The Heart of Hemskil: Episode 104

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

They knew that their equipment was likely to be in the armory, and that Cattiva's bed chamber was all the way at the top of the tree fort. This narrowed down the number of places they would need to search in order to retrieve their possessions and, hopefully, Cattiva's crown.

Their situation was still much less than ideal, however, as they had to live long enough to get to their gear, and they were still wounded, vastly outnumbered, and trapped within a magical faerie fortress. Even worse, Cattiva had bested them when they were at their best: they'd have to decide whether to again confront him, or risk the wrath of the Rat King later.

From their position they could see that the room beyond was filled with, near as they could tell, at least a half-dozen guards. They had no way of accurately knowing how long they'd been detained, but the guards seemed to still be in various stages of inebriation: it was clear that their captors had not anticipated their escape.

Not wanting to raise an alarm, they figured their best bet was to try and sneak into the armory. Unfortunately they only had a single cloak between them, which when combined with the guards' inattention would hopefully allow whoever they sent to avoid notice. None of them were particularly adept at sneaking, so Gardia volunteered, and slowly entered the room as surreptitiously as she could.

Gardia had no idea which door was the armory, so chose one at random. When she was nearly there it opened. She froze as a faerie exited, locked the door, and then walked across the room and passed through through the other door. Bashing wasn't an option, so she followed him into a hall lined with doors on both sides. She watched him enter one, but before she could act a hand tapped her on the shoulder.

She slowly turned about, but before her mind could formulate a most certainly ludicrous, ineffectual explanation, a sword point lightly pricked her throat. The faerie recognized her, and while he pondered whether to slaughter her outright she quickly drew her own sword. The fight was quick, but Gardia was not as proficient with a one-handed blade, and her opponent managed to get in few blows of his own before she slew him.

Gardia bandaged his wounds so that he wouldn't leave a trail of blood behind them. She then hoisted him onto her back, so that it looked like she was merely lugging someone who'd passed out from the festivities, and returned to the guard room to explain what happened to her companions. Figuring it was best to not split up anymore, Sinzed donned the other cloak, and then they made an act of carrying Lydell through the chamber and into the barracks.

They silently entered the quartermaster's room, murdered him in his sleep, and took his keys. Since he too had a cloak, Lydell snagged it: while he was distinctly of dwarf-height and -beard, it was better than nothing. Together they made their way to the armory. Gardia fumbled with the keys for a bit, and when they made it through the doors they noticed a pair of faeries following them.

Sinzed quickly locked the doors, and they went about checking nearby rooms. One was a forge, which contained Sinzed's shield, and both his and Gardia's weapons and armor. Apparently they had planned to use them for raw materials. The next room was the actual armory, and heaped in a corner was their gear along with Lydell's staff. By this time the faeries were pounding on the door: now fully equipped, they invited them in.

One of the faeries ran inside, chasing Sinzed around a corner were Lydell ambushed him with magically hurled darts. The other lingered to confront Gardia, much to her dismay, until he heard the screams of his companion. He then rushed past her only to meet the same fate. They dragged the corpses out of sight before returning to the central chamber.

This time what guards remained noticed them immediately, but despite Gardia's wounds they were still grossly outmatched. One of them tried to flee and warn Cattiva, too late, and was slain by Lydell before he made it even halfway up the stairs. They didn't even bother hiding the bodies, instead swiftly ascending the stairs before anyone else showed up.

They passed the dining hall and a library, pausing once they reached a sort of trophy hall. Here there were a variety of banners, shields, suits of armor, weapons, and other odds and ends on display. Lydell shifted his sight so that he could detect magical energies, but only one item registered: Gardia's sword. She wanted to take it, but Lydell also noticed faint strands of magic woven about it: if it was moved an alarm would sound.

She left it, sullen, and they continued on to Cattiva's throne room. It was brilliantly illuminated by numerous windows high above. Long tapestries hung from twisted pillars, and at the back was his throne, perched high above on a dais. Unlike the other floors this one only had two doors, one on each side of the throne. Gardia tried one, but it was sealed and they could see no locks or handles.

As they warily moved across the room to try the other door, Lydell sat on the throne, and moments later Cattiva came storming into the chamber, clad in an unfastened silk robe and nothing else. His eyes burned, literally, as he hurled spheres of fire at Lydell. He ducked behind one of the pillars while Sinzed and Gardia, at least relieved that he was so overconfident as to meet them unarmed and unarmored, rushed into melee.

To their astonishment and relief the fight was over within moments, and they were all still alive. Cattiva's body burst into flames, reducing it to ashes. Where he fell, the floor began to grow dark and rot away. It continued to spread outward, showing no signs of slowing or stopping, and they realized that the whole fortress was gradually crumbling apart.

They went into his room and took his crown, which was hanging from one of the posts of his very crowded bed: fortunately the women were more interested in maintaining their decency than fighting.

With the crown in hand they dashed back down the stairs, stopping briefly in the trophy room to retrieve Gardia's sword and snag an ancient suit of armor. As with the members of Cattiva's harem, the other faeries were likewise too busy fleeing for their lives to impede them. Once they'd made it outside, they saw that the exterior of the tree had changed: it was now black and no longer bore any leaves.

It, like Cattiva, was dead.

Behind the Scenes
I was really pleased with how the characters handled themselves, given their predicament: they weren't typically armed, were missing one or more Wounds (and Gardia was stuck with all of one for most of the session), had no idea where they were and only a vague idea as to where they needed to go, and were greatly outnumbered.

They played it safe and smart, and managed to not only get Cattiva's crown, but also defeat him. The fight didn't take too long, as he was naked, only had 4 Wounds, and was all by his lonesome. I expected neither of these things to happen, as my general GMing style is to just think of something for the players to do and let them sort it out.

When I initially started designing Dungeons & Delvers, talent bonuses started at a d4. I had no idea how much they would affect a character's average (since you don't keep all the dice you roll), but figured it was certainly better than nothing. After playing a playtest session or two, one of the players felt that a d6 was better suited for a base talent; I agreed and changed them all.

I have since found out that even adding a seemingly meager 1d4 to a Pool increases the average by a couple points. So, all talents have been reverted back to starting out by adding a 1d4, with subsequent ranks scaling it up to a d6, and finally a d8.

Anywho, here's Melissa's current character sheet:

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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