Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Week in the Life of a Witch Hunter: Session 5

The remnants of our gallant band, Sir Fallon, Sir Willem, Sir Ainsley, and Aidan the Herald, breathed a sigh of relief as the lion stopped moving and set about seeing to their fallen friends.

His eyes straining in the oppressive darkness of the dungeons and hurting from the sudden burst of glittering lights just moments before, Sir Fallon dug a torch out of his backpack and fumbled to get it lit. “Mitra! It smells like sh*t down here…”

“Ugh, that’s for certain,” Sir Willem agreed, tearing a strip from his cloak to cover his nose. “I’m also still detecting a significant amount of magic…”

With the added light from Fallon’s torch, Sir Ainsley gazed around the small guardroom they had fallen into and pointed at an empty side chamber. “Lets move Robert and Sister Carlotta in there. We’ll have to come back for them after we finish exploring.” The others agreed and hauled the corpses of their friends away from the site of the melee.

With Sir Fallon and his torch in the lead, the four cautiously moved into the cell block. All of the cell doors were open or missing, some apparently torn from their hinges or bashed down by some incredible force. The entire area reeked of excrement, the walls were charred and blackened, and the hallway was filled with an ankle-deep layer of spoiled and rotten fruit.

“What happened here?” said Aidan, carefully examining the bent and battered remains of a heavy iron portcullis which had served as the door of the final cell at the end of the hall.

“They were holding an ogre.” Ainsley stepped into the cell and pointed at some overly large manacles. “This must have been its cell.”

Fallon stepped in behind Sir Ainsley and looked at a large hole in the wall, “So, whoever was in that cell must have tunneled through the wall and freed the ogre. Then the ogre broke the gate down and freed the other prisoners…”

Ainsley pointed at the hole, “How’d the ones in that cell get free then?”

“Hey!” Sir Wllem called from the adjacent cell, “I’m detecting a couple more auras in here.”

Aidan stuck his head in the door and immediately retched from the smell. The floor was almost knee deep with feces and rotting vegetation and was swarming with flies and maggots.

“At least its not more roaches.” Willem opined, then plunged his gauntleted hands down into the waste and began fishing around. Moments later he came up with a ring, a rather fresh finger still attached to it. “Check this out.” He tossed the finger to Aidan and reached back into the filth, coming up with three more rings.

Aidan vomited again as he caught the chunk of flesh.
“That’s a goblin finger.” Sir Fallon pointed out.
Gasping Aidan nodded, “yeah, and the ring is a dungeon ring. You use them to keep track of prisoners…”
“So the goblin cut…or tore off…his finger so that the warden couldn’t track him? Then used that blind-spot in the scrying to take the time to dig in to the ogre?”

“These three are different.” Willem handed the other rings to Aidan and the two examined them carefully.
“Aha! That’s how they broke out…” Aidan held up the first ring. “A ring of the ram. It’s out of charges, but still has some residual magic to it. With this they could have blown that whole in the wall in a jiff. They probably just threw it away when it ran out.” He wiped the ring off and slipped it onto his finger, then handed the others back to Willem. “Maybe one of the king’s mages can recharge it for me…”
“What about the others?” Sir Fallon interjected.
“A ring of protection and a ring of sustenance. Someone must have smuggled them in to the prisoners, but, chained up, they probably fumbled and dropped them in this offal while trying to figure out which one was the Ram.”

“Somewhat plausible…” Sir Fallon took the other two. “You’re sure there is nothing funny about these?”

“No, I’m quite certain about the ID on those. I agree its weird that they would leave these behind.” Aiden looked at the piles of filth. “Of course, if I’d been chained up in that, I’d be in a hurry to get as far away as possible…”

Fallon nodded, “who wants these?” Aisley took the ring of sustenance and Sir Fallon put on the other. “Alright, looks like there is nothing down here. Lets head upstairs. The sergeant in charge of this place should have had a manifest of all the prisoners. I want to know what’s up with this witch-lion…and what could have made all of those undead.”

The party made its way back to the guardroom. Sir Ainsley pulled the rope and grapple out of his pack and climbed up to the upper floor. As they were hauling the bodies of Sir Robert and Sister Carlotta up they heard a loud trumpet call from beyond the walls. “Hey guys,” Sir Ainsley called down, “the cavalry has arrived!”

The four companions finished climbing out of the pit and, carefully carrying their friends bodies, walked out of the keep to see a large contingent of the kings army, including a trio of the Sisters of Saint Erentrude, a half-dozen mounted knights, several archers and foot soldiers, and a score of dwarven irregulars. The dwarves had quickly errected a bridge across the pit by the gatehouse and the army was mustering in the courtyard.

As the party emerged they were met by Sir Reginald Starbreaker, the commander of the expeditionary force, accompanied by Sister Eloquence, who led the nuns, and a dwarf, who Sir Reginald referred to simply as “Worthless Filth”.

After the introductions, Sister Eloquence went away with the four companions to see to their fallen. Sir Reginald and the dwarf set the troops to work with practiced efficiency. Archers and crossbowmen moved to the top of the gatehouse and took up defensive positions over entrance. Foot soldiers began setting up camp. The two Erentrudine Sisters went about blessing the remains of the undead to keep them from rising again. “Worthless” set his dwarves to scouring the keep, searching it from top to bottom for any further traps or hazards.

After about an hour a runner returned from the keep carrying a sheaf of papers. “From the commander’s quarters sir.” He handed them to Sir Reginald, “I think you should see these.”

Sir Reginald called the others together and they examined the papers.

“Wow!” Ainsley exclaimed, reading the documents aloud to the others, “Midnight poker games in the gatehouse…only half the recommended garrison…and the sergeant was skimming funds. No wonder the prisoners escaped!”
Aidan peered over his shoulder, “That might explain where the prisoners got those rings. The sergeant would have had free access to their cells. If he was corrupt he could easily have smuggled tools and magic items to them without arousing too much suspicion…”

Sir Reginald nodded. “We’re setting up camp here for the night. We need to be absolutely certain that the prison has been secured before we leave. The king is sending a force to re-occupy the keep in the morning. In the meantime, I suggest that you all get some rest…”

There was much agreement with that and everyone retired to their assigned tents to sleep.

Friday, February 24, 2012

20 Rules Quick Questions

Brendan posted these 20 rules clarifications that are likely to be needed at some point.

Here are the answers for my home campaign:

0. Base system? Pathfinder
1. Ability scores generation method? -- 2d10 6 times in order
2. How are death and dying handled? -- Die at negative your Con modifier (minimum 0).
3. What about raising the dead? -- Rare and not for sale.
4. How are replacement PCs handled? -- Roll one up and you're back at the next earliest convenience (beginning of next session at worst).
5. Initiative: individual, group, or something else? -- Group. PCs go in seating order.
6. Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work? -- 1 Fumbles (GM fiat), Crits based on weapon range as per d20 system (extra damage as described and extra effects when the GM feels like it).
7. Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet? -- Yeah, head-shots are less likely to instantly kill you.
8. Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly? -- Almost guaranteed.
9. Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything? -- Run. Run for your lives.
10. Level-draining monsters: yes or no? -- XP draining
11. Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death? -- Yes, and often.
12. How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked? -- Very strictly, bring a spreadsheet.
13. What's required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for down time? -- Level up the next time you rest.
14. What do I get experience for? -- Good storytelling, creativity, sometimes for killing stuff.
15. How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination? -- Either/or.
16. Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work? -- Encouraged. Morale based on how well you are paying them.
17. How do I identify magic items? -- Trial and error.
18. Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions? -- Yes, if you have hundreds of thousands of coins and spend months searching for the right seller.
19. Can I create magic items? When and how? -- Take the feat(s) and start collecting body parts from monsters.
20. What about splitting the party? -- Yes, and good luck to you.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Week in the Life of a Witch Hunter: Session 4

The friends looked around the courtyard, then back to each other. Sister Carlotta raised a quizzical eyebrow, “Inside?” The others nodded and moved cautiously towards the doors of the inner keep. The doors were open and creaking in the light breeze that bristled through the courtyard.

“Hey,” Aidan looked at the others, “wasn’t this place supposed to be warded against magic?”
“It is…” Sister Carlotta waved a hand around her, “the place is built on a primal magic zone. Any casting here carries the risk of unexpected and catastrophic results. We’ve just been lucky so far…”
“So what’ll happen if we’re unlucky?”
“Ummm…raining fire…the ground coming to life to attack you…that sort of thing…”

Sir Fallon peered inside the main hall. Other than burn marks and bloodstains it looked like the keep had been stripped and abandoned. “The stairs at the end of this hall should lead down to the prison cells. Let’s check there first…”

The group approached the stairs slowly, carefully searching the floors, ceiling, and every passed doorway for traps or other surprises. Sir Robert took the lead as they neared the stairs, “It looks all clear up here, but I sense a great evil below, everyone be on your guard.”

Sister Carlotta nodded, “Yeah…I’m detecting a huge amount of magic…Abjuration, Necromancy, Conjuration. Judging from this we should be ready for more undead. Possibly even a bound demon or the like.”

Sir Willem waved his hand and said a brief prayer, “Alright, that should shield us all from evil.”

“Good idea,” Sister Carlotta nodded, “I can hide some of us from any undead below.” She began to chant and suddenly the entire hallway went black.
“Sh*t!” Aidan exclaimed, “We just got unlucky didn’t we?”

A roar rang out through the hallway behind them.

“Everyone downstairs!” Sister Carlotta yelled.
“What?!” came the collective cry.
“I don’t want to fight blind. The spell should be localized to this level. Our lights should work once we’re out of it.” She pushed past the others towards the stairs and gave a sudden cry of alarm as her feet stepped into open air. Sir Willem, able to see in the darkness, reached out but were unable to catch her as she appeared to tumble through the stairs.

As she struggled to her feet she felt something long and snake-like reach around her and bite her leg, causing her to feel suddenly weaker. Then a pair of jaws clamped onto her arm, and claws tore at her, bearing her to the ground.

Sir Robert leaped into the darkness, landing awkwardly, but still on his feat and stabbed blindly at the snarling thing tearing at the nun. It gave a hideous cry, but Sister Carlotta’s screams only intensified as a swarm of biting insects poured from the wound.

The others felt something large rush past them, Sir Fallon swung widely, feeling his blade connect, but it was Aidan that cried out. Below Sir Robert felt five-hundred pounds of fur and claws come crashing down on him, and his armor being crushed as a pair of mighty jaws locked onto him.

Sir Fallon quickly followed, his blade bursting into flames as he dove into the pit. This time his blow struck true and the lion let out a growl of pain, but did not release Sir Robert, but he quickly succumbed to the pain of the swarming insects.

Sister Carlotta managed to get out one last scream of “Fire!” before she the beast that was upon her drained the last of her life. Gritting his teeth, Sir Ainsley pointed his dragon-pistol towards the sound and released a goat of flame that dispersed both the bugs and the darkness, but which badly burned Sir Robert.

In the brief light from the flames, Sir Willem, Sir Ainsley, and Aidan could see the stairs, but not their friends. “Another f*cking illusion!” Aidan blurted, then charged headfirst down the stairs, tumbling into the unseen pit. Seeing their friend vanish before their eyes, Ainsley and Willem disbelieved the illusion and could suddenly see their friends engaged in a deadly struggle against the lion and another undead dog.

The lion tightened his jaws where they were clamped onto Sir Robert’s side and tore at him with its claws, shredding his armor and spilling his entrails over the already dead Sister Carlotta. Landing rather startledly beside the thing, Aidan swung wildly with his sword, landing a telling blow directly in the lion’s face. Sir Willem jumped down beside him, landing badly and twisting his ankle, which was instantly healed in a flash of light by a spell he had laid upon himself beforehand.

In moments Sir Fallon, Sir Willem, and Aidan dispatched the two beasts, but found that they were too late to save their two friends.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Way of the Wicked Play Report: Session 2

Braunheld rushed up the stairs behind the vanguard of skeletons, she could hear the guards mustering above and hoped to take them quickly. Then the ball of flame careened down the stairs, bouncing and crashing, taking skeleton after skeleton with it. Braunheld ducked, using the door she carried as a shield. The impact of the ball of flaming bones was jarring, but the shield held. The mass of flames bounced over her head and continued down the corridor below, killing dozens of the other prisoners.

The three witches who had freed them called for everyone to regroup. Concentrating together they raised a wall of force over the stairs. “Got a plan B?” the ogre asked them.
“There,” the red-head pointed at the fireplace. “We should be able to chimney up that to the ground floor.”
“What about fire?” the ogre asked.
“Who cares about fire?” the dark-haired tiefling laughed. “I’ll go up first…but, before that…” The three girls began to sing in unison again and the felled prisoners animated, their bones and flesh bursting into flames as they stood up. The girls dropped the force barrier and allowed the burning skeletons to rush up the stairs. “That should keep them busy…”

They raised another wall of force behind the skeletons and the blond sent a rat scurrying up the chimney with a rope in its mouth. Moments later she gave a tug on the rope and proclaimed it safe to climb. One after the other the prisoners slipped up chimney and into the first-floor kitchen. Braunheld could only shake her head and marvel at the magical power wielded by the three girls.

The ten prisoners still standing grabbed bags, bowls, and any other containers they could find, shoving as much food as they could carry in them. Outside the door they could hear battle raging between the guards and the skeletons out in the hallway.

The red-head, Heather, crept over to the exterior door leading to the kitchen gardens and peaked out. “There are archers on the walls…” The girls gathered at the door and peered at the guards, then began again to sing. The archers vanished. Just…vanished. Braunheld could not believe what she was seeing. When they reappeared, this time in different locations, she was flabbergasted. Then they began to fall. They reappeared in mid-air. They re-appeared perched precariously on the battlements. They reappeared fused waste-deep in the walls or ground.

In less than a minute, the walls were clear of archers…

But, for some reason that Braunheld could not fathom, they opened the other door. Rather than fleeing across the undefended yard to freedom, the girls opened the door to the hallway where an entire regiment of guards were in the last phases of mopping up their skeletal assailants.

Then she understood. The blonde, Talia, raised her hand and unleashed a burst of brightly coloured lights that left the guards reeling and unable to defend themselves. Then the girls neatly sectioned off the room with more force-walls…

What followed was slaughter, complete and wholesale. The prisoners rushed their defenseless jailors and beat them mercilessly. The ogre casually walked up to the warden and caved his head in.

It was miraculous. Not only were they free, but every single one of the guards was dead or dying.

The prisoners rushed throughout the prison keep, looting to their hearts content. They found weapons. They found food. They found silver. They found a wagon and loaded it to the brim with everything they could carry. They were ready to flee with their prizes when the three girls stopped them again.

“Now to leave some gifts for our pursuers…” the dark-haired girl said.

And they did.

The girls knelt by one of the dead prisoners and laid hands on him, the burned and battered corpse crumbling away to ash and reforming. Where once there was a dead man, now there was a quite living adult male lion, a mass of claws, teeth, and sinew. The lion spoke its gratitude and vowed to cover their escape.

Then the girls set about animating the guards. Their former captors now formed a small army of bloody, groteque undead. The girls gave them back their swords and their bows and set them to watch upon the walls. The guard dogs were likewise raised, changed into horrible slavering beasts with long tongues and swarms of roaches crawling in and out of their still-fresh wounds.

The girls commanded Braunheld, the ogre, and the other prisoners to begin digging a great pit in the midst of the gatehouse. They filled it with spears and sharpened stakes. They set skeletons in the gatehouse above with a great vat of boiling oil. The brunette took the animated bodies of the guards and commanded them to lay down in the courtyard, forming some horrible infernal symbol with their bodies. Then they covered it all…

The girls sang and the walls crumbled. They sang and the pit vanished. The skeletons vanished. All signs of their passing here were gone, and behind them they left a death-trap. Braunheld was beyond impressed.

Done with their work, the prisoners and a small escort of skeletons set off across the old moor. The ogre hauled the wagon filled with their treasures while a pair of tieflings carefully picked a path across the soggy ground for them. The blonde pointed them to a spot on a map she had taken, “the Old Moor Road…we most go there…a house on a hill waits for us.”

Crazy as she sounded, the other prisoners dare not question the girls.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Week in the Life of a Witch Hunter: Session 3

Within the first tower, Sir Robert, Sir Willem, Sir Fallon, and Aidan the Herald rested, occasionally firing a bolt at one of the other towers.
"Archers...we need archers," Aidan said to the others.
"Archers won't help us much if that witch-lion returns." Sir Fallon peered cautiously out of an arrow-slit. "It has taken refuge in the keep. We can leave the towers for later...we have to get to the keep and avenge Brother Justice." He peeked out again, "It looks like the postern door is open as well. I say we get down to the ground entrance and make a run for their."
"But we need rest," Sir Robert complained. "We're out of healing and the courtyard is still full of those bugs..."
"I have spells left," Sir Willem spoke up, "and I'm with Sir Fallon. Let's get off these walls. The lion and his skeletal servants clearly have the advantage up here..."

While the party deliberated, Oswald the scribe sat on his ass and cried. Brother Justice paid him well, even paying him 12 months in advance to accompany him and record his daring deeds, but as he sat outside Branderscar Prison and watched a lion leap from a tower with his master clutched in its jaws, he knew he wasn't getting paid nearly enough to witness this. Shoving his quill back in his saddlebags, he grabbed the reins of Icewind, his master's warhorse, wheeled his donkey around, and rode back to Varyston with all haste.

Sister Carlotta held up a hand to her eyes, straining to see what was making the dust-cloud coming towards the town. "Ainsley, get up here, something's coming...fast!" Ainsley climbed up the low fortifications to stand beside the militant nun. "A rider...riding an ass...and leading a charger," he said, "something must have happened at the prison..." He jumped over the low battlement, landing in a crouch outside the walls.

"Ho, friend, what news?!"

Oswald pulled his panicked steed to a halt with some effort and dismounted shakily. "Demons! Unliving demons have overtaken the prison! Bloody and skeletal and led by a great lion that flies! My master, Brother Justice is fallen! I have seen no sign of his companions...you must send help...NOW!"

Sister Carlotta ran and grabbed her and Ainsley's horses. "Right, we're headed for the prison. You...what is your name, friend?"
"Right, Oswald, go into the town and tell the king what you told us, tell him to send a full contingent to re-take the keep. Ainsley...let's go!"

"Nice ass by the way," Ainsley said.
"Oh thank you, it was a gift from my master..." Oswald stammered a reply.
"I wasn't talking to you, Oswald..."

The knight and the nun rode for the prison at top speed, pushing their chargers to their limits and beyond. In just over an hour they reached Branderscar Prison to find the gates open and the place in ruins. They dismounted their exhausted horses and tied them up near the waiting steeds of the vanguard group.
Sir Ainsley shook his head, "What the f*ck happened here?"
"Mind your tongue son," Sister Carlotta pointed at the courtyard where a mass of cockroaches were swarming over a fleshly corpse in armor, "that looks like one of the vanguard...and those bugs don't look friendly."

Sir Ainsley drew out his dragon pistol and loaded it with an incendiary round. "Right, stay behind me." The two walked cautiously towards the gatehouse and paused at the edge of a large, spiked pit. "There's no way across...Up?" he asked.

"Right." Sister Carlotta pulled a rope and grapnel from her saddlebags and threw the line deftly up to the battlements. The two quickly climbed up to the gatehouse roof...

Back within the tower Sir Fallon heard a series of loud bangs. He peaked out the arrow slit to see Sir Ainsley standing atop the gatehouse, arrows falling around him, firing shot after shot at the skeletons, Sister Carlotta standing by his side to reload his musket. Shot after shot rang out, skeletons, even on the farthest towers, being blown to pieces by them more often than not.

With a shout of relief the four friends opened the tower door and ran out onto the walls towards the gatehouse, all but Sir Robert pausing briefly to ogle the beautiful, and somewhat inappropriately garbed, nun. Sir Willem clapped Ainsley on the back when they arrived. "Thank you, brother...and sister, we thought we were done for." Sir Ainsley fired a few more times, taking out the last of the skeletal archers.

"Glad that you're all alright...but I'm out of ammo." Ainsley set down the musket, and pulled out his pistol. "I hope anything else we fight is at closer range..."

"We need to take the towers now," Sister Carlotta said, looking at the distant bones clattering down the sides of the towers and calling upon her extensive religious training. "If we don't bless the corpses, those skeletons will be back up within the hour..."

Aidan the Herald looked over the edge at the courtyard below and shook his head. "We have bigger problems...the bugs can fly..."

"What!" Sir Robert cried, just as the massive swarm crested the battlements.

Sir Willem said a quick and very short prayer to Mitra, causing the bugs to hesitate briefly, allowing Sir Ainley to blast the swarm with a gout of flame from his dragon-pistol, killing thousands of the insects, but not stopping the main mass. Sir Robert and Aidan swung uselessly at the creatures, but Sir Fallon's axe suddenly burst into flames, clearing a swath through the swarm as he swung. Then the swarm was over them...

Everyone in the party save Sir Robert and Sir Ainsley were too distracted by the painful bites to defend themselves. Sir Ainsley fired another incendiary cartridge, seriously depleting the bugs. Retching, Sister Carlotta blurted out "I...have...spells...that would help..." On queue, Sir Robert grabbed her and ran along the wall back towards the tower until she was out of the swarm.

Free of the swarm, Sister Carlotta conjured a blast of wind, somewhat dispersing it, as Sir Robert ran back to help Sir Willem out of the area. Ainsley continued to hold his ground, ignoring the many tiny bites and firing his dragon pistol again. The other struggled to get free of the swarm as it moved to follow them. As the swarm neared Sister Carlotta again, a blast of flame from her hands killed or dispersed the last of the insects.

A burst of positive energy from Sister Carlotta had everyone back on their feet. "Hurry, the skeletons."

"Right," said Sir Robert, "several fell into the courtyard and there are six towers to check for bodies. We'll have to split up." Noticing the despairing and incredulous faces of his friends, he continued, passing out vials of holy water. "No one goes alone. We'll split into three groups. Willem and Aidan take the right towers. Sister Carlotta and Fallon go left. Ainsley and I will take the courtyard. Regroup in the main courtyard when your done...shout if you encounter something."
"Great...that worked well last time." Aidan complained.
"Got a better idea?"

They split up...and they ran. Sprinting along the walls and down the stairs, the six friends quickly found the remains of the skeletons and doused them with holy water. The towers were cleared and the walls reclaimed.

In the courtyard, Sir Robert and Sir Ainsley doused Tristram's body, as well as the undead hounds, zombies, and skeletons. When the others joined them Aidan knelt by Tristram's corpse and began looting it.

"Why are you disrespecting the dead?" Sister Carlotta gave him a glaring look.
"He has useful magic items," Aidan responded, holding up a wand and a potion vial, "I'll return them if we manage to raise him, but for now we need all the help we can get."

"Right..." Sister Carlotta turned and examined the other bodies. "Hmmm..." She said, kneeling over one of the zombies. "It has a magic ring." She pulled a plain iron ring off of it, saying a prayer for the deceased's soul. "Can anyone tell what this does?"
Sir Fallon gave it a hairy eye, "leave it...its cursed."

Sister Carlotta sighed and threw the ring into the pit by the gatehouse...

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Time in Tel-Avi

Time in the world of Tel-Avi is tracked according to the rotation of the Three Suns around the Plane of Earth, as they make their yearly trek through the celestial spheres.

The rising and setting of the Three Suns mark off the days. With each day being broken down into fourty-two hours, according to the Great Number, as laid out by the Cyfandiri Astrologer, Pietro Van Hubletel.

To those people unable to afford expensive time-pieces, the days are more often broken out into ten watches. Each watch consists of a span of approximately 4 hours as the astrologers recon time, and are as follows:

False Dawn: from the first appearance of Coprenius on the Southern horizon until the rising of the Twin Suns.
First Dawn: from the rising of the Twin Suns to the rising of Coprenius.
High Dawn: from the rising of Coprenius until the Twin Suns reach their conjoined zenith.
Zenith: from the Twin Suns reaching zenith, until Coprenius reaches its zenith.
The Burning: from Coprenius zenith, until Alero begins it’s recession in the east.
The Separation: from the beginning of Alero‘s recession to the beginning of Remi’s recession in the west.
The Cooling: from the beginning of the division of the Twin Suns, until Alero sets in the east.
First Dusk: from Alero‘s setting in the east, until Remi’s setting in the west.
True Dusk: from the setting of the Twin Suns, until Coprenius once again disappears below the southern horizon.
The Dark Night: from the setting to the rising of Coprenius.

Most people operate according to the Cyfandiri Caldendar, for the astrologers of Gaeldoch are seen as the greatest in the world. The Cyfandiri Calendar recognizes 28224 days in an Age. With each Age consisting of 42 years of 672 days each, subdivided into 42 months, according to the Great Number, with each month subdivided into 4 weeks, each 4 days long.

It is not uncommon for a person to be asked their "Age", to which it is appropriate to respond by eighths. That is to say, a child between 0 years and 5 years and 42 weeks of growth would say they are one-eighth of an Age, while a man of 84 years would say they are two Ages.

Three Suns

The world has three major celestial bodies to provide light during the day.

The Twin Suns
These two bodies share very close celestial spheres, or so it has been theorized. The Twin Suns are named Alero and Remi, some say after the two great cities that face each other across the Strait of Retep, though others insist that the twin cities were named for the suns. Regardless of what was named for what, these two great balls of white light rise together every morning in the northern sky, directly opposite their counterpart, Coprenius.

The Twin Suns trace elliptical orbits across the sky, both rising, as if they were a single great sphere, at the point that the astrologers deem the northern post of the world. Remi and Alero diverge as they climb their way up the sky, but again appear to conjoin as a single blazing-white sun when they reach their zenith above the Axis Mundi at mid-day. From there they diverge again, Alero taking the eastern path and Remi the west, until they both disappear below opposing horizons, only to be reunited again the following dawn.

Coprenius, The Southern Sun
The massive red Southern Sun, traces a strange route through the sky, rising at the southern post of the world, rising up in ever decreasing spirals towards the peak of the sky until it reaches it’s zenith above the Axis Mundi at mid-day, then retracing it’s path to set at the same point in the south.

Regarding Conversions

Because of the extended length of the days and the long passage of years in Tel-Avi, visitors from Earth (if such ever occurred) are often confused. For earthlings, the simplest, though not necessarily accurate, calculation is to figure that one Tel-Avi year equals three and one third Earth years.

Despite other differences in time calculation in Tel-Avi, similarities in time-keeping technology result in Earth and Tel-Avi hours being almost identical in length.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Week in the Life of a Witch Hunter: Session 2

Aidan screamed. The bard swung helplessly at the flesh-eating insects, trying to keep them off of Tristram’s body, but they were too small, too numerous. Stomp as he might, he could never hope to kill the millions of creatures that assailed him. As the creatures began to crawl up his legs, biting and stinging, he balked. He ran…or tried to run. Overcome by nausea from the pain, he stumbled out of the swarm, dropping his sword, and leaving the creatures to devour Tristram.

Within moments Tristram’s body was gone.

Sir Robert grabbed Aidan by the arm and drew him away from the churning mass of bugs. “There’s nothing you could have done. We have to get out of here, call in reinforcements…” The two ran for the gatehouse to seek cover, Aidan casting spells of curing over them as they went.

Above them on the walls, the rain of arrows seemed unceasing. Sir Fallon was the first up the tower, kicking open the door and taking the stairs two at a time. As he reached the top, his axe burst into flames. With one blow he took the head from the nearest skeletal archer.

Brother Justice stopped at the first landing. Looking out an arrow slit he said a brief prayer to Mitra, pronouncing his judgement upon the foul undead creatures that assailed them, and fired his crossbow, catching one of the skeletons on the opposing tower full in the face with the blessed quarrel.

Sir Willem dashed through the tower, pushing open the far door and continuing to run on. “Finish here, I’m taking the next one!” he called to the others. As he ran he called out to Mitra for might, growing to twice his size and swelling with courage. The arrows continued to fall as he charged. He caught two on his shield, but a third took him in the leg. He stumbled through the door to the second tower and paused to draw out the projectile and heal himself.

Behind him, Brother Justice’s second bolt also struck true, clearing the archers from the far tower. Sir Fallon swung wildly at the second archer near him, missing on his first swing, but knocking the creature from the battlements with a quick reversal, sending it to shatter on the cobblestones below. He turned and withdrew back into the tower, taking two arrows from one of the other towers.

He and Brother Justice regrouped with Aidan and Robert at the base of the tower.
“Tristram is dead,” Robert told them matter-of-factly. “Aidan and I have both exhausted our capacity for healing, and he is without a weapon.”

Brother Justice shook his head and handed Aidan his sword, “Here take this, I’ll cover you all with my bow. I still have power left. We’ve cleared two towers, which leaves only four left, but its a long dash in the open to the others.” Just then they heard a roar of victory from Sir Willem and the clatter of bones in the courtyard. “Make that three towers left…”

Brother Justice cast a blessing over the party and resumed his position at the arrow slit. The others ran on to the second tower, joining up with Sir Willem just as he reached the bottom. Regrouped, they ran for the third tower. Then they heard a deafening roar behind them, followed by Brother Justice’s screaming…

Brother Justice turned away from the arrow slit to reload, just in time to see 500 pounds of angry cat charging up the stairs at him. He reached for his sword, but found it missing. Then the beast was on him and passed him, two claws raking his face and leaving horrible scars. It stopped at the next landing and pivoted, turning for another charge. He managed to load his crossbow and plant a single bolt in the creature as it plowed into him, grabbing his arm in its massive jaws. He barely had time to scream before the creature ripped out his throat.

The others rushed back, but were too late. As they neared the first tower they saw the lion, perched atop the tower, dangling Brother Justice off the edge by its jaws. They watched in horror as the beast dropped his body to splatter on the walls at their feet. Then it leaped…

The party readied themselves, expecting the beast to crash into them, but strangely, it seemed to pause in mid-air, unleashing a laugh-like roar…and then there were five of them. The party scattered as the pride of lions came crashing down onto to the wall, only Sir Robert holding his ground to strike at the creatures as they landed.

The first one he struck vanished without a sound. “More illusions!” The others looked closer and saw that only one lion was real, the others looking like ghostly outlines. The one lion though, went strait for Sir Fallon, unleashing a roar that sounded disturbingly like his name. The lion landed a single claw on the knight as it sped by, but the one wound seemed to blossom, opening a horrible gash in his side and immediately necrotizing the flesh around it.

Sir Fallon sniffed the air as the thing went past and his face went white, “The lion’s a witch!”

Aidan began singing an inspiring song and the friends charged the monstrosity. Sir Fallon and Sir Willem each landed blows on the thing, but it leaped off the battlement, landing easily in the courtyard below and ran into the keep. “Sh*t!!!” Sir Fallon exclaimed.

The arrows kept coming.

The party grabbed what was left of Brother Justice and ran into the tower, slamming the doors behind them…

Monday, February 6, 2012

List of available AD&D modules

In April WOTC will be re-releasing the original AD&D (1st edition) core rulebooks. For everyone out there who is planning on picking them up and wants to actually run an adventure with them, here is a list of currently available AD&D modules for you to peruse. Some are free, some are for sale.

Have fun storming the castle.

Friday, February 3, 2012

A Week in the Life of a Witch Hunter: Session 1

"...and what do you burn apart from witches?"

As if rehearsed Aidan the Herald shouted his reply to Brother Justice, "More Witches!" The others in their party burst out laughing at the jest. It had been only a few hours since the six companions had left the town of Varyston and the rest of their company behind, but already they had returned to the easy companionship of the road. These men were the vanguard, the chosen elite of the royal army which had been dispatched to retrieve the various vile criminals being held in Branderscar Prison for execution.

"Do you believe what the old man in town said?" Sir Willem asked the others.
"Oh, I never take such warnings lightly." Sir Fallon Nightly said sniffing the air. "I don't doubt that he heard a commotion at the prison last night. I'm sure..."

Just then a deafening roar broke in on their thoughts, followed by a large, tawny-maned lion leaping from the undergrowth on the side of the Old Road, startling their horses and speeding away. Before Aidan could say "What the?!" A giant toad leaped out behind the lion, but quickly turned its attention to the fresh horse-flesh. Brother Justice fired a quarrel after the retreating lion, but the beast vanished back into the forest.

Sir Robert couched his lance and charged the toad, skewering it mightily, but the beast still lived and locked its massive jaws around the throat of Robert's horse, pulling the creature to the ground and unhorsing Robert. Sir Fallon rushed to his aid, cleaving the beast's head off with a single blow from his mighty axe.

Sir Willem knelt beside the horse and examined the wound, "The bite was poisoned, there's nothing I can do for him." Sir Robert nodded gravely and put the poor animal out of its misery. Lord Tristram (called "The Lion") pulled Robert up behind him on his horse and they continued on to the prison.

As they approached the gates of the prison their faces fell. "What the?!" cried Aidan, calling upon his familiar catch-phrase. Before them stood a ruin; towers collapsed, gates broken open, and smoke rising from the burned-out husk of the keep.

Brother Justice made to ride closer, but Sir Robert held up his hand, "Hold Brother. I sense great evil here."
"No sh*t?!" Tristram rolled his eyes at the paladin and pointed to the square beyond the gates, where they could just make out several bodies, arrayed in the form of a pentagram around a smashed statue of St. Dothan the Just.
"Blasphemy!" cried Sir Willem, who charged into the gate and vanished, both the knight and his horse falling, with a great cry, through the ground under the gatehouse. The others approached cautiously, still able to hear their friend's cries of alarm and pain, but seeing no sign of him or the pit where he had fallen. Sir Fallon dismounted and examined the ground. "An illusion," he told the others, and proceeded to strike the ground, dispelling the sorcery.

Beneath the illusion they saw a great pit, filling the entire area between the gates and perhaps 20 feet deep. Sir Willem's horse was dead, impaled on a number of sharpened wooden stakes embedded in ground. Sir Willem himself was mostly unharmed, but was helpless to climb out of the pit in his armor. The party dismounted and Aidan through a rope down to Sir Willem, while Sir Fallon sniffed around. "There were witches here, and recently. We must assume that the prisoners have escaped, but its possible that the witches that made this trap are still inside..."

After a quick vote, the party decided to climb down and traverse the pit to investigate the rest of the prison. Tristram went down first and crossed to secure a rope on the far side. Sir Willem came next, followed closely by the others, and just as Tristram was helping Sir Willem back out of the pit a horrible hissing sound was heard, and a torrent of boiling oil spilled down upon the party from the ruins of the gatehouse. All were badly burned, and as they scrambled to climb out a rain of heavy stones came down upon them, knocking Aidan the Herald unconcious and sending him tumbling back into the pit.

Sir Robert jumped into the pit and healed Aidan. Meanwhile up top, a rain of arrows began to fall on the party, seemingly out of nowhere. The party dove for cover behind some nearby rubble as Sir Fallon charged the nearest wall, punching it with a cry of rage. Immediately the walls of the keep shimmered, wavering like a mirage, and revealed the keep to be whole, intact, and manned by a small army of bloody, animate corpses.

"This way!" Sir Willem called, dropping a _fog cloud_ over the courtyard and rushing into the gatehouse and up the stairs. Sir Fallon and Brother Justice bolted after him and Tristram threw another rope into the pit to aid Robert and the Herald. On the second level of the gatehouse the three knights encountered an equal number of skeletons manning the murder-holes, each covered in flames. Brother Justice waved the others towards the stairs up to the walls and called upon the power of Mitra, instantly turning the three undead creatures to dust.

Bursting onto the roof of the gatehouse, Sir Willem encountered a pair of blood-soaked skeletons armed with longbows. He lowered a shoulder and charged, knocking one off the battlement, but taking an arrow in the shoulder from the other. Sir Fallon, close on his heals came up and planted his axe squarely into the ribcage of the other. Sadly, the beast was not felled, and began to claw at Sir Fallon's face with its bony hands.

Brother Justice came up behind the others and dispatched the remaining skeleton with a disrupting bolt of positive energy. "Careful," he called to the others, "these ones heal." Sir Willem cast a communal protection over the three of them and they ran for the nearest tower, carefully dodging the continuing rain of arrows.

Below Sir Robert and the two bards carefully approached the pentagram of bodies in the courtyard, convinced that the unholy symbol must be powering their undead assailants. Aidan looked at the corpses and raised a hand to stop the others, "Wait. Those are clearly more zombies." Sir Robert nodded and presented his holy symbol, burning the foul creatures with the holy light of Mitra.

Just then a half-dozen slavering, undead dogs burst from the nearby kennel and charged the three on the ground. Sir Robert reacted quickly and stepped in front of Aidan, taking a defensive stance. One of the dogs lashed at Sir Robert with an impossibly long tongue, snaking around his shield to latch onto his face, draining his blood and weakening him greatly. Two others charged Aidan, biting and clawing, but unable to get past Sir Robert's defenses.

The other three charged Tristram, striking him several times with bites, tongues, and their powerful paws. One grabbed Tristram by the leg and dragged him to the ground. channeling his magic into his sword and striking it mightily, and causing a swarm of hungry, flesh-eating cockroaches to spill out. Tristram screamed as the bugs and the dogs tore into him. One dog finally grabbing his throat and tearing it out just as Sir Robert expended the last of his divine power to burn them all to dust.

Aidan conjured a small earthquake to destroy the remnants of the unholy icon on the ground and charged into the ever-growing swarm of biting insects to recover Tristram's body.