Dungeons & Delvers: Heart of Hemskil

  • Gardia (2nd-level human wizard)
  • Lydell (2nd-level dwarf wizard)
  • Sinzed (2nd-level human fighter/wizard)

Broke in body, spirit, and finances, the characters trudged through Tjelos's gates. They had spent the past several weeks exploring the mountains to the south, but after encountering tentacled horrors within dark, winding caverns were forced to flee.

The first order of business was to find some cash, so they could get a room and ideally get drunk enough to sleep despite the nightmares that still haunted them.

The townsfolk were gathered in the square, where a royal herald announced that goblins had somehow managed to infiltrate the treasury and steal a single object: a gem, roughly the size and shape of a human heart. The king was offering a sum of 25,000 gold pieces to whoever managed to retrieve it.

Gardia had lived in Tjelos for a time, and knew that goblins dwelled in the sewers. Goblins were physically small and weak, but the sewers were both labyrinthine and inhabited by things far worse and unhuman than mere goblins. So...probably not a lot of competition, despite the asking price.

They descended into the sewers, and after several hours of wandering came across a kind of goblin camp: there were piles of soiled rags, bits that might dubiously be described as food, and the entire cavity somehow smelled worse than the rest of the sewers. After a cursory inspection they turned to leave, but Lydell spotted the glint of eyes peering from a narrow crevice in the wall.

A word sprang to his lips, propelling several chunks of stone with great speed into the crevice. There was a wet thump and a brief whimper, followed by the tumult of gurgling speech, as goblins seemed to spring forth from the walls. Their bodies were small and spindly, and all but one brandished filthy shards of metal; this one had a pair of shields tied to his body, one protecting his chest and the other his back. He wielded what was at one point a halberd, but the haft had been snapped so that he could better utilize it as an axe.

Sinzed used both shield and spell to protect Lydell from harm, allowing him to safely pummel them with mystically-propelled artillery. The goblins' numbers were quickly whittled down, until only the somewhat passably armed and armored one remained. Gardia wrested his weapon from his grasp, kicked him to the floor, and planted her boot upon his chest.

She then leveled his crude weapon at his neck, and demanded that he tell her where the red gem was. In a combination of broken common and what she assumed was the goblin language, he blurted out something about a "rat king". She then pricked his neck, just enough to make him bleed, and ordered him to lead them to this Rat King's lair. The goblin pleaded for mercy, frantically squealing that He would kill them, and then him, if he assisted them in any way.

Gardia gestured to the goblin corpses strewn about, and made it clear that she would either kill him here and now, or he could help them, and at least have some chance of survival. He reluctantly agreed. They tied a rope around his neck and told him to lead the way. After some more wandering, the goblin brought them down, beneath even the sewers, to a kind of undercity that even Gardia had never heard of.

Eventually the goblin brought them to a circular tunnel, flanked by what had once been statues, but were now eroded beyond recognition. They tied the goblin to one and ventured into the tunnel. The chamber within was high and vast: Sinzed's torchlight was unable to reach either the ceiling or walls. Water trickled from the unseen ceiling, forming numerous pools of water that surrounded piles of rubble. They could hear rats scurrying about, somewhere within the darkness.

A voice spoke, asking them why they had come to his home. Gardia answered, stating as confidently as she could that they had come in search of a red gem; if he returned it, she would spare his life. The voice's laughter echoed from the walls, and he bade her step forward. She did, and her torch glinted off of heap of countless coins, goblets, pieces of jewelry, and other assorted valuables.

She could see the hint of a throne planted at the top, on which she presumed the Rat King was seated. He asked what she would trade for it, and she again responded that she would spare his life. His voice lost all sense of humor, and he flatly replied that she would find that to be no easy task. Lydell mentally hurled a chunk of stone. It slammed into the throne, and they saw a pile of stones wrapped in tattered finery tumble down the heap of treasure.

It was a decoy.

The laughter rose again, this time coming from all around them. They heard skittering and splashing, as dire rats poured out of the walls and rushed towards them. The characters advanced towards the heap, hoping to find the ruby. They did not, and soon the rats were upon them, biting and tearing at their clothing and flesh.

They tried beating them back, but it quickly became clear that they were grossly outnumbered: they retreated to the tunnel, stopping when they realized that the rats weren't pursuing them. Somehow, in the chaos Lydell had managed to pluck a sword from the Rat King's hoard. At least they weren't leaving empty-handed.

They returned to the city, freeing the goblin as promised. They spent the next few days resting and recovering, during which time Lydell discovered that the sword was magical: at the wielder's command, it would wreathe itself in flames. Unfortunately, it belonged to one of King Eldred Brandenhart's ancestors.

Behind the Scenes
Sorry for the kind of repeated plot summary: with the addition of another Chris (not the one that provides awesome feedback and plays in A Sundered World), we decided to start the campaign over. This time they created a slightly more detailed party history, involving Lovecraftian horror and mountains. You can blame Maria for that. I won't, because it's great to have a player that isn't actively afraid of that sort of thing, but you can if you want.

Here's a rough map of Egetfold:

Gonna spruce it up for the final product, and there'll also be a hex map for the forest-crawl.

We talked about the system some more before, during, and after play: I need to decide on ranges for ranged things, they want more talents tied to an archetype (so if you want to play, say, an offensive fighter there's more stuff to choose from), some talents of course need to be tweaked (Defend action + Abjurer talent on a fighter makes them virtually unhittable), need to settle on how XP is acquired (and how much is needed to level up), and more races and classes (Maria really wants a paladin).

I was happy that they were able to almost take on a horde of twenty rats. I think if Gardia had been fully healed, and they'd been a bit luckier, that they would have won. It's fine though: not every fight should be "winnable", especially at the start of the game. Maybe some other day they'll come back and confront the Rat King?

We've also been talking about some hacks/campaign settings using the system. Maria and Melissa both have ideas, but that'll have to wait until the core game is actually done.

The Druid has been released into the wild! It's an alternative to the "official" druid class. I've been told that it feels more flexible and playable than the one in the book, but you can check out the entire core class and about five of the advanced moves, so check it out.

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.

The Dungeon World GM Screen is currently available in pdf and landscape insert formats. No matter which you choose, you get eight sets of pdfs that let you have access to the screen in both landscape and portrait orientation, in color or black and white, and with or without art.

We're waiting on the portrait inserts. Assuming they look good, they'll be available soon. They're now available.

Next up, mini screen!

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