Dungeons & Delvers: The Heart of Hemskil, Episode 103

  • Gardia (3rd-level human fighter)
  • Lydell (3rd-level dwarf wizard)
  • Sinzed (3rd-level human fighter/wizard)

They cautiously entered the room.

Though none of the faeries were visibly armed, the characters knew many were capable of using a variety of magic. Plus, there was no telling how many more were concealed from their sight, or what in the chamber was dangerous to them.

So, between an unknown number of inhabitants, potential-but-likely hidden dangers, multiple floors, and numerous doors, Gardia decided to at least try asking for directions. But, to her frustration, everyone she approached fled: they dashed or flew up the stairs, retreated through doors, and even the nude, water-like women dissipated into the fountain.

Before they could pick a direction and hope for the best, an arrow shattered against Gardia's armor. They looked up, searching for the sniper, and saw a squad of ten armored knights swiftly and quietly stride down the stairs. In a disciplined fashion, they arranged themselves in a semicircle before the characters and ordered them to leave immediately.

Gardia demanded to know where the ruby was, but the guards had no idea what she was talking about. Lydell claimed that the ruby was his, but had been stolen by Cattiva, and he wanted to be taken to him so that he could recover it. The guards were skeptical, but agreed. They escorted them to the second floor, through a garden of trees—both natural and ones that looked to have once been human—then up a vine-choked shaft, and finally ascended a second flight of stairs that lead to a dining hall.

Long tables were crowded with a variety of guests. Some looked humanoid in appearance, or humanoid enough, others beastlike, and still others were hybrids of various proportions. They stared at the characters as they were brought before Cattiva. He looked like the other faeries they'd seen, but was taller and more gaunt, and wore a cruel-looking crown of red wood.

The guards explained that they had come to retrieve a ruby that they claimed to have been stolen. Cattiva waved the guards away, and replied that the ruby was not stolen, but in fact had been fairly traded by the King of Rats. Cattiva mocked them as the characters tried to reason with him, and while he refused to trade for the ruby did agree to tell them where the it was...if they could defeat his champion in one-on-one combat.

Given that he was unhurt and possessed magic, they elected Lydell. Cattiva's champion was a short and wiry creature. His mouth was filled with sharp, crooked teeth, and his beard was stained red. Despite his diminutive size, he was easily able to heft a jagged axe that was much larger than himself. But, for all his fearsome presence Lydell had little trouble besting him: his magic proved to be a nigh impervious defense against the axe, and easily scoured the flesh from the creature's face.

Cattiva looked disapprovingly at his former champion, yawned with boredom, and then told them that he'd placed the ruby in a tree somewhere in the forest. When asked for clarification, he responded by ordering his guards to kill them. Gardia and Sinzed raced for their weapons, but Cattava managed to snatch Gardia's sword and run her through with it. Sinzed and Lydell continued to fight, but against his the combined assault of his knights and archers eventually succumbed to their wounds.

They awoke some time later in a small, square chamber, stripped down to their clothes. The room was illuminated by patches of glowing fungus, and near as they could tell it was made entirely of wood. They were deliberating about a course of action, when a face seemed to grow from the wall. It told them that Lord Cattava had elected to imprison them until they died of starvation or thirst, whichever came first.

An unknowable amount of time passed, and they resigned themselves to consuming the fungus so to at least stave off hunger. After several less than palatable "meals", Gardia discovered that the wood behind one of the patches was somewhat spongy. She frantically pounded and tore at the wall, and over the course of what they could only guess were hours, managed to create a narrow tunnel for them to wriggle their way out.

Using the fungus as a light source, they wandered dark halls until they came across a small room with a pair of faerie guards sitting about a table. They managed to get the drop on them, killing one and capturing the other. They interrogated the survivor, and he told them where Cattiva's personal chamber was, and that most of their possessions were in the armory on the third floor: Cattiva had elected to keep Gardia's magical sword.

They knocked him out and took what armor and weapons they had. They were less than ideally equipped, but it was better than nothing. They'd made it to Cattiva's palace, nearly died, still bore wounds, lost their equipment—including the ancestral blade of Lord Brandenhart—didn't know where they were, still had to fetch Cattiva's crown if they were to forestall the Rat King's wrath, and only had a vague idea as to where the ruby could be.

This job was turning out to be more than 25,000 gold pieces was worth.

Behind the Scenes
Definitely gonna have to reign in the wizard some more: I think the redcap only managed to hit him once. I'm gonna axe the two-handed focus giving +1d6 to magical attacks, as pretty much any focus I can think of, including a staff, could work in one hand, and there's really no reason for a wizard to not take a two-handed focus (since they don't wield weapons or need shields).

I think it'll be fine given that a wizard still starts out more accurate than most characters, rolling 2d8 instead of a 1d8+1d6. The only character combo that can match them is a human with the Skilled talent, and even then only if you apply it to Melee or Ranged. Plus, they can always opt to make ranged attacks, though without the focus will have to drop their best die roll.

Otherwise, still tinkering with monster stats. I finally found a way to get what I think are accurate averages for rolling a bunch of dice and taking the best two, which has been a huuuge help in pegging stats and determining the impact of talent combinations.

After only a couple hours of design and writing, The Swordmage is good to go. If you want a solid fighter/wizard hybrid with twenty-five advanced moves to choose from (in addition to some other extras), pick it up.

Grave Goods is the latest magic item compilation in our 10+ Treasures line. If you want nearly 30 undead-themed magic items, some monsters, and advice on how to make your own, pick it up!

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.

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