4Ward/FrankenFourth: Age of Worms, Episode 109

  • Adair (level 3 elf war cleric)
  • Hedris (level 3 greedy cambion warlord)
  • Humal (level 3 wrathful cambion wizard)
  • Sumia (level 3 elf rogue/ranger)

The scroll they discovered in the bowels of the Ebon Triad's temple had instructed one of the priests to send agents to the Mistmarsh. Apparently, whoever had written it believed that what they needed to further their plans could be found "among the lizardmen".

They'd already seen firsthand one of Kyuss's worms, and heard rumors of powerful, worm-ridden undead wandering the land. Whatever the prophecy concerning the Age of Worms entailed, it was sounding less and less improbable.

The party waited just long enough for their new armor to be completed before setting out. The journey to the Mistmarsh took them just over four days, but near its nebulous border they came across a small keep besieged by a horde of lizardmen.

They were divided into five groups: four were shielded by unusual earthen walls, while the fifth had taken shelter in a nearby stable. A few of their dead lay about the barren field surrounding the keep, and the rest of the horde seemed to just be...waiting.

Sumia tried sneaking up on the nearest group, but they spotted her before she could close the distance and do...whatever it was she had planned on doing. Their surprise and confusion quickly waned, and they cautiously advanced upon her, periodically glancing at the keep as they moved.

Humal conjured an illusion of a dragon's head rising from behind a nearby hill. It succeeded in startling a pair of lizardmen, but the trio that continued to press the attack managed to render Hooty unconscious and seriously wound Sumia before Adair, astride his mighty dire battle chicken, finally arrived to help. To be fair, he had been several hundred feet away when Sumia was spotted.

There's probably a lesson to be learned about splitting the party or some such.

Once it became clear that the illusionary dragon wasn't a threat, or at least much less of one than Adair, the surviving lizardmen retreated to another group that was still hunkered down behind one of the walls. Adair pursued them, but was quickly forced to flee towards the keep under the onslaught of eight lizardmen warriors. Fortunately soldiers in the keep had been observing the battlefield: with at least some of the lizardmen army exposed and occupied, they began raining bolts upon them.

It was then that Humal had managed to get close enough to better use his magic; unlike Adair he had no mount, not even one as mundane as a horse. He looked about, considering where his efforts could be best applied, when he noticed one lizardman crouched behind a wall. Its eyes were closed, and its hands were plunged into the ground: it distinctly looked like it was concentrating, almost certainly on sustaining or perhaps casting some sort of magical ritual.

So, he ran up and struck it with his staff.

His blow sent it sprawling to the ground. The good news was the walls crumbled apart, rendering the rest of the lizardmen horde vulnerable. The bad news was that a considerably larger, horned lizardmen saw what Humal had done. It skewered Humal with its trident before he could raise an illusionary wall and flee.

To Humal's relief the horned lizardman did not pursue him. Instead it loudly bellowed what they could only assume was a call to retreat: it and the rest of the lizardmen immediately halted their attack and fled back into the Mistmarsh.

The soldiers welcomed the party into the keep. They explained that the lizardmen had recently become considerably more aggressive, though they weren't sure why, and that during the attack several soldiers and their warmage were abducted. The party agreed to rescue whoever they could, as they were already planning to venture into the Mistmarsh in search of the lizardmen.

Design Notes
It's been nearly a decade since I last ran this adventure. So, hey, new record.

In the original Encounter at Blackwall Keep, the party is supposed to escort Allustan (who the characters ideally befriended in the previous adventures) to Blackwall Keep, because a friend of his stationed there sent him a message about the Kyuss worms.

When you get there it's under attack by a bunch of lizardmen, and the adventure explicitly states that no matter what Allustan--an 8th-level wizard with a variety of spells, scrolls, and wands at his disposal--teleports back to Diamond Lake as soon as possible.

If the players ask him to stick around, maybe drop a web or fire off an empowered scorching ray before he bounces (it's not like he's going to miss or need them in the interim), he is supposed to appear tormented by the "common sense" decision, which is to leave the characters to fight off the lizardman horde, so he can bring back a bunch of armed soldiers in 1d4+2 days.

The characters can press him, which just angers him and then he leaves anyway.

I solved all this bullshit by removing Allustan from the equation. The characters know that something regarding the Age of Worms can be found in the Mistmarsh, so they were already going there of their own volition. They came across Blackwall Keep, helped chase off the lizardmen, and were asked by the surviving soldiers to rescue their friends before they get eaten.

Adair recruited his first (religious) follower, and hired a team to start renovating the observatory while they're away into a church for his god, which is also himself.

He also got a suit of plate armor, which currently grants him a whopping armor of 6, which means that every time he gets struck he shaves six points of damage off (unless the attack has armor piercing or ignores armor entirely). Even getting battered by a gang of eight lizardmen, he was doing fairly well: I don't think he suffered any Wound damage in the exchange.

We'll keep playtesting this, but we're currently considering a number of armor changes:

The simplest tweak is to reduce armor to categories: light, medium, and heavy. This is more abstract than I would like, but it would keep armor ratings smaller: light would be 1, medium would be 2, and heavy would be 3. Medium would reduce your Dexterity by 1, and heavy would reduce it by 2 (and also Speed).

I would like to have crafting skills let you make "masterwork" weapons and armor (you could also buy or find them), which could grant more armor, reduce the Dexterity penalty you suffer, and so on. Reigning in the armor ratings would help prevent a player from running around in masterwork plate armor with an armor of something like 7 or 8.

Another idea is to reduce armor for plate and maybe chainmail by a point or two, and have them instead bump up your Reflex by a point. It would still make more sense than having armor completely negate attacks. I'd just have to figure out what a character with Reflex-bumping plate and a tower shield would look like, as much of the math is derived purely from stats.

As above, it would also make it a bit easier to incorporate masterwork armors without the ratings/bonuses getting too far out of hand.

Something that would be waaay different than what D&D players are used to, would be to have armor essentially give you an extra pool of hit points that must be depleted before you start taking damage (unless the attack has armor piercing or ignores armor). When the points run out, the armor is too damaged to be effective and would need to be repaired or replaced.

Which, if any, would you prefer?

A Sundered World is out (and also available in dead-tree format)! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Ghost has manifested!

Sunken Treasures has been dredged up from the depths!

Lichfield is available for public consumption. If you want a concise adventure with a Silent Hill feel, be sure to check it out! Primordial Machine is also out, so if you want to catch a glimpse of A Sundered World, now's your chance! Finally, we've updated If These Stones Could Scream.


  1. Reducing the numbers sounds like a good idea, especially if you're wanting to put in the MW effects.

    However, I am intrigued by the notion of Armor Points as a secondary Hit Points pool. Never played with anything like it, and it seems like there could be a lot of interesting things you could do with it. But as you said, it is different.

    In one of my homebrews where the armor thing became an issue, I limited armor absorption to 1/2 the damage roll. So that way, to get the full effect of that 7 armor, you'd need to take 14 points in a shot. It worked well for us, but sounds akward when written.

    1. @John: I'll be talking about crafting in another post, try to get a handle on what people would wanna see. Currently it's something you don't have to spend character points or XP or feats on: you just gotta put in the time and money to train (which gives some characters something to do during downtime).

      Secondary pool would make it easier to judge when players need to get their shit repaired, though I could also see a kind of abstract maintenance fee (by the week or month or perhaps even "adventure").

      The current armor rule is that if you get hit, you take 1 point of damage no matter what. Kind of like how, despite STR penalties in "official" D&Ds, you still deal 1 point of damage. This way characters can't just ignore goblins or whatever, but in actual play it makes mobs of lizardmen pretty tame. >_>

    2. @david: You could also use level and/or stats as a requirement to craft stuff or a mixture of both.

    3. @Victor: I don't think level would make a lot of sense, especially for NPC craftsmen (who would have a crapton of hp). Stats could work, though.


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