This being the first of a few play session reports written for the Reins of Darkness campaign, originally posted on the Obsidian Portal account used for the game. This first session was run by me, and tried to highlight as many of the underlying elements and weird rules of the campaign as possible for the other players. Enjoy.
The Conquest of Thorn Island
A.k.a. KICK OPEN THE DOOR AND RUN!
Whether long-time members of the resistance or new recruits, you are all bound together in your opposition of the Dark Lord. For 1000 years, the Dark Lord has ruled supreme in the land, his armies unmatched and his will unquestioned. All that changed a year ago, however, when the Giants, the Hu-Charad, “stewards” in their own tongue, landed on the dark shores, sailing across the Eastern Sea. Soon the ancient cities of men were rebuilt as strongholds of these invaders and the armies of the Dark Lord broke upon their walls like the waves before their ships. At last their was a glimmer of hope…
Ulfen the wildlander, Alex the truespeaker, Alpha the witch, and Erithon the swordsage were called by Anansi, the sibeccai steward of the giant enclave.
“We have a problem,” he said. “Recently several of our inbound ships have been attacked by forces of the Dark Lord. While they are not great shipbuilders, these orcs and dwarves have proved surprisingly effective at harrowing our ships from their skiffs and war-canoes. Thorn Island in the center of the bay holds an old keep and lighthouse, if we could add the keep to the Enclave, we would have an excellent position from which to control the bay and defend incoming reinforcements. Unfortunately, a scouting party has informed us that the keep is overrun with the Fell—enough that we suspect a Necromantic Conflux to be present on the island. If we are to take the island, you must find the source of the conflux and destroy it. We’ve arranged for some gnomes to take you across the bay, so as to draw less attention from the Dark Lord’s raiders. Be warned though, any who die on Thorn Island will rise to haunt us further.”
So informed, the four would-be heroes gathered the provisions they thought necessary and set out from the north gate of the enclave, making their way a mile up the shore to a copse of pine trees where they met Merlkir, the gnome smuggler who had been hired to take them across the bay. They shipped the gnome’s small boat and he took them far out into the bay, landing them on the seaward side of the Thorn Island…and promptly hid himself and the boat under a carefully camouflaged tarp.
The party made their way around to the front gate of the old keep, where Alpha found a fairly recent elf corpse, which he promptly urinated on, then looted—obtaining a small scrap of parchment with several symbols on it. Alex shoved on the gates, which collapsed in a heap, and stepped inside out of the wind to light a torch, discovering that the symbols were words of the True Tongue which could grant power over the undead.
…and just in time, as the torch-light drew the attention of nearly a dozen shambling maegral. Ulfen spotted the creatures at a considerably distance and the party peppered the slow-moving corpses with arrows before they finally came within the torch-light, where Alex invoked the word “Lux” to force them to parley—suggesting that they go out and feast on the elf corpse.
With the maegral thus distracted, the party headed strait for the central tower of the lighthouse. As they reached the door they heard terrible howls, grunts, and splashing noises as nearly three-score orcs landed their war-canoes on the shore of the island and were immediately met by the zombies that the party had sent outside.
The party ducked into the building and barricaded the door behind them. They then began opening—and promptly slamming doors. Behind the first they found a horrible horned beast standing before a fire-blackened altar (shut that door). Behind the second they found a pair of grotesque dog-like creatures which spit globules of sticky, corrosive goo at Ulfen. Erithon cut Ulfen loose and slammed that door too. Behind door number three they found an ancient armory, thankfully free of disgusting monsters, rushed in and closed the door behind them.
As Alex piled broken weapon racks in front of the door and Alpha healed Ulfen, Erithon searched the room and found that one wall was illusory. The party piled into the hidden chamber behind it and waited for several minutes until the sounds of battle and the screams of dying orcs had ceased. They finally emerged to find the door of the tower smashed open from the inside, apparently by a pair of salt-crusted orc corpses that they had ignored earlier, and the courtyard littered with the smashed and hacked-up remains of 45 dead orcs, 20 maelgral, and a pair of salt-mummies.
They looted the orcs and headed back to the chapel, prepared to face the horned thing before the altar. When they walked into the chapel, the thing did not move other than to watch them. After attempting to address it in several languages, it responded in fluent Truespeak, informing Alex that it was the remnants of the spirit of Amon, the god of the sun, and the first deity to fall before the onslaught of the Dark Lord a millenia ago. His holy light house was overrun and he manifested to personally challenge the Dark Lord’s armies and was cast down. Alex asked how he might be freed and he responded simply “Light”.
The party looked up at the collapsed remains of the light house and tentatively considered scaling the tower to light the lamp…only to think better of that idea when the horned thing belched fire at them. Retreating outside, they decided to check the smaller buildings surrounding the lighthouse tower.
The first they checked was an old barracks where Alpha was greeted by a hungry, ghostly apparition that sent him running, screaming for the gate. Erithon intercepted him and the party cautiously entered, Alex again invoking the words of parley and warding. Hundreds of spirits poured from the walls, surrounding the party, but were held at bay by the words of creation. Ulfen entreated them in the Black Speech and they responded with a cacophony of wails and lamentations, revealing that they were the spirits of the Dark Lord’s armies that had assailed the keep. When Alex introduced himself as “the bringer of light”, he was greeted by more wailing and was directed to a single floorboard which seemed somehow untouched by the ages.
Beneath the floorboard the party found a dragon-leather bag containing a single pearl which glowed with a brilliance so penetrating that it could light even the largest of castles. The glowing pearl blinded Ulfen, caused the spirits to evaporate like so much fog, and seemed unimpeded by any barrier, even the heroes' own bodies.
So armed they marched back into the chapel, Alpha leading with the pearl in one hand and an orcish shield in the other. On seeing the pearl’s brilliance, the horned beast charged strait at Alpha, slamming into his shield with such force that he was driven several inches into the ground, but somehow unharmed. Ulfen moved around to flank the beast, but saw that, in the light of the pearl, the altar’s surface seemed polished and…mirror-like…and knew at once that the Dark Lord was aware of their presence.
He rushed to smash the black mirror that was the altar, hammering on it with his waraxe, while Alpha and Erithon kept the beast busy.
Alpha tossed the pearl to Ulfen, who, blinded by its light, missed, causing it to spill onto the altar before rolling away. As the pearl hit the altar, Ulfen saw that altar’s surface ripple, like a stone thrown into a pond. He grabbed the pearl and slammed it on the altar as Alex invoked a word of empowerment.
The altar exploded as if struck by a boulder, a wave of reflective black liquid-glass washing over the room. Followed, strangely, by the sudden appearance of a charging horde of heavily armed and armored giants…
Within minutes the keep was cleared and secured, and the giants set to repairing the walls and tower. The pearl was set into a sconce at the top of the light-house, bathing the entire island, the bay, the city on the shore, and the sea for miles around in its brilliant white radiance.
…suck that Lord of Darkness!