety was in sight -- when the leader of the Magi of Istanul reached the walls. His lightning bolts seared forth. Jamal took the brunt of it, the lower half of his body simply vanishing into a blackened scorch. Nakhita and Suad were hurled aside by the thunderbolt, Nakhita scarred and Suad’s knee wrenched and torn. They shuffled into the compound.

The doors shut.

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Joined: 2012-02-06 14:12

Awesome (and gruesome) stuff!

How do you handle desert travel/heat exhaustion/water consumption? My guys are going to a wasteland soon and I'd love some pointers!

Also the tomb a few sessions back...was that a random encounter? Did you plan it ahead of time? If it was random how did you set it up so quickly?

Anyway...always happy to read about the pain!

The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Desert Travel: I'm using the ACKS rules-as-written without any special rules for water consumption. The only proviso I've made is that travel has to be in the morning (5am - noon) and twilight (6pm-8pm), with the middle of the day requiring them to rest. The primary hazard of desert travel to date has been getting lost (very easy in a desert) and random encounters.

Tomb: The tomb was a point of interest on the map that had already been created with a floorplan and encounters. I expected they'd learn about Cyclone of the Four Quarters in Alakyrum and go searching for it. The vagaries of chance led them to blunder into the hex.


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Ah...another look finally turned up those rules. I didn't see them the first time.

When characters enter hexes of interest, do they automatically hit the point of interest, or do you make them roll, or what?

The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

In general, if they enter a hex with a major point of interest, I will have them automatically encounter the point of interest. Hex crawling on a large map can be very time-consuming, and a particular hex may well only be traversed once in an entire campign; given that content is there, there's no benefit (generally) to not making use of it.

One exception to this general rule-of-thumb is if the point of interest is actively hidden by antagonists. For example, in the original Borderlands campaign, the Valley of the Sorcerer-Kings is a hidden vale in desolate cliffs that has been secure for a thousand years. As such it's where Sebek makes his last stand. The party has to do more than just wander into the hex to find it.

A second exception to this general rule-of-thumb is if the party is being cheesy. For example, if they each ride a camel in a separate 6 mile hex at full speed in order to "quick spot" all the points of interest. Such antics should be met with an iron fist, of course.



The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10


Session Fifteen

In the stronghold of the Warrior Maidens, the party immediately called a war council. The question before them was which of several unappealing strategies to pursue: To preemptively attack the beastmen; to defend the stronghold against a likely attack; to assault Zargon’s lair; to attack the Magi of Istanul; or to attempt to flee to the surface.

The party contemplated making a last stand on the mysterious island in the underground lake, but the Warrior Maidens warned against this. “That is an evil place, with terrible caverns that lead deep into the earth, where demons like Zargon slumber.” Sharik, through his knowledge of the occult, surmised this might be a sinkhole of evil from whence Zargon emerged.

The party’s decision ultimately hinged on whether they believed Zargon to be a god, or not. If he was truly a deity, then retreat to the surface was the wisest choice. But if he was a god, how did he come to be bound in a stone lair? If he was not a god, from what source did the Zargonites get their divine magic? Magdala explained that the priests of Zargon taught that Zargon was an avatar of the god of madness, Kahil. Senef surmised from this that it was Kahil, not Zargon, that was the source of the Zargonite’s magic.

Still, there were no easy choices, and the hours passed with no decision made. Eventually, events were decided on their own time, when the surviving priests of Zargon forged an alliance with the beastmen. The Zargonites had a vendetta against the party, and the beastmen, lured by promises of gold, were their tools of vengeance.

The beastman attacked in the predawn hours. Balen, the warmage, showed an unexpected skill at military strategy, and helped the Warrior Maidens organize the defense. “They will strike hardest here,” he said, noting the broad avenue that lead to the main gate. So advised, the party took up positions near the gate, with Mahmud and Rakh on the battlements; Zoya, Celic, Dornethan, and Ethlyn with bows at the embrasures; and Senef and Nakhita in reserve to heal the injured or reinforce the line.

The initial beastman assault came in three waves, each numbering about two dozen goblins covered by hobgoblin bowmen. The first wave suffered heavily under bow fire. The second wave made it to the walls, but in a feat of strength Rakh hurled back the assault ladders, sending the goblins to their death. The third wave reached the battlements and was met in close-quarters combat by the heroes. The balance of the fighting nearly tipped when a gang of seven hobgoblins descended upon their flank, having cut through the Warrior Maidens on the adjoining segment of wall, but these too were fought off.

The fighting entered a lull that stretched into minutes. Senef and Nakhita did what they could for the wounded. Peering anxiously outward, the adventurers noted that the ground below the walls was piled with the dead. This would forcing assault troops to advance more slowly, but offer them substantial cover.

The lull broke with a horrible warcry, and the second assault was launched. All around them, the party could hear sounds of fighting, but they could do little to help for their own section of the wall was under attack: 20 hobgoblins carrying assault ladders scurried through the corpse-laden courtyard. Behind them came four bugbears led by a chieftain, and trio of ogres, one of them of enormous size. The attackers were simply too tough to be stopped with archery fire, and a dozen enemy soon had escaladed onto the walls. Rakh and the ogre chieftain fought a fierce hand-to-hand fight. Mahmoud and Ethlyn, meanwhile, squared off with the bugbear chieftain. The battle was beginning to turn against the party when a band of ten Warrior Maidens raced onto the walls from the east – a timely set of reinforcements that turned the tide. When the bugbear and ogre chieftains fell, the enemy morale shattered and the beastmen scattered.

The party was by now exhausted and the line of defenders was quite thin. The sounds of the maimed and dying were a symphony of slaughter. The death-cursed Rakh had to keep his ears so tightly plugged as to be veritably deaf.  Only Balen seemed unaffected by the horror: “War is entirely in the mind,” he said.

Within minutes, a third and final assault on the walls came. Scattered bodies made reaching the walls a cumbersome process, made dangerous by the litter of weapons and bone fragments, but goblins and hobgoblins were everywhere escalading the battlements. At the main gate, the party was confronted by nine hobgoblins, a pair of ogres, and a hulking troll chieftain. Low on arrows, out of magic, fatigued and exhausted, the party had to rely on brute force. The terrible troll chieftain was on the walls in seconds, and met Rakh at close quarters. Rakh might have gotten the worst of had Sharik not evil-eyed the chieftain and sapped his strength. The weakened troll went down to Rakh’s claws and teeth. Mahmud and Nakhita meanwhile fought off the ogres and hobgoblins, barely.

As the fighting on the walls reached its culmination, a foul odor descended on the battlefield. Below, moving through the carnage, was the great, loathsome form of Zargon, tentacled arms dragging the dead and dying into its voracious maw. Ethlyn began peppering the great beast with arrows. Wounded for the first time in a millennia, the “god” gazed upward with hatred, but no attack came – instead it withdrew to its subterranean lair.

The fighting at the main gates having died down, the party gazed round the fortress and saw that the Warrior Maidens were everyone in withdrawal. Beastmen had clambered onto the walls and were waiting for orders from their troll chieftain… orders that never came. Glee turned to hesitancy, hesitancy to fear, and the beastmen’s morale broke – streaming away from the stronghold even as they had captured it!

“Victory!” shouted the party .“Another such victory and we are undone,” said Balen. 

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Sorry for casting restore limb and life on this old thread! But just discover ACKS (Boundle of Holding fault!) and this campaign summaries, which I am really enjoying.

I was wondering how Alex awarded experiece for treasury in the first sessions. The book says you need to return the treasure to civilization, were the different cult safe houses consider that? Or they waited util they get to twon to get the reward?

Just going to read session 7 now! :D

The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Great question! During the Lost City portion of the campaign, I treated a cult safe house as civilization, yes.

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Thanks Alex!, I assumed something like that otherwise the PCs will never made it out of the pyramid :)

By the way, loved the encounter with the bandits. And the barber being the BBG remembered a Cthulhu game where one of the players accused the barber of having the girl kidnapped whilst being shaved by him, it took weeks of cleaning to remove the blood stains from the barbershop :P

Joined: 2013-05-31 10:53

I started reading this and immediately realized I opened my Crimson Sun campaign with the exact same module, similarly altered to fit my campaign setting. B4 is awesome!

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It's a solid dungeon crawl, has good reasons for a party of folks who don't know each other to be thrown together, has multiple factions to RP with, fight againt, swindle, etc. Plus it has "these are clearly the enemy" factions, and last but not least, a crazy megapowerful monster to contend with.

It's one of the most pulp adventure modules, as well, in my opinion, which is a genre which lends itself very well to low/mid level ACKSing.

Joined: 2013-05-31 10:53

Yeah, Zargon and the fact it's all basically Red Nails (with a D&D twist) are the reasons I picked it, I think.

The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Absolutely! Amen.

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Joined: 2013-03-22 16:16

Yup. B4 is usually considered to be amongst the best Basic D&D modules ever released, the other contenders being B2 and B10. I'm currently running it in a campaign (on hiatus right now) using the BECMI rules, and it's tons of fun. There's a great series of campaign reports (using ACKS) on the Bridge to Cynidicea blog that really show the open-ended potential of the module.