4Ward/FrankenFourth: Age of Worms, Episode 106

  • Adair (level 3 elf war cleric)
  • Humal (level 3 wrathful cambion wizard)
  • Kuhnja'bi (level 3 human w/ Devil in the Details fighter)
  • Sumia (level 3 elf rogue)

The narrow hall beyond the door was made entirely from a highly polished, grey stone. Initially there weren't any features of note, not even cracks or seams, but they didn't venture far before discovering countless hand prints scattered across the walls and floor.

Ominous, even before they realized that they had been made with blood.

Humal shifted his sight and detected traces of magic coursing through the walls. He hoped that the handprints were the source, but upon close examination determined that small sections of the wall were the product of an illusionist. Fabricating a wall was simple enough, but once he tried moving through the wall he realized they were dealing with a skilled wizard: despite knowing that the walls were false, it was still difficult to pass through them.

Just beyond the first illusionary wall was a short passage, with another illusionary wall at the other end; once they were all crammed inside four cultists attacked, two at each end. They wore black hooded cloaks and slashed at the party with claw bracers, and it was clear that the walls did not impede their sight or movement. Despite these advantages, the party was able to eventually slay three and render the fourth unconscious.

It was then that a man approached them from the darkness, who unlike the cultists was clad in heavy armor and carried a longsword.

He explained that he had been captured while trying to locate and assassinate the cult's leader, but managed to escape when his captor vomited forth a raven, whispered something about "needing the guardian" to it, and fled the room he was detained in. The party welcomed him, but as they introduced each other they noticed Filge was missing; whether he had been abducted during the fight, fled, or slipped away to betray them was anyone's guess.

They continued to wander the halls until the cultist regained consciousness, but before Adair could get any useful information out of him, a grating caw echoed through the darkened halls. The cultist began to cackle maniacally as what they could only assume was "the guardian" emerged into Sumia's torchlight.

It looked like a wolf that was far too long and tall, all covered in oily black feathers. It's head was that of a raven, which was in turn surrounded by numerous, half-formed humanoid faces that wept and drooled blood. Countless long, human-like arms dangled from its body: some pawed at the walls, which explained the hand prints, while others helped balance and propel it about.

Adair pushed the cultist before them, and the beast snatched it up with its beak. The cultist screamed as the beast gorged itself, its humanoid limbs shoveling whatever chunks of viscera that accidentally spilled forth back into its maw. Once it was more or less done, Kuhnja'bi and Adair charged, slashing and smashing at it, while Sumia loosed arrows and Humal conjured illusionary boxes around its faces to try and obscure its sight.

It grabbed Adair with its beak, but mostly succeeded in damaging his armor before it was slain. While Sumia gathered feathers for "personal" reasons, Humal discovered yet another section of illusionary wall. On the other side was a door, the only door they'd seen in the labyrinth; it wasn't an illusion or trapped, and as far as they were concerned that merited investigation.

Beyond the door was a storeroom. Sumia rifled through various boxes for some rope and a torch, and once she was done they continued through another door. This one led to a small living quarters, which was in turn connected to a long, wide hallway. The walls of the hall were lined with glowing green pillars that contained ghostly figures. At the nearest end was an altar, where a pair of cultists busied themselves peeling the face off of a humanoid corpse tied to it.

Kuhnja'bi charged into the room, but before he could close the distance they released a raven. It flew at him and plunged its beak through his skull. It didn't cause any physical harm: its beak just seemed to phase right through. Kuhnja'bi froze, bleeding from his eyes, nose, and ears, while the cultists raked at his exposed flesh with their claws.

Sumia loosed an arrow at the raven, dislodging it from Khunja'bi's head and killing it. Once again in control of his body, Khunja'bi savagely dismembered the cultists. As far as they could tell there wasn't anything useful in the room, so keeping their distance from the green pillars they exited through the only other door they could find.

It led to a small laboratory, which contained a pair of long tables covered in scraps of paper, books, and a few gemstones. A skeleton stood in a corner, filled with pulsing organs, and a bookshelf sagged from the weight of various tomes, jars, scrolls, stones, and other arcane accoutrements. A robed-and-masked figure was hunched over one of the tables: he didn't notice the party, until Khunja'bi tried unsuccessfully to sneak up on him.

Once the man realized that they weren't fellow cultists, he leaped to his feet, drawing a long, metal rod from underneath his robes and casting a black stone at the ground. The stone exploded into a cloud of smoke, from which emerged a shadowy, wolf-like creature. It lunged at the party, while the man blasted them with bolts of lightning.

Kuhnja'bi hacked away at the man, and after Adair crushed the shadow-wolf the man conjured several illusionary copies of himself. Though they were successful at briefly diverting Sumia's attention, Adair guessed the correct one: he struck him in his head, sending his mask flying as his body lifelessly crumpled to the floor. It was then that they saw his face, or rather faces: there were three of them, merged more or less together, into one horrendous visage.

Moments later, what they could only assume was the many-faced man's ghost emerged from his body. The faces sneered at them in unison, as spectral chains erupted from one of the walls, enwrapping and promptly dragging him away. Once he vanished the ground shuddered. Though the tremors didn't last long enough cause any structural damage, they party couldn't help but regard it as an ill omen.

Design Notes
Whelp, we finally got to see a heavy-hitter fighter in action, and it did not disappoint: Strength +4, longsword (actual longsword, not "D&D" longsword), the cambion's wrath sin, and both the Slayer and Mighty Slayer talents gave Maria's character a whopping 2d6+9 damage per hit.

I wanted to provide a sufficient incentive for players to choose a two-handed weapon over a shield, as unlike armor shields make you harder to hit. Originally two-handed weapons dealt 1d10 or 1d12 damage, but compared to an arming sword's 1d8 that's only an average difference of 1-2 points, which I didn't think was quite worth upping your Reflex Defense.

I changed it to 2d6, upping the average again, albeit slightly, along with the minimum damage by a point. I still wasn't sure if this was enough, so I also changed the Slayer tree so that your bonus damage when wielding a two-hander is doubled: Slayer gives you +2 damage instead of +1, and Mighty Slayer gives you +4 instead of +2.

Though none of the playtesters complained, not even the war cleric with his Strength of 0, I'm concerned that this is "too much" damage. I'm also not sure if characters are in general too durable, but rather than rely on a bunch of theory crafting I'm just going to run Melissa through a fairly combat intensive solo campaign, using (at her request) a Lovecraftian-heavy setting I'd touched on quite some time ago.

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 Gunner is locked and loaded.

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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