Monday, 12 December 2011

Tomes and Times, part seven

A quick link to an article on my Call of Cthulhu blog at YSDC. Part 7 of a series called Tomes and Times about reading rules for Mythos tomes can be found here.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Tomes and Times, part six

A quick link to an article on my Call of Cthulhu blog at YSDC. Part 6 of a series called Tomes and Times about reading rules for Mythos tomes can be found here.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Tomes and Times, part five

A quick link to an article on my Call of Cthulhu blog at YSDC. Part 5 of a series called Tomes and Times about reading rules for Mythos tomes can be found here.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Tomes and Times, part four

A quick link to an article on my Call of Cthulhu blog at YSDC. Part 4 of a series called Tomes and Times about reading rules for Mythos tomes can be found here.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

The road to Seawell: Ozymandias

  Having recovered from the worst of the poison, Raylin takes advantage of the rest to heal Lawson, who’s taken a few blows over the course of their fights. Divine power replenishes his strength and halts the flow of blood. Despite many misgivings, they decide it’s time to see what’s lurking behind the last and grandest of the stone doors. As with the three others, its magical ward seems to have been broken by the storm, and it leans precariously against an imposing frame. A gentle tug is enough to swing it aside, to thud against the wall and rest there.

  The room inside is large, grand – and occupied. Heavy spiral-carved columns jut upwards, apparently more decorative than functional. The stone walls are inlaid with panels of etched bronze, still highly polished and free of green patina despite the march of time. Dozens of spears are piled along the walls, each broken carefully in half. In the centre stands a large stone slab, and a large figure is stretched out on it. Coins, nuggets and gold dust have been poured over the bier, and spilled out onto the floor beneath. The creature is clad in a long robe and many ornate cloth belts. Its face is goblinlike, but it is far larger than any goblin, and has a mane of coarse hair. It looks dry and withered, but otherwise intact.

  “This is very interesting!” remarks the Professor. “I’m fairly sure this is what they call a ‘bugbear’. Their civilisation was quite prominent in Thelos at one time, but they vanished centuries ago. I’ve seen a few other bugbear antiquities, but this one is remarkably well-preserved.”

  Raylin is beginning to feel somewhat jaded, and sense a certain inevitability to the creature’s remarkable state of preservation. The room tingles with old magic. Taking a firm grip on her sword, she strides over to the corpse, and seeing an eyelid twitch she stabs it with all her strength. It emits a low, gasping croak and slowly heaves itself off the bier. Raylin calls on the gods to destroy the creature, and it cowers back as brilliant light washes over it, searing its flesh. Interposing his armoured self between the mummy and the lightly-armoured priestess, Lawson manages to trip it over with a well-aimed kick. They seize the opportunity to variously hack, stab, shoot, and in one case bite at the thing while it struggles to recover itself. Despite the quarrels protruding from its torso, it lurches back to its feet and swings a hulking mace at Lawson, cracking his ribs and sending him sprawling back against the wall. Thankfully Mr. Barky leaps forward to distract it, giving him time to recover himself. With its attention firmly on the nimble wolf, the others have time to pound it with crossbow bolts and swords, hacking it apart until the necromatic bindings dissipate and it finally lies still. Apart from Lawson’s injury, they have escaped this battle more or less unscathed.

  Now that the tomb is cleared of dangers, they can finally rest. They tend their wounds and doze by the fire. The rest of the night passes uneventfully, and the storm gradually blows itself out. When morning comes, they poke around the ruins in a more leisurely fashion. They gather up the treasures they’ve found, since nobody else has any need of them. The chieftain’s tomb yields a sizeable bag of gold fragments, and they load the bandits’ loot carefully onto the horses. Raylin and the Professor take a few notes on their discovery to report when they reach civilisation. With their preparations over, it’s time to continue their journey.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Tomes and Times, part three

A quick link to an article on my Call of Cthulhu blog at YSDC. Part 3 of a series called Tomes and Times about reading rules for Mythos tomes can be found here.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

The road to Seawell: not alone

  It seems a bad idea to leave anything able to sneak up behind them, so they decide to examine the other side-passage before heading up the main tunnel. It leads down a similar corridor, whose carvings are a little better-preserved. These seem more devotional in character, perhaps funereal or religious scenes? At the end is a substantial stone chamber, with no door and only simple geometric shapes marking the walls. It is empty, except for a stone box in the centre, several feet wide and deep. Wary of further monsters, they peer around cautiously, but discover nothing lurking. At last, the Professor suggests Lawson examine the chest. The others step back cautiously, which proves to be a wise move. As the guardsman carefully heaves up the lid, a hidden catch triggers and bronze flechettes whicker out in all directions. Lawson yelps in pain and reels back with two of the darts protruding between the rings of his mail shirt. Fortunately, the wounds aren’t too deep, and any poison has long since lost its potency. Having pried out the darts, he finds the box carefully packed with what seem to be offerings. A number of wooden items have long-since rotted away, but there are small nuggets of precious metal, two large pearls, and a strangely-patterned circlet of iron and leather that shows no signs of rust. With the danger clearly over, the others cluster round to examine the items, and promptly announce that the circlet has a faintly magical aura. They spend some time studying it and muttering minor incantations, and eventually decide it strengthens the wearer’s mind against attack.

  “I think Lawson should have it,” suggests the Professor, and the others agree, perhaps a little too unanimously to be flattering. However, Lawson accepts the circlet and slides it carefully onto his head, a little suspiciously. It doesn’t seem to do any harm. The rest of the treasures he stows away in his pack, despite a couple of desultory protests.

  Heading down the larger central passageway, they hear the sound of dripping water. There’s the faint light of a storm lantern and voices muttering up ahead; Raylin can just make out complaints about the weather interspersed with what sounds like a game of cards. Someone mutters that there won’t be any pickings to be had in this sort of weather. Bandits, it seems.

  The long stone hall opens out into a larger space, furnished crudely with rotting tables and rusted iron implements. The walls are moss-grown and any decoration is long since lost to the ravages of time. Rain is falling from a crumbling hole in the ceiling, and a knotted rope hangs down from it to the floor. The water trickles out through a opening in one corner, clearly designed as a drain. In a dry corner, a pile of surprisingly new sacks and boxes has been heaped up, and a heap of rags and furs lies nearby. Clearly, someone has been using the place. The lantern casts a faint glow over the room, and picks out Cedric like a white ghost swooping overhead. The Professor feels a pulse of warning from the owl; someone’s here. Despite the rumbling of the storm, the group are making a fair amount of noise stumbling through the stony passages, and two men rise from their game to look around. There’s no opportunity for talking; as soon as the men spot the intruders, they brandish their swords and charge forwards. Mr. Barky dashes forwards to snap at one of them, while Lawson closes with the other. There’s a flurry of clashing metal and the fleshy thud of crossbow bolts, and their attackers are down.

  Searching the room, they confirm their decision that the two men are bandits. The random assortment of sacks, boxes and amphorae look more like plunder than anything. They couldn’t expect anything but execution from the authorities, so it’s no surprise they attacked on sight. Discarding sword and shield, Lawson hauls himself up the rope overhead. In the ruined building above, he finds a recent camp and a sizeable rubbish pile, but nothing else. They leave the goods for now and continue on. Raylin takes a short sword from one of the bandits, as the crossbow is a bit unwieldy in these close quarters. As she does so, she spots arcane symbols on the man's belt, and carefully removes it. It bears a mild load-bearing enchantment to help the wearer carry heay burdens, which the delicate priestess decides will prove quite useful.

  The passage splits now, with a narrow side-tunnel heading off on a sharp angle, while the main passage leads to an ornate stone door. They debate what to do: head into what looks like the most important chamber, or make sure nothing’s lurking behind them? There could easily be more bandits here, or some other horror like the vargouille. Examining the ground, there are signs of footprints near the door, but none seem to go through. Presumably it’s bound with the same enchantments that held the outer doors, so the bandits couldn’t get inside. Even if the spell is now broken, nobody seems to have gone inside, so they decide to check the side-passage.

  The passage is too narrow to walk side-by-side. Ghosting ahead, Cedric suddenly flutters wildly, and a sense of violent alarm makes the Professor wince. The owl barely avoids tangling himself in a large spidersweb that stretches across the ceiling. He balks at the danger and swoops back to the safety of the main tunnel. Feeling the need for stealth, they leave the clanking Lawson as a rearguard. Up ahead they find a doorway whose wood door lies rotting in the corridor. It’s quieter this far into the mound, and smells of dust and time. In the dim glow of the magic light, the floor of the chamber ahead is greyish and irregular. Raylin, Elefthenea, Mr. Barky slip forward to investigate, and the wolf suddenly squirms as he finds himself trapped in another of the webs. As Elefthenea and Raylin try to free him, a huge spider drops from the ceiling above and sinks its fangs into the priestess. Panic ensues. As the injured Raylin staggers away to safety, Elefthenea conjures a giant centipede from thin air to fend off the spider. The two monsters struggle with each other while Mr. Barky tears his way free of the web. Though the centipede can't get a grip on its enemy, the others take advantage of the distraction to hack at the spider in relative safety. By the time the centipede evaporates, the spider is badly wounded. It’s a nasty fight, and Raylin struggles against the numbing poison, but they manage to finish the creature off. As they pause to recover their breath, the Professor spots something glinting amidst the silk-wrapped animal remains: gold! One of the larger bodies turns out to be humanoid, perhaps an unwary third outlaw who stumbled in here? A rotting pouch has spilled its contents, and the Professor gathers up a heap of coin and a small pearl.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Tomes and Times, part two

A quick link to an article on my Call of Cthulhu blog at YSDC. Part 2 of a series called Tomes and Times about reading rules for Mythos tomes can be found here.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Tomes and Times, part one

A quick link to an article on my Call of Cthulhu blog at YSDC. Part 1 of a series called Tomes and Times about reading rules for Mythos tomes can be found here.

Monday, 4 July 2011

The road to Seawell: unwelcome developments

  The storm draws closer and closer, until it’s echoing right overhead.  Lightning strikes the forest nearby.  Looking around the room, they find it carved with stylised images, which show goblin-like creatures and geometric patterns.  The carvings are clearly very old; traces of paint are barely visible in the glow of witchlights.  There are three further doorways in the other four walls, each barred by a stone door carved in an ancient style.  On closer examination, the Professor senses the faint tingle of magic barring the doors.  It is no spell he recognises, and weak as it seems to have grown, none of the spellcasters know how to breach it.  They sit for a while, manage to start a small fire after the Professor dries out some wood, and recover slightly from their journey, though conversation is all but impossible.

  A brilliant flash and simultaneous cataclysmic rumble of thunder overloads their senses for a moment, and with ears ringing they hear crashes from overhead, and the solid thunk of falling stone nearby.  The horses rear up madly and some nearly break their tethers.  It seems the ruined tower has been struck by lightning.  A coppery scent wafts through the room, and looking around, they see the stone doors have toppled, their aging wards finally overloaded by the storm.  An ominous rustling sound grows louder under the howling of the wind, and all at once about a hundred large rats pour out of a doorway and rush across the room.  The travellers scramble out of the way, kicking and swiping at the frenzied rodents, until they melt away into the stones or vanish outside.  The odd painful nip aside, there’s no harm done, though it takes a while to calm the horses after the incident.

  With the doors now open, curiosity and boredom overwhelm caution.  Besides, the dark emptiness of the passages is a little unnerving; not something to have at your back in the middle of a stormy night.  The group decide to quickly check there’s nothing else to worry about, before they bed down for the night.  They retrieve weapons and armour from their packs and make ready.

  They head down the corridor that the rats came from, Mr. Barky and Cedric ghosting ahead quietly to check for danger.  A rat or two scuttles out of sight as they approach.  At the end lies a smaller stone chamber, its floor covered with water that seems to be trickling from one wall.  They conclude that the rats probably had a nest behind the wall, which was damaged by the lightning and started to flood, driving the rats out in a panic.  The water seems to be draining away through the floor, so there’s probably nothing to worry about.  At one end of the room is an oddly-shaped stone sarcophagus, showing a bat-eared figure.  Cedric swoops close to it, intending to perch, but is startled away when the head abruptly rises from the sarcophagus and lets out a piercing shriek.  Several of the party are momentarily dazed by the sound, and the vargouille swoops forward to attack them.  Lawson manages to fend off the cackling head with his shield long enough for Raylin to send a bolt through one of its wings; while it flutters off-balance, he splits it in two with his sword.  They’re rather alarmed by their encounter, but there don’t seem to be any more of the creatures lurking here.  Examining the sarcophagus, Raylin finds the carven head has been worn away to provide a perch for the vargouille.  The rest of the sarcophagus is ornate, in a crude, ancient style.  Inside is mostly dust, but something glints in the light; a small ring of twisted bronze, which exudes a faint magical aura.  The scholars examine it and determine that it aid the wearer in understanding other languages.  Perhaps the owner was a diplomat of some sort?

Saturday, 2 July 2011

The road to Seawell: a mighty storm

  The Duchess of Phedes is expecting a trade delegation, who are due to arrive at the port of Seawell in a few of days. Her ministers have assembled a group of emissaries to receive the delegates at Seawell. No problems are expected with the trip, so their main purpose is to meet the delegates and provide an appropriately eminent escort to Phedes; with the secondary mission of subtly tapping them for information and softening them up before the negotiations begin. Once they arrive, more senior officials will take over. The emissaries have their own guards, and such a large party is unlikely to meet with trouble, so the escort is mostly a diplomatic one.

  The group are representatives of various official bodies, and junior agents recently appointed to the Duchess’ service. They’re respectable enough to be both gratifying and unthreatening, but junior enough not to give an obsequious impression. In any case, the higher echelons don’t waste their time on simple tasks like escorting delegates.

  Eleftheana is a druidess from the elven communities of Phedes. Professor Godalming is a gnomish mage of good family, and a member of the Phedic arcane school. Raylin serves as a priestess of the Pantheon and has been favoured with their blessings. All three have some experience of trouble-shooting and basic militia training, and between them should easily handle any problems that arise, social or practical. Just in case, the Duchess sends along a guard for protection and to handle the travel arrangements; Lawson is a professional soldier with no allegiance but to the Duchess, which ensures her interests remain paramount.

  The journey will take nearly two days, despite the excellence of the highways. It’s early summer, but the weather has been stormy recently, and rain pours down most of the day. The road is well-maintained, but their progress is still slow and miserable. In the early evening, as the road descends through a series of wooden valleys, the rain begins to turn to a full-blown gale, and the spellcasters are forced to conjure light to guide their way (Lawson has to rely on a simple lantern). Suddenly, they find their way blocked by a landslide, presumably caused by the torrential rain. After some shouted discussion amidst the howling winds, they turn their horses off the path to look for a way round through the thick woods. The geography is steep and rocky and they’re forced to make quite a detour.

  As they trek wearily through the trees, occasional flashes and rumbles of thunder approach. A cacophonous crash sounds almost overhead, and Lawson and Eleftheana’s horses bolt in fright, plunging off through the trees. The others are forced to follow them. It’s quite a while before they can regain control, and by then they’re lost and wandering uncertainly through thick woods. They decide to follow the slope uphill to try and get their bearings.

  As they approach the top of a hill and start to break free of the trees, a flash of lightning outlines a ruined tower jutting out from it. Heading towards it in search of shelter, they find a rough stone gateway into the hillside itself, and a large stone that seems to have once blocked it. The chamber inside offers enough room for them all and their horses, and seems dry; they decide to head inside and wait out the storm.