Mareten: The Fourth Age

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Arman
Joined: 2016-04-12 14:19
Mareten: The Fourth Age

This will be the first game of ACKS I've GMed; being me, I prefer jumping into the deep end and doing all the hard stuff first, so rather than use any planned adventures of any sort, I wrote my own in its entirety, apart from what is present in ACKS, the player's guide, and Axioms. I've detailed the creation process in my blog. While the game hasn't even started yet, I wanted to start a thread ahead of time, because it's fun showing off stuff I made.

The adventure will take place on the continent of Mor-Thir, an island roughly 1450 miles east to west, and 1250 miles north to south. Though the northernmost edge lies just inside the arctic circle, the southern edge behaves like an equatorial desert. Mor-Thir contains sprawling plains, huge forests, enormous mountain ranges, towering cliffs, cursed wasteland, blighted swamps, and even a mysterious jungle. Which, if you think about it too hard, seems improbable, but such is the effect of magic. The jungle, especially, is not entirely natural.

This world, unlike many others, is devolving into wildness, rather than building order out of chaos. The First Age was that of the Elves, full of peace and learning, a time of harmony with nature and fellow beings. The Second Age, that of Man, was a time of industry and expansion, during which the entirety of the continent was settled by human, elf, and dwarf. But, their greed brought about the Third Age - the Age of the Beastmen, a chaotic and bloody (though relatively short) age. Play begins in 6637, about 1500 years into the Fourth Age, the Age of the Fae (each age lasts roughly 2000 years, give or take). The world is a wild, untamed place, and the Faerie-folk are bent on making it even wilder, even while mankind strives to resettle their old lands. The wild magic of nature flows freely, and the wildest of wild things are beginning to awaken.

The walled kingdom of Mareten sheltered men, elves, and other demi-humans through the terror of the beastmen; apart from a few desert city-states and scattered northern tribes, few humans or elves survived in the wilderness. Having lived with humans for thousands of years, the surviving decedents of the True Elves are but shallow imitations of what they once were; as far as anyone knows, the old cities of the Elves are dead and overgrown. The once-united dwarves were separated, becoming the Hill Dwarves of the Wild Plains, the Mountain Dwarves of the Northern Mountains, and the Deep Dwarves of the... well, no one is really sure. The gnomes, of course, hid behind illusion and mischief in the forest. At the end of the beastmen's reign, humans and demi-humans alike returned to the wild world and began again, founding the Kingdom of Mejasta and numerous cities and city-states.

Along with all the normal human and demi-human classes in ACKS and the Guide, I've added a number of custom classes:

  • Airwalkers, human archers with flight ability
  • Ectomancers, fear and illusion-based divine spellcasters
  • Skinscribes, human mages who tattoo their spells on their bodies, and cast by tracing symbols rather than speech
  • Spies, charming masters of disguise
  • White Mages, healers that use a mage's studious magic and spell progression to cast divine spells
  • Dwarven Sappers, magical siege engineers
  • Gnomish Beastmasters, tough gnomes with animal henchmen
  • Thrassian Assassins, sneaky, lightly-armored, natural-weapons-only killers
  • Wolfweres, shape-changing animals
  • Plus several classes based on a new type of magic, Librarian
    • Gnomish Librarians, student of all things magical
    • human Librarian Guards, emphatic "hushers"
    • Elven Polydoctorates, able to cast divine, arcane, and librarian magic

Yes, it's a lot of classes, but variety is the spice of life and re-rolling characters, and I have spreadsheets, so it's all ok.

This being the Age of the Fae, faeries are plentiful outside the Wall (the Great Wall of Mareten, that is - an enormous magical construction). While there are the usual nymphs, dryads, sprites, faeries, and so forth, I've also added: Sylphs, essentially Elves, but with the faerie-folk dislike of iron and requirements for honesty (at least after being asked three times); brownies, itty-bitty gnome-like creatures with a love of shoe-mending; and of course leprechauns, nasty, greedy, leaping creatures that want to steal your gold after slitting your throat in the night.

Our first meeting will be on the 3rd of September, and I will document the adventures and misadventures of my players here, and on my blog. Comments are welcome!

sulldawga
Patreon SupporterPlayer's Companion BackerDwimmermount BackerDomains At War BackerSinister Stone of Sakkara Backer
Joined: 2012-05-17 22:22

Looking forward to hearing how it goes!

Arman
Joined: 2016-04-12 14:19

The first adventure! Though there was no actual combat, the party managed to pick up a sizable amount of experience, having found the largest treasure in Mareten through sheer luck and sweet talking: http://mareten-acks.blogspot.com/2016/09/week-1-fighting-what-fighting.html

They are now rich, and several are second level. Sigh...

Arman
Joined: 2016-04-12 14:19

After the disappointing lack of death and chaos combat last week, the party made some significant strides towards getting themselves killed. Read all about it on my blog, or in summary below:

Rig Bigny, the gnome, invested in a shrew (aka Shrieking Grass Badger), adding to his wardog (aka Warbadger). The party also picked up an Elvish Polydoctorate and an Elvish Enchanter (or possibly Warlock, I wasn't entirely sure). Continuing the Bardbarian tour, the party made it to Wallace, the only gate leading out of the wall. The first encounter was three giant crab spiders, easily dealt with by the spellcasters. The gnome talked a snake out of attacking them, and carefully avoided having much to do with Brindleton (a mining boom-town that had yet to attract any miners; not much population beyond the sheriff/innkeeper/thieves' guild boss, and a few farmers who lived outside of town). Their luck ran out when they ran into 7 giant tiger beetles. Even with surprise, and 3 of the beetles Sleep'd, they were an even match, leaving three near-casualties, and one actual casualty: the poor shrieking grass-badger, Shrew Dobbs (short for Shrew Dobzer-Vashun), had been torn to pieces by the nasty beetles. Also of note, their henchman Luce turned out to be a henchwoman, pretending to be a man to get work as a fighter. They managed to get the Bardbarian to Forreston, but bid him farewell there so they could rest up.

Arman
Joined: 2016-04-12 14:19

As the elven polydoctorate needed two weeks of bedrest, the various members of the party looked for some more henchmen. Rig took the initiative to go looking for some help to hopefully capture some hippogriff eggs; after a couple weeks of advertising, he hired a lieutenant, an artillerist, 12 bowmen, 12 crossbowmen, turning away the dwarves, the mounted troops, and the very hopeful slingers. Meanwhile, everyone boarded at the OU (pronounced "Oh, You!"), run by a charming gnome. The warlock hired two human fighters, whose names I forgot to write down, which likely won't matter because the warlock is very hard on the hired help. 

  • Rig Bigny, Gnomish Beastmaster

    • Flit, the bat familiar

      • Clench, the Wardog War-Badger

  • Loronthir, Human Leader of Men

    • Rhea Trueheart, Elvish Nightblade

    • Lucille "Luce" Burwood, Human Fighter

  • Gróin of Norston, Dwarven Sapper

  • James Morthor, Warlock (not an enchanter, actually)

    • Human fighter #1 (level 0)

    • Human fighter #2 (level 0)

    • Doggan, Micro-Sized Dragon familiar

  • Larma Paphyra, Elvish Polydoctorate

After a week of rest, Luce and Gróin were healed up; on load from Loronthir, Luce joined Warlock Morthor to pick up a package for someone in town, being promised 10% of the cut. Alas, it was a trap; five nasty thieves surrounded them! Morthor tried the diplomatic approach, but that failed; realizing that it was fight or be murdered, Morthor had his fighters charge in, hoping to soften the enemies for a sleep spell. The 0th level fighters were no match for the assassins and fighters, however; as one went down, Morthor managed to drop all but one of the bandits with his sleep spell. The last bandit - none other than one of D'Gaffada's lieutenants, Jimmy the Face - may not have been smart, but he was tenacious. He managed to pass his morale check, and stuck around to bring down Luce and the other fighter. Realizing this fight was costing him more than he would likely earn, he opted for a fighting retreat at the next round (another morale check, since the other side lost half its men), leaving Morthor alive. Luce ended up losing 4 teeth, and needing another week of rest; the other two hirelings fared better, with only minor scars and a brief vision of fallen comrades. Quite possibly a vision from the future, that.

Though the thieves didn't have much in the way of supplies on them, they were carrying: 3 Plate Armor, 3 Shields, 1 Crossbow, 1 Net, 1 Dice (pair, crooked), 1 Lock, 2 Manacles, 1 Mirror (hand-sized, steel), 1 Woundwart (1lb), 1 Arbalest, 5 Darts, 2 Belladonna (1lb ea), 1 Garlic (1lb), 2 Grappling Hooks, 2 Tinder Boxes (flint & steel), 6 Torches, and 1 Flail. Not great, but not terrible. They did have an oddly low amount of cash on hand: namely, none.

Meanwhile, Rig sold his books and picked up some gems, hoping to sell them elsewhere; he began training his new pet ape to tie knots. During his down-time, he also learned of the location of the gnomish capital, Falach a'Bhaile, while Morthor learned of a nearby unexplored dungeon.

After the second week, with Luce again healed and the polydoctorate back on his feet, the party took their new army out to hunt hippogriffs. Gróin bought three horses, and managed to disguise two of them as pegassi, the hippogriff's favorite meal. After a uneventful half-day's march, the group approached the hills. Two hippogriffs took the bait, and killed the two poor horses; they were quickly dispatched by the archers, but their screams alerted the others. The creatures charged in, shredding three archers and killing both the lieutenant and the artillerist. The spellcasters took down all but two of the beasts; the troops managed to hold together, though the leader was dead, and fired at the two remaining hippogriffs. They dived again, killing another archer before they were brought down. The sleeping hippogriffs were quickly dispatched.

Scaling the cliff with ropes, the adventures discovered 3 eggs and 3 baby hippogriffs! They also found the leftovers of a merchant caravan - some perfume and incense, and a few jewels. They also managed to pull quite a lot of hippogriff feathers from the corpses. Returning to town, they sold the various jewels and such, though were not able to find a buyer for the eggs.

Hoping to sell the eggs at a better market, the group traveled on, unhampered by random encounters until they decided to camp by a small hill. It seemed like a good place for a camp - a hill, surrounding two sides of a camp, with the road nearby. That's when they heard voices coming from underground.

Goblins! Two secret entrances opened in the hill, and goblins spilled out! Barely able to grab weapons and defend themselves in time, the party quickly grouped together, keeping the spellcasters to the back. Goblins poured out of the two openings. Loronthir and Luce charged one opening, hoping to bottleneck the passage, and were assisted by one of Morthor's fighters. Gróin fired off a quick spell and took down three of the goblins; the fighters hacked through more. The next round, the spellcasters cast Sleep, dropping 12 more. A few goblins managed some good hits, but mostly they struck out - going up against fighters with plate, shield, and +2 dex just isn't easy to hit. Even so, the group was worried - 9 gang leaders charged out, surrounding the fighters in front, and even heading over to the casters, while a few goblins got their licks in. A second sleep spell dropped most of the rest of the goblins; after the fighters hacked through even more, the rest of the goblins decided to retreat. Cornering the last goblins in the cave, they slaughtered them, leaving only 6 of the goblin leaders to book it for home.

Lucky for them, not one party member was dropped, though several were wounded - one of Morthor's fighters to a single hit point. They decided to spend the next day in the cave to recuperate. Meanwhile, an exploration of the cave revealed a pile of parts, and hidden passage! Inside were two objects: a statue made entirely of copper, and a chest-sized box with a hopper on the front. The warlock figured out what the box was - a magical item called a Goldifier! When a weapon is deposited into the Goldifier, it spits out gold equal to half the value of the object. Very useful for looting piles of corpses. The dwarf, meanwhile, read the runes on the statue: over a small slot was the phrase "Insert Copper." Rig, excited, dropped in a single copper piece; the statue immediately came to life, and saluted him! Rig, honored, was about to turn away, when the statue spoke! In a metallic voice, it asked, "What are my orders, sir?"

Rig replied, "Go outside and stand by the cart, and await further orders." The machine did so, remaining by the cart. It remained active for exactly 24 hours, at which point it stood at attention and responded to no further orders.

Traveling on, the group stayed a night in Innsburg (and heard of a treasure nearby), then traveled on unmolested all the way to Cliffport. Loronthir talked to one of the creature-sellers there, and managed to talk him up from the usual price for a hippogriff egg - 7715 gp - to a bit better than a 10% raise: 8500 gp!

It was a fairly easy journey, all things considered, but their travels gained a fair amount of treasure and XP.

Arman
Joined: 2016-04-12 14:19

The Party:

  • Rig Bigny, Gnomish Beastmaster
    • Flit, the bat familiar
    • Clench, the Wardog War-Badger
    • Faufe Yitaw, wolfwere (wardog)
      • Rawf, Wardog familiar
      • Grerr, Wardog totem animal
  • Caranthir, Human Leader of Men
    • Rhea Trueheart, Elvish Nightblade
    • Lucille "Luce" Burwood, Fighter
    • Elenora Garrard, White Mage
  • Gróin of Norston, Dwarven Sapper
  • James Morthor, Warlock
    • Doggan, Tiny-Sized Dragon familiar
    • Iodberta, Fighter
    • Frauuara, Fighter
    • Alice, human child
  • Llarm Paphyra, Elvish Polydoctorate
    • The metal man, level [variable] construct

For those who are just tuning in and wonder about all these weird classes - I like to make custom classes. It's fun. However, there is one that sticks out especially - the Wolfwere. No, it's not a werewolf. It's an animal that learned enough magic to shape-shift itself into human form, and as such has two animal familiars. Fancy!

I'd also like to point out that every single (living, non-animal) hireling is female: Luce, Rhea, Iodberta, Frauuara, and Elenora. Faufe and friends are wardogs, though smart ones.

Their business in Slowhaven previously taken care of, the party decided to make haste for the ruin, hoping to find massive amounts of treasure and whatnot. Chartering a river barge, they spent the next several days fishing and relaxing. Not a bad way to spend Brightest Day. They ran into a flock of swans in Riverbend, where Rig heard of a big fish in the lake. They disembarked at Market Lake, and weathered a storm that whipped up in the late afternoon. The next morning, they set out for Wallace, and once through the great Gate began the trek through the wilderness.

They began searching for the ruins they had heard of once they arrived in the general area, and managed to run into a giant tuatara lizard which proved none too friendly. It charged the group, but didn't manage to land so much as a nip before it was beaten to within an inch of its life. Rig gave it the chance to back down, which it accepted. It told them where the ruins were, and retreated to nurse its (considerable) wounds.

The ruins themselves were once a large trading city, with a great road (long since destroyed) that connected the Gate with the forest lands. It was split east/west by a high bank, and north/south by a wide, slightly elevated road. The party agreed to enter the north-east quarter first - what used to be a market and warehouse area. It was abandoned, but for a swarm of giant killer bees! Surprised, the party had little time to react before the 15 speedy bees swarmed them. Gróin was attacked by four bees, but managed to shrug off the sting that broke through his armor. A second bee attacked him as well, and his tough dwarf saves came through again. Rhea, the nightblade, didn't fare as well, and dropped, poisoned! Grimly, the others fended off the bees as best they could, until Morthor the Warlock cast Sleep, dropping the swarm in an instant. Elenora the White Mage quickly revived the fallen elf with Neutralize Poison, and the dwarf yanked the stinger out of himself. Ouch. The moment's pause was no victory, however - a second wave of bees emerged, ten tough guards. Clench the war-dogbadger fell, as did Iodberta. Luckily, Iodberta was able to be revived by Elenora, and suffered no harm; Clench had to roll on the mortal wounds table, but managed a natural 20, and was perfectly fine. The final opponent was the queen bee, but she could only beat ineffectively at Caranthir's tough armor. Finally, she dropped dead, and the sleeping bees were quickly ended. The group decided healing was in order, and boarded up the nest to use as a temporary hideout, discovering 3 potions-worth of royal honey. The sapper, wisely, dropped a trap in front of the door, and boarded it up with planks. He also reinforced the walls with summoned iron plate. That evening, as the party rested and recuperated, Clench leapt to his feet in alarm - something was outside! After a moment, the party heard the whoops and raspy laughter of a party of kobols. A lot of kobolds, actually. Soon, there was a scream at the door as the first kobold ran into the trap and was instantly slain. Then another. And... another. In fact, the kobolds kept coming; blasting through their moral rolls, the idiot kobolds piled their corpses high. Only 22 of the original 62 survived the encounter with the magical trap, because they rolled really badly on their "let's not be stupid" rolls. Seriously, these kobolds were idiots. In the morning, the well-rested adventurers opened the door (well, wall; they made a new door to avoid the trap) to a grisly scene: 40 kobold bodies, heaped in piles near the trapped door. Shrugging at the stupidity of the creatures, they resumed exploring the area. Finding nothing of interest in this quarter, they moved south - and discovered the kobold warren! The area teemed with kobolds - hundreds of them! After some discussion, they decided to attempt to hail the small lizard-creatures. Only Rig and Gróin could speak the language; Rig parlayed, and after parting with some silver, was introduced to the clan shaman. While he wasn't impressed by the group, he made no move to attack them, either. After some questioning, he suggested the group rid him of a problem his clan was facing - a strange, half-woman, half-mountain-lion creature that lived in the south-west quadrant of the ruins. The warlock knew what it was - a Lamia! The group agreed, and crept up on the unsuspecting creature. A quick silence spell, and the creature was unable to cast Command Word; surrounded and trapped, she gulped a potion of speed, but was only able to land two blows before she fell to the rapid onslaught of the party. Threat ended, they searched for her lair, as Rig fell to dissecting the creature for its expensive insides. They discovered no small amount of treasure: 6000 ep, 4000 gp, a zircon, a small wrought brass statue, a shield +3, a Scroll of Resist Cold, written in draconic, a Rope of Climbing, and a scroll written in dwarven; they were able to decipher that it’s a divine scroll, but otherwise have no idea what it could be. One final item caused a bit of consternation: a Philter of Love, carefully placed on a pink pillow. Morthor and Caranthir had a bit of an argument over who was to keep that particular item, each wanting to keep it out of the other's hands. Hardly scratched from the fight, the group returned to the kobolds...

A note on a house rule - I don't like insta-death from half-hit-dice monsters. It's a little too much. The lowly killer bee may immediately die upon a sting, but it has a better-than-half chance of insta-killing - and they come in huge swarms! Harsh! Too harsh, I think. Instead, I rule it as instantly dropping to 0 hp. Neutralize poison will immediately restore a player to life at 1 hp with no other ill side effects; otherwise, they have to roll on the Mortal Wounds table. Larger monsters (or even lone monsters) are much more likely to outright kill someone.

Arman
Joined: 2016-04-12 14:19

The Party:

  • Rig Bigny, Gnomish Beastmaster
    • Flit, the bat familiar
    • Clench, the Wardog War-Badger
    • Faufe Yitaw
      • Rawf, Wardog familiar
      • Grerr, Wardog totem animal
  • Caranthir, Human Leader of Men
    • Rhea Trueheart, Elvish Nightblade
    • Lucille "Luce" Burwood, Fighter
    • Elenora Garrard, White Mage
  • Gróin of Norston, Dwarven Sapper
  • James Morthor, Warlock
    • Doggan, Tiny-Sized Dragon familiar
    • Iodberta, Fighter
    • Frauuara, Fighter
    • Alice, human child
  • Llarm Paphyra, Elvish Polydoctorate
    • The metal man, level [variable] construct

This was a short session, due to a couple of missing players, and because we got a new player who had to roll up a character.

Our heroic adventurers, carrying the Lamia’s head as proof, returned to the kobolds. This time, they were met by the chieftain; as happy as he was to be rid of the Lamia, he was carefully avoiding the subject of payment. Rig, sensing an opportunity, warned the chief that while the Lamia was dead, there was every chance it would come back as a horrible undead creature, and that if they were to be paid, they would gladly used their abilities to stop that from ever happening. As illustration, he used his innate gnomish ability to throw his voice, and cause the Lamia to speak, threatening to kill them all. The chief reacted strongly, and had the tribe shaman call the witch doctor, who brought out a cloth-wrapped athame. It didn’t have any specific identifying marks, just some general magical symbols on it. The party expressed some displeasure at having so little to gain from their endeavors, so the chief threw in some pretty shells, as well.

Meager treasure in hand, the party left to dump the Lamia head and search the final quadrant of the ruined city. As they searched what was once the richest and as yet mostly-intact section, they ran into two strange creatures - they looked like hobgoblins, but were slightly larger. The creatures hardly were able to attack before they were cut down. The killing blow to the second creature was placed by two falcons, owned by a strange newcomer - Airsen Birdmaster, an Airwalker! As the party rifled through the pockets of the fallen creatures, Airsen moved closer to say hello... and the creatures stood up! The party yelped, dived for weapons, and laid them flat - this time, burning the bodies. They did manage to rescue two agate and a bag of saffron first.

After a bit more treasure-hunting (and thanks to the dwarf's Detect Treasure spell), they managed to dig out 1200 silver pieces, a tiger eye gem, and a bronze statue. They spent a comfortable night in a lavish down-town mansion (doors boarded up, of course), and managed to avoid three hill giants - lucky for them, the giants were in a good mood, and not a building-destroying mood.

Airsen decided to join the party, and they set out together, heading back to Wallace with their monster parts and treasure. It being the middle of summer, however, the hot days grew sweltering, reducing travel speed to half; it took four days to traverse a single 24-mile hex! Luckily, there is water to be found in the plains, or they would have had trouble.

They took the long way around to avoid a fire salamander; five days into their journey, they saw a strange creature floating towards them. Were those... tentacles hanging from its body? As it drifted close enough, they realized it was no monster, but a woman, floating in the air! Morthor quickly reached out to help her; at his touch, she fell from the air, into his arms. Healed, fed, and watered, she introduced herself, and recounted her tale: her name was Leah Thewend, an Airwalker, and she and her party (a cleric and two fighters) were heading to the ruins to see what treasure could be found, when they were attacked by a group of goblins - not many, less than 30, but well-armed and armored. She escaped over a small canyon, but a sling-stone must have knocked her out; she drifted north with the breeze, unconscious.

By the next day, the party found the remains of her group, dead, and stripped of all their gear. The only resource that remained was a spear with the head of one of the fighters on it, as well as a message written in goblin: "Dirty Humans Go Home, or End Up Head Short!"

Rig wondered why the sign was written in goblin, if it was a message to humans; he surmised that the joke may not translate well. It's most likely that the goblins were just not bright enough to think of that...

Airsen sent his hawk familiar ahead to scout the area; it reported 25 goblins, wearing armor and carrying shiny weapons, something far out of character for dirty goblins! The group prepared to attack, but stopped short of the actual battle so the missing members could join as well, next week.

Shamash-Bel
Joined: 2017-07-09 15:26

I've really been enjoying reading this on your blog. Keep it up!

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

Wonderful! Great write-ups.

Have you shared the details of your custom classes anywhere?

Arman
Joined: 2016-04-12 14:19

I have some of them on my website (rpg.i-arman.com/spells), specifically the Wolfwere, Spy, Dwarven Sapper, Ectomancer, Fright Knight, and the broken, rule-breaking Clown. I need to put the rest of the classes up there, but there's always something else I'm working on...

Meanwhile, I have all my writeups at my blog, mareten-acks.blogspot.com. We've been playing weekly for just about a year; in game-time, it's been a year and two months, and through near-constant adventuring, the players have just about reached level 7!