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teh bunneh

FH Campaign

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Hey, y'all!

 

Inspired by James Gillen's [edit misspelling - sorry!] Turakian Age campaign :thumbup: I thought I would post my own FH campaign notes here, for the cheap amusement of the masses. The game's been going on for a few weeks now, and it seems to be going well. It takes place in my own fantasy world (see the "FH Mythologies - Storytime" thread http://www.herogames.com/forums/showthread.php?t=18634 for a little info on one aspect of my world).

 

The concept is this: The Royal Explorers' Society has commissioned one of its members to assemble an expedition to sail south and map the Black Blood River, a very large river (think: the Amazon or the Nile) which has never been fully explored. The PCs are members of the expedition, hired on as guards, guides, translators, healers, or whatever. They are all beginning, low-powered characters (25 base, 50+ disads).

 

The PCs on the team consist of:

Breena of Adrom, a ranger and a paladin in the service of Adrom, god of woodsmen. Breena is a very large (6’), very strong woman who hails from the rough and mostly unsettled part of Kalon (a heavily forested country ruled by the druids). She doesn’t have much of a sense of humor, but she does have a kind heart. She has come on this adventure to test her skills and her mettle against all odds, and was hired as a guard and a guide. Breena is being played by my lovely wife, Tammy.

 

Hathym Veddol, a White Elf noble who didn’t fit in with the expectations and demands his family, so he was apprenticed (read: shuffled off) to a Brown Elf ranger at an early age. Despite all expectations, he took well to his training and became a full-fledged ranger. Hathym has a taste for the finer things in life – particularly women (he would charitably be called a “dawg†:shock: ); his nickname back home is “The Rake,†which he has very carefully failed to mention to his new teammates. Hathym is on this mission because he had to get as far away from his homelands as he could, as quickly as possible. He hasn’t mentioned why, but it apparently has something to do with a young lady and an angry family. Hathym is played by Ron, an old friend.

 

Brother Radley Zane, a priest of Comme, god of laughter and minstrelsy. Radley grew up in the mean streets of the biggest and baddest city in the world, but was rescued from a life of poverty and crime when he found religion. He’s on this trip because… well, it’s a funny story. See, he took a bet that he couldn’t sneak aboard a ship after dark. He did so and fell asleep. When he woke up, he found himself hundreds of leagues from home and heading west. He decided that this was a test sent to him by Comme (very funny, big guy!), so he’s going wherever his feet take him. He was hired as a healer. Radley is played by Mike, another old friend.

 

Kishara, a powerful wizard. Actually, Kishara is a wild mage, but she knows that wild mages have a bad rep, so she tries to keep her true power a secret. So far she has been extraordinarily lucky – especially given that she’s the only thaumic spellcaster on the team, no one else really knows what a wizard is supposed to be able to do, so they just assume she’s an ordinary wizard. ;) Kishara is looking for adventure, knowledge, and a way to better understand her powers... but more importantly she’s looking to get away from mobs of angry villagers who discovered her secret and want to string her up. Mike’s girlfriend Kate is playing Kishara.

 

Ulkiel Artu of Cainith North is a hobbit bard, a proud graduate of the finest bardic college in the world. He has a smattering of language talent, a smattering of magic, a smattering of combat ability, a smattering of artistic skills, and a smattering of outdoorsman skills. Ulkiel wants to see and experience new things – go places no one else has gone, do things no one else has done, see things no one else has seen – and that’s why he’s come on this mission. A new player to my group (Ilija) is playing Ulkiel.

 

Marina is a priestess of Cynthea, goddess of the moon and stars. Marina was a peasant girl who was lucky enough to be apprenticed to her local temple and made good. After finishing her apprenticeship, she signed on with a naval vessel that was hunting pirates. Signs indicated that these pirates were supernatural in origin – possibly even Undead – and she is a staunch foe of the walking dead, so she wanted to be part of that mission. Unfortunately, the mission ended badly; she was found by our heroes, unconscious on a piece of flotsam. What happened to her ship, no one knows, but she joined the crew of this new ship and has proven a capable leader. Marina is played by Dawn, a friend-of-a-friend who joined our group at about the same time her friend dropped out.

 

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Since this is not a standard dungeon crawl but rather a long-term exploration into dangerous territory, the Expedition is a large group consisting of porters, boaters, diggers, guides, and the like. In addition, I added a few more NPCs to round out the group and fill in some skills that the team might need later. These are mostly off-screen personalities who generally only show up when the PCs call them.

 

Arialle Darkleafe is a Green Elf archer. Beautiful and as skilled in the woods as she is with her bow, Arialle also has serious impulse control issues. She tends to shoot first and ask questions never, so the heroes only invite her along when they know that combat is about to start. She also has trouble with the common language spoken by the group (when she started the game, she spoke only Elvish; now she has 1 point in the common language), so she frequently misunderstood orders. :winkgrin:

 

Slick Motomo is a rogue from the Empire of Kidbod, a corrupt regime that stands at the crossroads of east and west, north and south. Slick came on this expedition in order to make a profit… at least, that’s the story he gives. In reality, he’s a bounty hunter hired by Hathym’s enemies to bring the Elf back to them – dead or alive. (That’ll teach the player to take a 15-point Hunted!). :hush:

 

Huang-Jin, a mysterious woman from the far east. Huang-Jin is the company’s cartographer, with an innate sense of geography and an artist’s touch. Huang-Jin is one of the company’s two translators (Ulkiel is the other) since she has great facility with language. She is also a spellcaster who knows a variety of useful non-combat spells. I made Huang-Jin because Ulkiel’s player thought his wife might want to join the game; turned out to not be the case, but we’ve kept Huang-Jin around because she frequently proves useful.

 

Lord Walter Robert Dungeness is the leader and financier of the expedition. He was an officer in the military until an encounter with a Giant cost him his eye. After retirement, he headed south to the edge of the Hidden Jungle to become an explorer. He wants nothing more than to leave a great legacy, for his name to go down in history as one of the great explorers of his time, and so he founded this expedition. Dungeness is no coward and no fool, but he tends to be hidebound and rigid in his approach to problems; this has made some interesting dynamic tensions in the group.

 

There are other NPCs in the group – N’Amwei the quartermaster/cook, Kenbede and Igdobe the native guides, and a few others, but they’ve not been very important to the game so far.

 

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So, what do you think, sirs? :D

 

Bill.

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Re: FH Campaign

 

Sounds like an interesting campaign, a refreshing change from the standard dungeon-crawl fest. I like the mix of characters you have. What magic system are you using?

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Magic System

 

The magic system I'm using is home-brewed; if you're really interested, see http://www.herogames.com/forums/showthread.php?p=370629#post370629 for a (long-winded) description. It's kinda complex, but it works well for my needs. :)

 

As for the PCs... Before I started the game, I told them that I was going to run a game of jungle exploration, and they should all make their characters w/o consulting with one another first. I wanted to see what kind of mix they would come up with (rather than the old D&D standard "2 fighters, 1 thief, 1 mage, 1 cleric"). It's an eclectic bunch; the group has some good strengths and some real weaknesses, but they end up working pretty well together.

 

Bill.

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First session!

 

The first session was sort of a "get to know you, get to know your characters" type episode. I started the game with a group of chance-met strangers all heading to the same place to look for work...

 

The capital of Nekia is Kohm, a sprawling metropolis of some 100,000 souls and the place where each of our heroes found themselves, on whatever business they may have had. Each of them was made aware of a well-paying job that involves adventure and danger – the perfect way to start a new career as an adventurer – and each of them decided to try for the job.

 

Individually, they decided that the best way to get to Roxunal (where the job started) was to travel along the unfinished Forest Road. Along the road they met a number of people, all heading south, some of them going for the same reasons. This disparate group of would-be adventurers banded together to travel the road south. Several farmers and craftsmen, who were returning to their villages after selling their wares in Kohm, also joined them.

 

Three days out of Kohm, the heroes were now deep in the Fleetwood Forest. They had passed a couple of small homesteads when they noticed that most of the locals were growing apprehensive. When questioned, one villager revealed that there was a creature that had been haunting this area for a couple of weeks. It had killed some livestock and threatened people, though thankfully no one had been hurt – yet. The locals sent out a call to the king to send soldiers, but there had been no answer.

 

Come around sunset, the heroes were passing through a tiny little hamlet hidden in the woods, when they heard a terrible sound – the howl of some great beast from just outside the homestead. The villagers were frozen in terror as a great beast the size of a large bear, eyes purple with rage, great black claws and flesh-tearing beak snapping, roared into town. A herd of cows panicked and ran. People were screaming and trying to get out of the way. The beast saw the cows (food!) and rushed into the village, right down the middle of the main drag.

 

It was our heroes' first chance to be heroes!

 

Kishara rushed to get under cover before the monster reached her, dragging along several small children who had been outside playing. She was shortly joined by Brother Radley. Hathym the White Elf stood his ground and nocked an arrow, while Runner Breena pulled out an enormous axe and charged the creature. Ulkjl prepared a spell with which to stun the creature.

 

Hathym found his arrows of little use against the beast's thick hide (thanks to Ron's bad dice luck!), but Breena had considerably better luck with her blade – despite being knocked to the ground by the enraged beast. Brother Radley found that the strange territory, the frightening monster, and the great physical distance between himself and his god cast a pall over his faith. Kishara cast a spell that forced the beast to retract its claws just before it took another swipe at Breena, and Ulkjl tried to give the creature a hotfoot.

 

The beast turned out to be no match for the combined might of our young heroes. Once it was dead, the villagers poked their heads out of their hiding places and let out a cheer for their saviors. They welcomed the party to their village and gave them a hero's feast of roast Owlbear meat (rather gamy and tough, but still somehow quite satisfying).

 

Back to the road, the party reached the end of construction and set out into the woods. Breena and Hathym tried to lead them through the heavy forest, but couldn't seem to locate any good trails heading their way. Thus it was that they arrived in Roxunal a few days later than they had intended, hoping that they hadn't missed their chance at the job!

 

Roxunal is a frontier town of maybe 10,000 people, surrounded by a high wooden palisade, smoky and full of life. As the party tried to pass through the gates, a team of guards confronted them, demanding to know their names and their business in town. For the most part this was routine, but they hesitated to let Brother Radley through the gates – apparently, they don't much care for Kibbers here.

 

Once inside, it wasn't difficult to find the Double-Headed Snake, just off Wall Street (near the city's defensive wall). It was a spacious inn made of timbers, with straw on the floor and smoke in the air. They knew they had the right place because one of Lord Dungeness' signs was posted just outside. Inside, the place was empty but for one man at the bar, chatting quietly with the bartender.

 

The heroes approached the bartender and asked about Lord Dungeness. "Dungeness left yesterday, to go check the ship," the man at the bar said in a mild Nekian accent. "My name's Charles O'Findlay – folks call me Chuck. I'm his Lordship's aid-de-camp, as it were. Pleased to meet you."

 

He got everyone a drink, then sat down with them to talk. He asked for their names, their professions, their skills, and what it was that they could bring to this expedition. Ulkjl spiced up the interview by creating small illusions of the Owlbear and the fight, and Chuck seemed impressed. Chuck wanted to know if they were aware of what they're getting into, and told them that if they had any second thoughts, now was the time to back out. Despite Brother Radley's joking around, everyone agreed that this was what they wanted. Chuck produced contracts for all of them to sign (or "X") – Breena and Hathym signed on as guards, Radley signed on as a medic, and Ulkjl and Kishara signed on as experts.

 

Chuck informed them that Dungeness left him behind in order to gather up any stragglers, and that he'd be leaving for the ship tomorrow, and that if they needed any last-minute provisioning, they should take care of it before then. Finally, he told them that His Lordship paid for this Inn for two more days, so they were all welcome to sleep in the common room if they liked.

 

Most everyone decided that before they left civilization behind, they wanted a drink, a bath, and a bed, so they split up to do their last minute shopping. Hathym, as he came home (accompanied by a young lady), had the feeling that he was being followed – but in those busy, bustling streets, it was hard to tell for sure.

 

Ulkjl did some asking around, trying to make sure that Dungeness' expedition was legit. From what he learned, everything appeared to be in order – Dungeness is well-known in this area as a member of the Royal Explorers' Society. He's a wealthy Demorian who came into town a few months ago to begin preparations for a major expedition south, and he hired several locals and many out-of-towners to go along.

 

When Kishara and Breena returned to the Inn, they saw two new people speaking with Chuck. One was a human, the other a Green Elf. Chuck introduced the newcomers as Arialle Blackleaf and Pete "Call Me Slick" Motomo. Slick was friendly enough (for a Kidbodder) but Arialle was reticent to the point of being hostile.

 

Radley and Ulkjl stayed out late, and when they returned home everyone had already gone to sleep (with the possible exception of Hathym…). They both found a clean spot and went to bed, and thus ended the day.

 

TBC!

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Re: FH Campaign

 

Hey, y'all!

 

Inspired by James Gillan's Turakian Age campaign :thumbup: I thought I would post my own FH campaign notes here, for the cheap amusement of the masses.

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So, what do you think, sirs? :D

 

Bill.

 

Cool!

 

But it's "Gillen." :D

 

JG

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Second Session

 

Many props to JG, my inspiration for posting these. :coach: This is the second session of my game. Hope y'all enjoy. :)

 

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The morning after their arrival in Roxunal, when Radley was out getting some last minute errands done, he passed an alleyway where he saw three men accosting a woman. "Leave me alone!" she said, struggling with them. "I don't work for you anymore!" "If you don't work for us," one of the men, a small, thin, weaselly looking fellow said, pulling out a knife, "then you won't work at all."

 

Though part of him said that he should just ignore it, another part said that he had to do something. In one quick blow from his quarterstaff, it was all over -- the weasel was on the ground, out like a light. The two others exercised the better part of valor and ran. The woman, for some unknown reason, was not grateful at all. In fact, she seemed downright ungrateful. "Oh my gods," she screamed, "what have you done? Don't you know who that was?" then she ran away.

 

"No good deed goes unpunished," Radley thought as he walked back to the inn. He found that the team had already packed up and was ready to go, just waiting for him. They headed out the gate and turned southwest. About ten minutes along the trail, they notice that three men -- gangsters, by the look of them -- were following them. The team stopped to see what they wanted, and they found themselves surrounded by another group.

 

"Hold it!" the leader of the second group said. "We done tracked you this fahr, an' you ain't getting' no farther." Kishara recognized these people -- she worked for them, once. It ended… badly, to say the least. She skipped town about two steps ahead of a lynch mob. "You wizard, y'all owes us fer what you done to our cattles. Now, we c'n take it outta yer purse, or we c'n take it outta yer hide. Me, I'm partial to th' second choice."

 

At about that time, the second group joined them. "You there!" the leader shouts, pointing at Radley. "We come wit' a message from Mr. MacLaughlin, whose nephew was da one what you hurt. And anyone who gets between us is gonna get da same message, if you know what I'm sayin'."

 

Chuck's only response to all of this was to ask, quietly, if there's something that somebody should have possibly mentioned before all this started. Both Slick and Arialle just stepped back to watch the proceedings, not wanting to get between a mob and its victims.

 

Somehow, Radley used that quick Kidbodish tongue of his to confuse the two groups long enough for them to sidle away. It didn't last long, and soon everyone found themselves in hot pursuit. In the hopes of throwing them off her trail, Kishara tried to create the illusion of a sack of money. Unfortunately, all that physical exertion threw off her rhythm, and she failed her spell roll. Instead, a fireball streaked out of her hand, landing in the midst of their pursuers and scattering them like ninepins.

 

Needless to say, they did not resume the chase, so the rest of the hike was uneventful. As the party topped a low rise, the full glory of Wilkes' Bay spread out before them. They saw the ship docked a short way out from the coast, and a small camp on the beach. There looked to be about 30-40 people. Chuck led them down to introduce them to the leader of this expedition, Lord Walter Robert Dungeness.

 

Dungeness welcomed them and asks if Mr. O'Findlay has explained everything to them. He was quite pleased to see them, and explains that the guards will be under Chuck O'Findlay's direction, while the experts would be under his personal supervision. Furthermore, now that everyone was here, the ship would set sail at the next tide -- "No more time to wait for stragglers -- we've wasted enough time."

 

Chuck then took everyone around to meet the rest of the team. First he introduced them to N'Amwei, a huge black man, quite fat and jolly. He wore a colorful yellow, orange, and red wrap and hat and greeted each day with a smiling face. He had a loud voice, and he is very happy that the heroes made it -- "I feared that I would be the one who would have to strap on a sword and defend this excursion!" He speaks in a mild Kishite accent. He was the man in charge of all supplies, including the dispersion of the porters and the boats. He was also the chief cook of the Black Blood River Expeditionary Company -- he considers it his job to keep everyone on his mission fed and happy.

 

Idogbe and Kenbede were native guides. The two of them spoke heavily accented Nekian. Though not from the Black Blood River area, they claimed to have traveled there and knew the lands around the outlet well. They were brothers, tall, lean, and good looking Kishites who carried brand-new steel spears and knives, as well as a variety of beads, trinkets, and holy symbols (which they recently purchased in Roxunal with their pay, and which they happily showed off to anyone who asked -- they considered such things to be good luck charms). They would act not just as guides but also as guards on the trip.

 

Haung-Jin was a slight woman from the Far East. She had pale skin, almond-shaped eyes, and long, dark, luxurious hair. She seemed ethereal in many ways -- the heroes were sure she wasn’t human, but they didn’t know exactly what she was. She was quiet and demure, and dressed in bright green and blue silk trousers and blouse, covered with a bamboo raincoat and broad-brimmed hat. She was engaged as the party's primary cartographer and translator. She was also a wizard of some type, though her understanding of the Flow was quite different from Western spellcasters.

 

The ship's captain was one Talitha al Bres, a Kalonese woman who looked (and acts) as hard as wood. She had short-cropped dark brown hair and wore black leather trousers and a white, blousy linen shirt. Her skin was deeply tanned and lined, making her look older than she was. Talitha was never seen without her sword, which she kept strapped on her hip. She was loud and brash, commanding the attention and respect of her crew. However, she didn’t have an opinion about anything except how to run her ship -- if asked a question that required personal judgment, she would always defer to Lord Dungeness. She would not be going with the party up the river, but would command the base camp and ship. Her ship was known as the Port na Duinn, which is Forest for "Song of the Dark." It was a Carrack (a mid- to large sized merchant ship with three masts, fairly common in both the Westron Ocean and the Sylvan Gulf, with plenty of room for the expedition, its boats, and its supplies).

 

The rest of the people on the expedition were unskilled normals, hired to pilot the boats and carry any loads that need carrying. Most of them were native Nekians who spoke only their own language. They were all armed, but the party should expect little from them if a fight starts. Some of them were semi-skilled in other areas, such as cooking or dressing game. They were under N'Amwei's command.

 

That evening, Dungeness explained the plan to the new group. They were to sail south, through Wilkes' Bay to the Westron Ocean. They would make one last "civilization" stop, then it's directly south to the mouth of the Black Blood River. The ship would weigh anchor and set up a semi-permanent base camp there, waiting as long as four months for the expedition's return. If the party did not come back in that time frame, they would return to the RES Library in the capital to report the expedition's loss.

 

The main part of the expedition would unload boats and then paddle up the river, stopping to explore interesting features, make maps, collect samples of flora and fauna, and trade with any natives. Lord Dungeness wanted this to be a peaceful mission of trade and discovery, not conquest, so everyone was under strict orders not to shoot unless shot at.

 

The expedition would be divided up into eight long paddle boats, with four (give or take) people & all necessary supplies in each. If any boats were lost, that would give plenty of space on the other boats for the crew. The boats fit six comfortably, so they could lose up to three boats before they started to have a problem.

 

The expedition would continue upriver until they reached the headwaters of the river, or until seven weeks have passed, then they would bring back everything they'd discovered and sail directly back to the capital, where they would triumphantly present their findings to the assembled members of the RES.

 

The next morning was spent packing the ship with the remainder of the supplies, then they set sail and headed west, through Wilkes' Bay, for about two days. At the end of the second day, they sailed through the outlet to the open sea. On the southern shore, high up on a rocky outcropping, observant party members saw the silhouette of an old ruined castle.

 

The ship dropped anchor in a small, sheltered bay, where everyone was let out to shore in order to forage and to stretch their legs one last time before the big push southwards. Dungeness declares that they will stay the night here. That evening, while checking up on the party, someone mentioned the ruined castle. Dungeness nodded, and began to relate this tale:

 

"About 50 years ago there was a wizard who had been driven out of his homelands. He traveled around the world, but never once found a home. Everywhere he tried to settle, the natives drove him away. Some say he was insane; others say that he experimented with powers beyond his control; still others say he practiced a rare and forbidden form of magic known as "wild magic." Who knows for sure? In any case, he finally ran out of places to go. No nation would have him, no city welcomed him, no town or village would give him respite, and so he came here, to the very ends of the world, as far from the civilization that rejected him as he could get.

 

"It is said that by this time, he was very powerful. They say that he built this castle in a single night, using his mighty magic. Whatever the truth, he became a recluse, never receiving visitors, never again setting eyes on a living soul. This castle became something of a legend among the sailors and fishermen who ply these waters. Despite rich fishing, no one ever dared to come too close to the cliffs, for after the wizard came here the seas became treacherous and unforgiving. They say that monsters became common in these waters, that the sorcerer's mysterious powers drew them to be near him. Or perhaps, in his madness, he was creating the monsters and setting them loose around his castle to protect him from unwanted visitors. Nobody really knows for sure.

 

"Then, one night, nearly twenty years ago, fishermen witnessed a frightening sight. They saw the castle engulfed in flames that rose a kilometer high -- flames that glowed purple, blue, red, and green, flames that screamed and howled and laughed and danced in strange, terrifying shapes. The flames burned for a full day and a full night, and then vanished as suddenly as they came. The sea was angry and dangerous for at least a week thereafter, but when it cleared, some of the braver sailors -- which Nekia has no shortage of -- decided to investigate. They found… nothing. The castle lay in ruins. There was no one there. The wizard had disappeared, like smoke in the wind, and has never been seen since.

 

"Sailors still treat this sea with some superstition, and only the bravest try their luck in these treacherous waters. They say that sometimes, on nights when the moon is hidden by clouds, they can see flames flickering across the silhouette of the castle; and when the wind is just right, they can hear cackling, laughing, or screaming coming from the ruins.

 

"Well, I must see how the others are getting on. Good night, my friends."

 

Dungeness got up to leave, then paused. "Legend has it that the wizard left behind the legacy of his life, hidden somewhere deep in the ruins -- his notes, his books, and yes, even the treasure he acquired in a lifetime of adventuring. In my own youth, I thought to explore the castle myself, and make my fortune. I found nothing but old memories, and now I'm much too old to go gallivanting around like that. But I'm glad I took the chance when I did. Good night."

 

As he left, clouds began to roll in over the sea.

 

There was some discussion about whether or not the party should go up there. Eventually, it was decided that they should leave it be. But sometime in the night Radley, Kishara, and Breena were awakened by the sound of screaming from the castle. No one else heard it; all the rest of the sailors and porters were sound asleep.

 

There was a debate whether they should investigate, but Radley insisted that someone might be hurt or dead, and they had to go check. Eventually, everyone came around to this point of view.

 

The storm-cool sea breeze kicked up dust and leaves, thunder rumbled in the distance, and the horizon flickered with lighting as the party moved up the hill, toward the old abandoned ruins. There were no sounds but the lapping of the waves against the cliffs, far below, and the call of the lonely night birds.

 

The black stone wall that once surrounded the main keep had mostly crumbled to rubble. It was once a good 5 meters tall, but time and weather had not been gentle. It circled the keep, up as far as the edge of the cliff, where it was mostly gone due to the erosion of the cliff. The gate was still in surprisingly good condition. It was a good four meters high, made of thick wood and banded with rusty steel. It was attached to two great black stone columns on either side. The oxidized remains of a large bronze bell lay covered in vegetation on the ground near the door. Thick vines crept up the gate and the columns. The gate could not be opened, but it wasn't hard to scale.

 

The heroes found themselves in the heavily overgrown front courtyard. Ahead of them was the Main Keep. As they approached the keep, they were startled by a family of strange creatures (which Ulkjl identified as "mon-kees") making its home in the trees. At the approach of the party, these creatures began to scream and shake the trees madly in an attempt to frighten off the intruders. Undeterred, the heroes went to the keep.

 

The door of the keep was in good shape, though thick with moss and swollen with age. A few hard thrusts opened it. Radley and Ulkjl went in first. Their lantern light played across the wide stone room, mottled with dust, grime, and a smelly, grayish-white mold. As they looked around the room, a chill ran across their spines as they caught a glimpse of a shadow flicker through the room, then disappear under the south door.

 

The rest of the party filed in, and they tried the door on the south wall. The door opened with some effort, and they found themselves in a well-kept room. In the middle of the room sat a wooden table and a chair with a cushion. On the table was a thick, leather-bound book.

 

When Breena picked up the book, it suddenly came to life, rising up in the air and flying open, the pages flickering like a film unspooling. A tiny, sepia-tinted illusory scene begins to play -- an ancient wizard with his books; then, he is shown beside a summoning circle, and worse, he appeared to be performing a human sacrifice! A beautiful young woman -- barely more than a girl, is tied up inside a summoning circle as he performed some arcane ritual above her; then, the tower in flames, the wizard screaming; then, the book dropped to the floor, lifeless. Ulkjl tried to pick it up again, but it burst into flame and vanished in a puff of smoke.

 

Radley saw the shadow flicker across the floor and disappear under the eastern door, which opened smoothly to his touch (spilling him to the floor). They found themselves in a narrow hallway with three doors. An icy breeze poured down the hallway, chilling them as they entered.

 

They checked the first door, and found that it opened into a vast room -- far vaster than could be contained in this small tower. A red glow in the distance beckoned them, but they ignored it, going for the second door instead.

 

As Radley cautiously pushed open the door, suddenly everyone was swarmed by dozens of tiny flying creatures, all laughing maniacally! They were not difficult to destroy, but they were annoying, attacking in droves. Breena shut the door before more could escape, Kishara cast a spell which turned her transparent and intangible (she meant to do that, really!), and Hathym discovered that he really, really hates little swarming demon-bug creatures. But eventually all of the wee beasties were dead and the hallway fell silent.

 

The heroes turned their attention back to the first door. They entered the vast room and approached the strange red glow, where they discovered that it was actually a mystic circle, carved into the very rock. Each line glowed with hot, red, hellish light. Examining it more closely, the circle suddenly transformed into a face, the tortured face of an old man -- the wizard that they saw in the book! Then, the face spoke…

 

"Who are you that comes to this cursed ground, and why do you come to this place?" They told it who they were, then asked what it was. It responded, saying: "I am the spirit of the mage who once lived in this place. I have been imprisoned here for my sins, forever trapped in this stone until the day some brave soul can avenge my crimes. This place, once my home, is now a hell-mouth, a gateway to the nether-realms where fiends of all description can enter your world and roam free."

 

The party, being noble heroes all, wanted to know how they could shut the hell-mouth, if such a thing were possible. The face said, "There is only one way to seal the hell-mouth. You must free the innocent soul of the girl sacrificed to open the gateway. Her soul is imprisoned somewhere here in the keep; rescue her from her tormenters."

 

Further questions it answered only with a cryptic, "I am allowed to say no more."

 

The heroes felt they had no choice but to try to free the girl, so they headed for the third door. As they approached it, the wispy, transparent, and faintly glowing form of a girl -- the same girl they saw in the book -- appeared before them, head down, weeping. When they addressed her, asking what was wrong, she looked up at them and they saw, to their terror, that her eyes had been gouged out and she was weeping blood. After revealing this horror, she faded out again.

 

Opening the third door, the heroes found themselves at the foot of a long spiral staircase, going up. A cold breeze blew past, bringing with it the faint smell of decaying meat. There were torches in the wall sconces, and as the party climbed the stairs they ignited, one by one. The stairs went up about twenty feet, then came to a landing with a wooden door. Somewhere, behind the door, they heard a distant female voice calling for help.

 

The heroes opened the door and found nothing but darkness -- even their lights didn't cut through the gloom. Then, in the darkness, they saw a shining point of silver light. It was very far away, but after a moment of staring, they were able to make it out clearly -- the girl, writhing as if in agony!

 

Then, she was gone, and standing directly before the heroes was a huge demon! It stood ten feet tall, its red skin glistening, steam rising off its back, the heat from its body searing, its smell like sweat and brimstone mixed with a darker, animal scent. It looked down and smiled, yellow canines flashing, and then it spoke in a voice like broken glass:

 

"Do you puny mortals think to save the girl and close my gate? I think not. Though you may be brave, you do not have the fortitude to face my maze. You will die, lost forever in its impenetrable darkness, and then your souls -- like so many who came before you -- will be mine."

 

With that, he vanished, and once again the heroes' torches shed light. They saw that they were in a tiny alcove, with three entrances before them. They also noticed that the door through which they came had vanished.

 

They had no choice. They had to save the girl, so they had to enter the maze. They were lost for what seemed like hours, led by Kishara. Finally, they found their way through, into a small room where the girl stood waiting. "Help me," she said, but before anyone could reach her, the demon reappeared and scooped her up in its massive claws. "You are resourceful," it said, "but you haven't won yet! I will take my prize to a higher tower level. Come find her, if you dare!"

 

The demon and its prisoner rose up and vanished into the darkness above. When the lights came back up, the heroes found themselves back in the alcove, the door leading back to the stairs now plainly visible and open.

 

-----

More to follow!

 

Bill.

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Re: FH Campaign

 

For some reason, I wrote this one in second person... hm. :think:

 

Oh well. Enjoy! :D

 

-----

Having made it to the end of the maze, you went back to the staircase and headed up, following the demon. The stairs ended at a huge wooden door, bound in brass and inscribed in weird, arcane symbols. The door was warm to the touch. There were no handles, but there was a large brass knocker in the shape of a demon's head.

 

Breena reached out to touch the knocker when its eyes sprung open, and it spoke. "Why do you come?" "We've come to rescue the girl," they answered, and the door opened.

 

You entered a large chamber, lit with a dim, reddish light. A huge summoning circle filled the room. The circle had a hole in the middle, through which the red, hellish light shone. Puffs of smoke and distant screams emanated from the hole -- leading you to the conclusion that this was the Hell-mouth. Floating above the hole, you saw the shining silver spirit of the girl, now tiny and very far away.

 

You split up to examine the room and the circle. With some careful examination, you realized that the summoning circle was not whole, but had many broken places that created a pathway, like a labyrinth, to the center of the circle.

 

Radley tried to march directly across the circle, but found his way blocked by an invisible field of force. Lacking another way forward, they entered the labyrinth.

 

Suddenly, a demon appeared-- a multi-armed woman with the tail of a snake instead of legs. She brandished her weapons at you, and then hissed, "Only the bravest shall pass. The rest, they will face death." Each person encountered a similar scenario, in which all the others were fallen. The demon loomed over you and laughed, a sound that reminds you of hissing snakes. "You have failed to beat me," she said, "And now the girl's soul is ours for all eternity." However, each of you met this seeming defeat with defiance; the demon screeched and disappeared in a cloud of foul-smelling smoke. When the smoke cleared, you found your way no longer blocked.

 

Upon reaching the second circle, another demon -- this one like a huge, fat, swollen pig-man -- appeared in a cloud of sulfur-stinking smoke. "Only the strongest shall pass," it grunted. "The rest will die." The beast then snarled and dropped into a fighting position. As a group, you attacked the beast. Everyone did something to it, from magic to strengthen the rest of the party to direct attacks. Soon, the beast succumbed to your might. It keeled over, dead, and then vanished in a cloud of fart-smelling smoke. The way before them is clear, until they reach the third circle.

 

A gigantic bat-like creature appears, smelling like rotting meat and old, wet dirt. "Only the wisest shall pass," it sighs. "The rest death shall take." When you accepted the challenge, it asked you all a single riddle. Everyone managed to guess the answer to their riddle, and the demon leapt into the air and disappeared down the hole. The way to the girl was clear.

 

The smoke from the hole started becoming thicker, filling the whole room with its brimstone stench. Everyone's eyes were burning. You could barely see through the smoke, but the girl's spirit was still clearly visible, floating in the air at the center of the hole.

 

There was some discussion about how to grab her, and finally Radley decided to cast a "Leap of Faith" spell on himself. He leapt across the chasm and grabbed the girl, landing gracefully on the other side of the gap. Once freed, the girl looked up at everyone -- her eyes clear and brown, the blood gone. "Thank you," she said, and then vanished. The hellish red light faded, the smoke thinned, and the room cooled rapidly. The heroes found themselves alone in an empty room.

 

Then a voice rang out as though coming from the stones themselves. "Congratulations, heroes! You have succeeded in your quest. Come up the stairs and receive your reward."

 

At that, a hidden door slid open, revealing a set of stone stairs leading up. Hathym, not trusting this, balked, but the voice sounded out again (sounding a bit humorously petulant). "Well, come along, come along then, it's getting late and I'm sure we'd all rather be in bed. What are you waiting for?"

 

Hathym stayed at the bottom of the stairs to make sure it wasn't a trap. The rest of the party went up, finding at the top of the stairs a large, well-apportioned room. A fire burned in a large fireplace, filling the room with a cheerful glow and dispelling the chill of the old stones. A well-worn carpet padded the floor. Several lovely pieces of furniture decorated the room -- a well-loved stuffed easy chair, a comfortable-looking four-poster feather bed, an antique mahogany desk covered with bric-a-brac. Several paintings and tapestries hang on the walls. The room was filled with the comforting, homey smells of cherry tobacco, library dust, and age.

 

Sitting in the easy chair, wrapped in a colorful afghan, was an old man, thin as a stick, bald, with a scraggly white beard. Sitting at the desk, his feet up, was your employer, Lord Dungeness. Both were smiling -- the old man in a fond, paternal manner, Lord Dungeness looking much like a mischievous schoolboy.

 

"Welcome, young heroes, welcome to my home," the old man said in a tremulous voice. "I'm so glad you made it. I must say, it does an old man's heart good to see young people carrying on the old traditions."

 

Lord Dungeness smiled proudly and nods. "I told you about them. I had a feeling from the moment I laid eyes on this group. Congratulations, youngsters. You made it all the way through. I'm very proud."

 

The group stared blankly at the two of them for a few moments while all this sunk in. Finally, Radley asked for an explanation. Dungeness nodded. "Very well, my friends, I suppose we owe you that much. First, allow me to introduce you to my very dear old friend, Orwell Orson -- the fearsome wizard of the story that I told you earlier this evening."

 

"Not so fearsome these days, I'm afraid," the old man cut in. "But in my time, I could be quite the terror."

 

"The story I told you was true, as far as it went. I first heard it about fifteen years ago," Dungeness continues. "I was mapping the coastline along here and was fascinated by this old tower. The incident I described to you was still quite fresh in the memories of the locals, and I was drawn to explore the place. What I found was much the same as you did, and at the top of the tower I found this old rapscallion having a good laugh at my expense."

 

"The two of us exchanged stories, and we've been friends ever since. I visit him as frequently as I can. I'm sorry about the ruse, but I wanted to have the opportunity to see the lot of you in action, to get a chance to judge you before things get truly dangerous. And I must say that I am reasonably impressed. You exercised bravery, honor, and loyalty. Perhaps a little foolhardy recklessness, but that's to be expected, and not always a bad thing. Your skills may need a little work, but that too is to be expected. Overall, you made a good showing."

 

Some of you were flabbergasted, some were still confused, others were laughing. Dungeness was in a good mood, and after everyone had a chance to get their questions answered, he gathered you up, bid his friend adieu, and headed back to the beach out a secret entrance. As you were leaving, Orwell called Kishara over and had a few private words with her. Dungeness bid everyone good night and headed back to his hammock.

 

Sleep came easily to all, and the next morning the ship set sail with the tide, turning south. You had fair winds and fair seas for the first four days of the journey, but on the fifth day, a fierce storm reared up, coming in from the south sea. The captain ordered everyone to secure the ship.

 

After a full day, the storm abated. The sky was still steely and gray, the sea was dark, choppy, and rough. People came above decks for the first time in days. The sun went down rapidly, clammy fog rolled in, and the night became as dark as a sheet of black velvet.

 

As you were sitting down for your first dinner in a day, you all felt something bump and slide against the bottom of the ship. Sailors ran to their stations, shouting that they feared that they were about to run aground or hit some shoals. Most of you ran upstairs to see if you could help; you found the crew was tense, looking overboard. Then Breena saw something huge and dark slide underneath the ship on the starboard side -- perhaps the outline of a coral reef?

 

As Hathym was coming over to look, he glanced to the other side of the ship and saw a group of vicious-looking men stealthily boarding your ship. He called out an alarm and rushed to try and discourage them from coming aboard. He managed to knock one over the railing, and then the fight started in earnest as sailors and pirates clashed!

 

Luckily, only a dozen or so pirates managed to get on board. Unluckily, they were all brutal seadogs, armed with cutlasses and knives, while the crew were only armed with makeshift weapons. During the fight, Chuck (acting master-of-the-watch) was stabbed and then dragged overboard. Breena saw this and rushed to try and help him, but she was too late. Another pirate grabbed her and tried to pull over overboard as well. In fact, every sailor that the pirates killed or wounded was dragged off the side of the ship.

 

Then Kishara summoned light to illuminate the battle and let the sailors see their enemies better. Everyone was horrified to see the waterlogged, decayed faces of death that had come aboard -- Undead monsters from the sea! Though the crew was terrified, they fought with renewed vigor, defending their very souls!

 

Then Brother Radley came above decks and saw what was going on. Instantly realizing what he was seeing, he called upon the power of his god and turned the Undead pirates away. They all shrieked and dove over the railing, leaving the detritus of the battle in their wake.

 

"This is a cursed place," one of the crewmen whispered. Rumors began to fly of an island, hidden somewhere out in the Westron Ocean, where a goddess dwells -- the goddess of the Undead! Since these were uncharted waters through which you were sailing, the crew began to fear that you were approaching this island. Radley, Breena, and Ulkjl tried to do their best to raise the crew's spirits, but had minimal success.

 

The next day, you held a memorial service for those men lost in the fight. Lord Dungeness seemed unusually downcast and somber -- almost depressed -- during the ceremony.

 

And the ship continued south...

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Re: FH Campaign

 

This is the week that we introduced a new player and her character...

 

-----

The ship sailed on in the gloom. Early in the morning, just as the sun was coming up, Kishara spotted something in the water. It looked like a small rowboat. Radley used his magic to look closer, and was startled to see that not only was it a rowboat, but someone was in it! She looked asleep, unconscious, or dead, and the captain ordered her ship to intercept. There was a young woman aboard, unconscious and chilled to the bone, but unhurt except for a large bump on the head.

 

She told her brief tale: Her name was Marina, and she was the acting healer aboard a Nekian chase vessel. They had been following a pirate ship and had sailed far south of their usual waters to bring this mysterious ship down. Rumor had it that the pirate ship was manned by necromancers or worse, and Marina – being a priest sworn to destroy the Undead whenever she encountered them – had urged the captain to follow even beyond the borders of Nekia.

 

Then, last night in the fog, a large vessel came suddenly upon them. The small Nekian ship was boarded, and in the confusion, Marina fell overboard. That was the last thing she remembered. The crew were happy to have another priest aboard, and Captain Talitha welcomed her to the Song of the Dark.

 

Around mid-morning that day, Kishara and Hathym spotted a pod of whales following the ship. This was taken as a sign of good luck, until Kishara noticed that there seemed to be people swimming among the whales. The crew, already superstitious and paranoid, were quick to think the worst.

 

The whales paced the ship for a while, drawing gradually closer. The crew clutched their weapons and neglected their duties, watching the whales, until Breena spotted something almost directly ahead -- something huge. At that moment, the wind in the ship's sails died and the ship slowed to a stop. The big thing was a massive whale, twice as large as the Song of the Dark; sitting on its back was a group of mermen, all clutching weapons. The other whales and mermen surrounded the ship on all sides.

 

The leader, his blue skin decorated with coral and shells, spoke in a strange tongue that bore no resemblance to anything anyone had ever heard. Radley suggested that Huang-Jin come forward to translate, so she cast a spell that allowed her to understand the merman's strange words.

 

"Trespassers!" she translated. "You have invaded our sacred nesting grounds, taken our women and our young, and in so doing you have ensured your deaths!"

 

The party quickly apologized for trespassing, and denied ever having kidnapped anyone. The mermen were distrustful, but some quick talking (and some good coaching) allowed Huang-Jin to calm them down. The heroes asked if they could help, and Huang-Jin translated this tale:

 

"Yesterday, just after the great storm, while the men were out hunting, something came and took the women from the sacred nesting grounds, where they were guarding the young and the eggs. Many eggs were destroyed, young who will never now be born to the sea. There were signs of struggle, and also signs of surface dwellers – weapons of steel, scraps of clothing, that sort of thing.

 

"Since that time, the men have been hunting. Scouts sighted the silhouette of a ship like this one at night, near the rocky coasts of this area, and when the mermen spotted the Song of the Dark, they gathered their forces and prepared to attack.

 

"These are normally a peaceful people, hunters and gatherers, and they wished to give the ship the chance to surrender before they attacked. They are glad they did, or else they would have attacked the wrong ship."

 

The heroes volunteered to help, but Captain Talitha was hesitant to risk her ship or lose any more time on side-missions. However, she agreed that if the Song of the Dark spotted the pirate ship, they would take action. At that, the mermen scattered to the sea.

 

The next day, Breena and Hathym spotted seabirds swarming around the carcass of a small whale. N'Amwei (the officer currently on duty) ordered the ship to investigate. As they drew closer, they saw that the whale had been harpooned… and then, they noticed a merman, not moving at all, clinging to the poor dead beast.

 

Radley volunteered to row over and see if the man was still alive. He was, though only just barely. Radley used his magic to stabilize him, then brought him back to the ship. Kishara, her blood fired by the oddness of these strange people, volunteered to nurse him back to health.

 

When he regained consciousness, he introduced himself as Polt'k, and related that he and his brothers were scouting when they saw the enemy ship in a nearby cove. They approached it after dark, but were spotted. He barely survived; his whale perished of its wounds while they were escaping. He knows the women and young are aboard and still alive – he spotted them through a hole in the ship's hull. He didn't know how many of the enemy there were, but he gave directions on how to find the cove.

 

The Captain was wary of going after the pirate ship. Her crew were not warriors, they were sailors – and they'd already seen too much death for one trip. The party decided to go over her head and talk to Lord Dungeness himself. They found him in his cabin, and related their tale. He agreed in principle with Captain Talitha's decision, but eventually decided that the expedition had to help the locals in whatever way they could. He gave the heroes permission to take a rowboat to investigate the ship and render what aid they could to the merfolk.

 

After a half day of sailing, the Song of the Dark reached the cove. The small rowboat the Captain gave them fit seven people, so they decided to ask Arialle and Huang-Jin to tag along (reasoning that Arialle's bow and Huang-Jin's translation abilities would be most useful on the trip). By this time, Polt'k had recovered enough to swim, so the party sent him to try and find the other mermen and bring back help. The heroes then took their boat and, instructing the Song of the Dark to sail away from the mouth of the cove in order to not attract attention, they rowed into the cove.

 

It was mid-afternoon when the party entered the cove. It was a dark place, surrounded by cliffs. The heroes spotted the ship with little effort; it was resting at anchor in the shadow of one of the great black cliffs. But something was odd about it – the sails were mere tatters; long, trailing weeds hung from the yardarm; the wood of the ship was gray and puckered, as if made of driftwood, and was holed in several places. There was no flag or other markings, but the figurehead was one of Polt'k's brothers, heartlessly nailed to the prow and left to rot.

 

Though the sun was shining, it felt as though an icy, dark cloud was blocking out its light and warmth. Strange animals cried and screeched in the thick woods that bordered the cove. On the ship, not a single sign of life could be seen.

 

As quietly as they could, they rowed up to the side of the ship, then one by one clambered up to the main deck. The railing was cracked and broken, leaving great gaps in the sides and making it easy to climb. They caught a faint, unpleasant smell – like something dead resting on the bottom of the sea. Ropes were tied off haphazardly, nothing like the tight lines of the Song of the Dark. The swollen boards creaked as the heroes tiptoed across them.

 

This was a considerably larger ship than the Song – three masts, plus an aft-castle. There were two masts on the main deck, their furled sails gray, drooping, and tattered. The masts themselves, though banded with iron hoops, were gray and puckered-looking. There were stairs leading up to the top of the aft-castle, and two doors leading in. There was a small crew hatch between the aft-castle and the main mast; closer examination revealed that it was partially ajar. There was also a large cargo hatch between the main and fore masts. At a guess, the heroes would say a ship this size would need a crew of some 30-40 people – about twice as many as the Song of the Dark.

 

Then the heroes spotted two men near the main mast. One of them was leaning tiredly against the rotted wood, looking south; the other was sitting on the deck, his head down between his knees. Both were wearing tattered broad-brimmed hats and ragged clothes in the style popular among sailors of the Sylvan Gulf.

 

The heroes whispered a quick plan. Kishara would cast a Still Sound spell on the two sailors while Breena and Hathym moved up to subdue them quietly. Marina and Arialle would circle around to either side and provide backup. Radley would hang back with Huang-Jin and provide support.

 

After several tries, Kishara managed to get her spell up. Breena and Hathym simultaneously whacked the two sailors over their heads. The two pirates stood up and turned around, revealing hideously decayed Undead faces! The fight was on!

 

Radley started to call on the power of his god to rebuke the monsters, but stopped himself, reasoning that the party needed to destroy them, not drive them away. Kishara valiantly maintained her spells, in order to keep the rest of the ship from being alerted to the struggle. Marina checked one of the doors to make sure no other surprises were waiting for the party. Arialle provided covering fire, though her arrows proved of little use against the desiccated corpses. Finally Breena and Hathym managed to destroy both creatures.

 

Thankfully, none of the other pirates heard anything, so no one came to investigate. The fight now over, Kishara dropped her spell, then moved over to the cargo hatch to check it. She found it nailed shut and sealed with sail canvas and timber. However, she thought she heard the faint sound of sobbing from within. Hathym looked it over and declared that the heroes couldn't open it without tools. Radley volunteered his crowbar (he has a crowbar???), but the heroes determined that prying the boards loose would take too much time and make too much racket.

 

That determined, the heroes seem to have three choices: down the crew hatch or through one of the two doors into the aft-castle…

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5th Session...

 

-----

After dealing with the two guards left on deck, the heroes set to work figuring out how they wanted to deal with the pirates – either go below decks and risk running into more creatures like the ones they just dispatched, or open up the cargo hatch and risk alerting the ship to their presence. The heroes were quite certain that the mermaid prisoners were trapped in the ship's hold, but getting to them (not to mention getting them back out again) was a problem.

 

After an abortive attempt to pry loose the cargo hatch, the heroes decided to lower Kishara down to the waterline and have her try to blow a hole through the hull with her magic. Her spell went off without a hitch, making a hole big enough for a man to squeeze through, and she took a quick peek to see what she could see. Unfortunately, someone on the other side was waiting for her. A crossbow bolt zinged through the opening and hit her square in the chest, wounding her sorely. While the rest of the party hauled her up, Arialle (who had set herself up in the rigging above the crew hatch) whistled for their attention. Creatures were coming up from the crew hatch – more of those Undead monsters!

 

The warriors moved to interpose themselves between the Undead pirates and the spellcasters (especially the injured Kishara). As both groups closed, the two doors in the aft castle opened up. One of them revealed a huge, bald, misshapen man with yellowish skin, razor-sharp teeth, and a huge, bloody meat cleaver. "Ah, fresh meat for my larder!" he said, bounding forward.

 

The other revealed a tall, dark man with a thick beard, gray skin, and mad red eyes, dressed in the style of a merchant captain from the Sylvan Gulf. "Who be ye that would board my ship with such impunity?" he demanded, striding forward and drawing a long, wicked cutlass from his belt. "Captain Bartholomew Guitarez, he don't take kindly to such intrusions."

 

"We're here for your hostages," Breena said, hefting her axe at the parodies of life threatening her.

 

"Har!" the captain laughed. "Are ye now? Well, as I see things, ye've got two choices – ye can either join my crew, or we can kill you… and then ye'll join my crew. Which'll it be?"

 

"How about a third option?" Breena said. "We can kill you, destroy your crew, and send this cursed ship back to the bottom of the sea, where it belongs."

 

Captain Guitarez didn't take well to this threat, and ordered his crew to attack. One of them scaled up the rigging to try to dislodge Arialle; the rest moved toward Hathym, Breena, and Marina. The Captain strode around the main combat, heading toward the spellcasters, while the mad ghoul with the cleaver made a beeline to Marina.

 

Though slow and clumsy, the zombie crew were hard to destroy. Arrows and spears went through their desiccated corpses, doing little damage (which frustrated Arialle to no end!). The Captain was rather single-minded in his pursuit of Kishara (it seems that the pirates had kidnapped the mermaids in order to have wives, and Guitarez had a thing for blondes…). Huang-Jin summoned an ancestral spirit to do battle with the Undead creatures, and Marina called on the power of her goddess to send a bunch of the zombies fleeing back down below decks.

 

Meanwhile, unsure of what he could do to help abovedecks, Radley jumped through the hole that Kishara made in order to play hero and rescue the women and children. He was met by four zombie crewmen, guarding the women. Radley called on the power of Comme and frightened the monsters away ("Everyone's a critic."), and then set about trying to convince the mermaids to crawl through the hole in the deck and escape.

 

Above, the battle was going poorly. Guitarez had Kishara tied up (literally and figuratively), the ghoulish cook was keeping Marina busy, Breena was single-handedly battling three zombies, and Arialle's bow was all but useless in the fight. Then Hathym came up with a plan. He grabbed the bucket of holy water that Marina had made earlier and threw it on Captain Guitarez. The Undead monster screamed in pain. Breena, with some help from the ancestor spirit, killed her foes.

 

Back below decks, Radley was shooing the womenfolk out of the hold when a shadow loomed over him. He managed to turn just in time to avoid a swordblow from three walking skeletons, dressed in ragged chainmail armor. Thinking quickly, he called on the power of his god again, but these skeletons were considerably braver than their zombie compatriots. Radley wasn't sure that he was any match for these beasts, and was trying to quickly think of a plan…

 

Above decks, with the zombies now destroyed, Breena, Hathym, and Arialle turned their attention to the Captain. Guitarez, realizing he was surrounded, grabbed Kishara and put his cutlass to her neck. "Throw down your weapons, or I'll end her!" he growled. When suddenly…

 

The ship was rocked by an impact. Guitarez lost his footing, and Kishara managed to jump free of his grasp. Belowdecks, mermen came out of the sea to rip open a larger hole in the hull and threw nets over the skeletons surrounding Radley, dragging them out into the sea and pounding them with clubs. Then someone spotted the Song of the Dark sailing up alongside the pirate ship. Ulkjl's voice boomed out (enhanced by a spell), "Heave to and prepare to be boarded!"

 

Breena used this distraction to charge Guitarez. Her axe bit deep into his chest, flinging him backwards over the side of the ship, where he disappeared beneath the waves. The rest of the crew retreated below decks, and instead of a long, costly, room-by-room battle, the heroes decided it would be best to simply burn the ship to the waterline – destroying any loot the pirates have collected, but also ending their menace forever.

 

The ship burned long into the night, throwing out great black clouds of smoke. The Song of the Dark and the mermen tribe watched it burn and ensured that none escaped the inferno. Mermen searched the cove, but were unable to find Guitarez's body in the murky, black water. Some of the more paranoid among the party wondered if they had truly seen the last of him.

 

The merman tribe, though saddened by the loss of so many, was heartened that the surface dwellers would risk their own lives to save the women and children. They offered each of the heroes a necklace made of pink and white coral – crude, but still beautiful – and said that all of them would be friends of the tribe forevermore.

 

And once again, the ship sailed onward, heading south. Dungeness, now snapped out of his gloom, believed that – assuming all goes well – the ship would be at the mouth of the Black Blood River in five days.

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Sixth Session!

 

Tomorrow I'm off to Sunny Illinois and Indiana for vacation and GenCon, so this is the last update for a week+. Hope y'all are enjoying them! :)

 

-----

The day after the heroes sunk the Headsman's Axe, Lord Dungeness invited them to his cabin for dinner. He told them that he was most impressed with their actions in ending the Undead menace. He also informed them that, with Chuck dead, the scouts and guards would need a new supervisor. Before he made his final decision, he wanted to know their opinions – who among them would be a fair leader?

 

There was some discussion. Some people opted out – Radley and Kishara, for instance. Everyone agreed that neither Slick nor Arialle nor Ulkjl would be suitable for the job, either. Most folks agreed that either Breena or Marina would be best for the job – though Hathym pointed out that Breena was one of the two scouts in the group, and if she was out in the jungle all the time, that wouldn't leave much room for supervision.

 

Dungeness thanked them for the discussion, and told them that he'd make his decision before the expedition headed up the river.

 

The next evening, Hathym found a mysterious note on his hammock. Since he can't read, he tracked down Ulkjl and had the Hobbit translate for him. Ulkjl did so, and Hathym swore him not to reveal what the note said.

 

The ship had fair winds and calm seas for the whole trip. Squalls were common, but not dangerous or harsh. The rocky coasts gradually faded to thick jungle. The air grew hotter and more humid. It took five days to reach the Black Blood River. There was no mistaking it – it was the largest river mouth that most of the party had ever seen. The water was thick and muddy, and a sailor demonstrated (by lowering a bucket over the side) that the ocean around here was nearly fresh due to the amount of water the river was pouring out into the sea.

 

The ship moved cautiously through the shallows. There was a large, swampy delta that both the captain and Dungeness wanted to steer clear of. Eventually, they settled on anchoring the ship near a beach along what they assumed to be the edge of the river. The beach was wide and sandy. The jungle was thick and lush, reaching right up to the edge of the beach. The air was hot and humid and full of bugs.

 

Dungeness ordered the crew to disembark and unload supplies. He then sent Hathym and Breena out to ensure there was no dangerous flora or fauna nearby. They explored the immediate jungle and eventually declared the area safe.

 

At this, the crew began cutting down trees with which they could begin building a small stronghold near the beach. Dungeness announced his intention to have the expedition leave in two days time, after the nearby jungle had been scouted.

 

While Breena and Hathym were out in the woods, Kishara noticed that N'Amwei seemed out of sorts. She asked him what was wrong, and he reported that there were a number of things missing. "I don't understand," he told her. "We unloaded dem, I saw to dat myself. But now dey are gone!"

 

The missing items included a box of iron nails, a barrel of dried peas, and a chest of trade beads. They were stacked up with the other things in a pile, not far from the jungle. There were tracks, but they were just the footprints of the sailors. None of the sailors saw anything unusual.

 

The party figured that it was probably not a crewman who took these things – why would one of them steal such worthless items, and where would they hide them anyway? They decided that they should set up a trap for whoever it was that stole these items. Slick got to work on it, aided (not really) by Hathym.

 

Meanwhile, Radley and Breena were supervising the woodcutters. Halfway through the afternoon, one of the crew wandered into the woods to take a leak. Seconds later, he came running out, screaming bloody murder. "A monster! Monster! Run, run for your lives!" He ran straight through the camp, into the surf, and jumped into the sea, swimming for safety. Hathym ordered some sailors to go drag him out while he, Breena, and Radley ran into the woods to see what attacked the poor man.

 

But they found nothing except the sailor's own footprints – no sign of any monsters, no tracks, no spoor, no nothing.

 

Kishara examined the man on the beach. She determined that he had been drinking (though this was not unusual among sailors). Stranger, he couldn't seem to remember what it was that he saw. "Just… a monster… you know, like with… eyes? And… things?"

 

Eventually, Kishara managed to convince the man to show her what it was that he saw, and where, but he didn’t have a very clear memory of that, either.

 

Clearly something odd was going on, and Dungeness ordered the heroes to do something about it. He wasn't about to leave the crew here while these shenanigans were happening, but he didn't want to delay the mission any more than necessary. He put the heroes in charge of figuring out what was going on and putting a stop to it.

 

Nervous about the day's goings-on, they decided to set up watches for the night. On the second watch, one of the sailors told Hathym that he thought he saw strange lights in the woods. Hathym went out to investigate, but found only fireflies. He decided to settle down among the roots of a large banyan tree and keep an eye out. The dark night was made darker by the heavy canopy of leaves overhead, so Hathym could not see much, but after a while he thought he heard whispering all around him.

 

Meanwhile, Breena noticed that a lot of sailors were awake. She asked them what was wrong, and they told her that they were frightened by whatever it was in the woods. She assured them that they need not worry, she and the others would protect the crew, and that they should all go back to bed. Reluctantly, they agreed.

 

After some time, Breena sent Arialle to see where Hathym was. She found him, and when he explained about the colored lights and whispering, she laughed him off. "Don't they have fireflies in White Elf town?" she asked.

 

When Kishara's turn to watch came up, she woke Ulkjl and had him go into the woods and hide himself. She reasoned that whatever it was causing those lights might not see the tiny Hobbit – and if they saw him, they might not be frightened away.

 

When morning came, Ulkjl reported that he thought he heard sounds like drums, and he saw lights as well – though he did not want to try to follow them. Many of the sailors reported hearing and seeing similar things.

 

Then Slick called the team over to the supply dump. "My traps are undisturbed," he told them. "But it looks like another chest of trade beads is missing."

 

To be continued!

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Re: FH Campaign

 

Sorry about the long delay (to anyone who is still actually interested in this thread). I've got a few weeks to catch up on, so there may be a number of posts in quick succession. :)

 

-----

The team had a quick roundtable meeting. They thought perhaps they should explore the jungle further away from the beach, to see if they could find some clues as to what was causing all these strange events. After the roundtable finished, Marina decided to host a prayer meeting to help boost the morale of the crew. Radley volunteered to help. Meanwhile, Breena began packing the team's gear while Hathym and Kishara explored the jungle near the beach.

 

While most of the crew was attending the morning services, Kishara and Hathym heard hammering coming from the woods. They went to investigate and found a sailor merrily pounding on a tree. When they asked what he was doing, he replied that he was hammering. They asked what he was hammering. "These nails I found," he answered. The nails were from an open box of nails – the missing nails from the previous morning. Whatever questions they asked him, he shrugged or answered briefly and cryptically, and continued hammering. Kishara examined his work – a scary, scowling face pattern on the trunk of the tree.

 

Hathym put his hands on the sailor, and suddenly the young man became aware of everything around him. He had no idea why he was hammering, or where the nails came from, or even where he was or what he was doing out in the woods. The last thing he remembered was walking to Marina's prayer service. He was a little freaked out. They had him pry as many of the nails out of the tree as he was able, and took him back to the beach.

 

Back on the beach, Kishara went to talk to Kenbede and Igdobe, to see if they knew what was going on. Igdobe spun an elaborate tale about a tree spirit and a volcano, but Kishara decided that he was feeding her a load of bull (probably in the hopes of getting her in the sack!).

 

The exploration party set out. They left Slick and Ulkjl behind to guard the supplies, and they couldn't find Arialle, so the group headed out into the woods, moving at a slow and deliberate pace so as not to miss anything.

 

After a few hot, buggy hours, they came upon a large rock formation, like an ancient lava vent. Exploring closer, they saw that the rock had been painted with scary monster faces, geometric designs, and other patterns, all in bright, vivid colors. They were primitive but showed sophisticated understanding of color and design. Hathym looked around, hunting for a cave or an entrance, and suddenly a horrible monster attacked!

 

The sudden appearance of so many teeth and eyes frightened the heroes and they ran for the safety of the woods. When they turned around, the monster was gone.

 

Still apprehensive but now suspicious, Hathym, Breena, and Radley snuck around to the other side of the rocks while Marina and Kishara kept watch. Still no sign of the creature. Breena and Hathym crept up on the rocks while Radley stayed behind (reasoning that he was more use out of a fight than in one). While they poked around, Hathym found the spear that he threw at the monster, stuck in a crack in the rocks. He also located the cave that he thought he remembered the monster coming out of, but it wasn't really a cave – more like a shallow crevasse.

 

Radley, watching from the woods, decided to cast a Detect Magic spell. Doing so revealed much magic in the area – pinpoints of it all around, in the trees and among the rocks. Curious, he cast a Detect Invisible spell, and sure enough, each one of the pinpoints of magic turned out to be some sort of tiny invisible creature!

 

The young showman had the idea that these creatures were watching him, so he decided to put on a little show. He cast a quick spell, turning invisible for a few seconds, then took a bow. His efforts were rewarded when most of the creatures floated over and gathered around him. Suddenly, Radley was able to see the creatures – they appeared to be floating tiki masks in bright colors. They moved around him, dancing in strange patterns.

 

Meanwhile, on the other side of the clearing, Kishara and Marina were watching Radley's antics with some confusion. Had he been beguiled like the sailors had? He was staring into space and talking with something that wasn't there. Radley called everyone over and asked if they could see the masks all around. None of them could. Radley attempted to communicate that the others in the party wanted to see what he was seeing, and suddenly, everyone could!

 

After a while, the masks started trying to tell Radley something, but he couldn't figure out what. Kishara cast a spell, similar to Huang Jin's communication spell that hopefully would let her understand what the masks wanted. It took some effort, but she figured out that the creatures' language revolved around body motion rather than sound. She began dancing to the tiki masks' drums, asking what it was that they wanted.

 

She learned that they didn't mean to hurt anyone; they were just fascinated by these strange, pale-skinned big folk and wanted to play. They stole those items because they looked interesting – they'd never seen anything like nails before, they didn't know what peas were, and they really liked the beads – in fact, they wanted more of them. They also liked Radley's "mask" (the holy symbol embroidered on his cloak), and wanted it. Radley happily gave it over to them, and in return, they brought back the empty chest that once contained trade beads and the barrel still mostly full of peas. They didn't seem to have much of a concept of "ownership," but they understood "trade" well enough.

 

The tiki mask creatures then proceeded to paint the heroes' images on the rock wall – mostly geometric shapes and mask-like faces, but still recognizable as the party. Reassured that these invisible jungle-spirits meant no real harm, the heroes headed back to the beach, arriving well after dark.

 

Dungeness greeted them and asked what they discovered. When they explained what was going on, he asked them to escort him to the rocks where he could meet the creatures himself. The next morning, the group of them along with Dungeness, Huang Jin, and Ulkjl went back to the rocks. Dungeness brought a couple of cases of trade beads to offer as gifts. Ulkjl was mesmerized by the beautiful rock art, and spent several hours sketching in his journal. He was thrilled when one of the creatures painted his picture on a rock.

 

Dungeness asked permission to establish base camp on the beach, and said that if the creatures warned the camp of any dangers, he would give them more beads. The spirits were happy with this deal, and so a bargain was struck. Now that the problem was resolved, and with the beach stockade nearly finished, Dungeness ordered the heroes and the porters to make ready – the expedition would leave the next morning.

 

TBC!

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Re: FH Campaign

 

This was mostly a "logistics" session, with people getting themselves ready to head upriver and a bit of a cliffhanger at the end...

 

-----

Lord Dungeness, impressed by her practicality, promoted Marina to Chief of Security and set her in charge of assigning each member of the Expedition to a boat. The expedition has 18 porters/boaters and 8 boats. There are 5 PCs and 8 NPCs. The boats fit four people plus supplies comfortably, up to 6 people plus supplies in an emergency. Every person on the expedition has been assigned one porter to carry his/her supplies and equipment. Marina set up the boats as follows:

 

Igdobe

Radley

2 boaters/porters

 

Marina Kishara

2 boaters/porters 3 boaters/porters

 

Hathym Breena Arialle

Ulkjl Lord Dungeness Huang-Jin

2 boaters/porters 2 boaters/porters 2 boaters/porters

 

N'amwei Kenbede

3 boaters/porters Slick

2 boaters/porters

 

Dungeness reviewed what everyone's job was. The people hired as guards were to stay alert for danger and to use their best judgment to protect the Expedition. They were not expected to row the boats or to tote-and-carry equipment – their job is to act as security. Since this is a peaceful mission, they aren't to instigate anything, but are allowed to defend themselves and the rest of the expedition when necessary. The people hired as Expeditionary Specialists (Huang-Jin, Kishara, and Ulkjl) were to keep their eyes open for interesting and unusual things – plants, animals, people, landscape – and to keep careful notes of what they learn. Again, they aren't expected to row the boats or carry equipment; that's what the porters are for.

 

Finally, the Expedition finally got on the river after two weeks of travel by ship to get here. The first two days were uneventful – a steady routine of paddling the boats up the river against the light current. The jungle pressed up against the sides of the river, obscuring vision more than a few feet past the river banks. The air was hot and muggy and full of large, voracious insects (Kishara's bug repellent became quite popular!). The water was muddy and thick, with a heavy vegetable smell. The only signs of wildlife were flocks of large, dark birds and a single long, green snake that Kishara spotted in the water.

 

Halfway through the first day of the expedition, Arialle asked Marina if she could sleep during the day. She didn't like the hot weather, and (as an Elf) is nocturnal by nature anyway. She volunteered to be put on permanent night watch in exchange. Marina agreed to let her do this.

 

On the second day, Hathym spotted something on the river bank. It looked like a long pole with human skulls set on it. Marina told him to paddle over and investigate. He did so and saw that the "skulls" were actually fairly realistic clay skulls. He hopped off the boat to check them out further, and decided that they had been there for many years, and that there were no footprints or other signs of recent sentient life in the immediate area.

 

Dungeness decided that since this is a mission of exploration, they should probably explore the area. He ordered the boats ashore nearby and told the heroes to search the area.

 

Hathym, Breena, Huang-Jin, Kishara, and Radley headed out. About a hundred meters away from the skull-post, they found the ruins of a stone building. It had been abandoned, probably centuries ago. No signs remained of who had built it or what it once was, but Breena found a huge (25+ foot) snakeskin nearby. Huang-Jin suggested that perhaps the snake had frightened the inhabitants away, but the naturalists in the group figured that the snakeskin was only a year or so old, tops.

 

Kishara, examining the ruins, determined that the huge black rocks had been cemented together with masonry of some sort, but nothing more than that. They figured that there was nothing more to learn here (and that if a 25+ foot snake lived in this area, they didn't want to meet it), so they headed back to the Expedition. They took the snakeskin with them, to put in the "samples" box.

 

Two days further up the river, Hathym spotted something in the woods – faces watching the party. He waved to them, and as soon as they realized they had been spotted, they disappeared. Again, Dungeness ordered the Expedition to put ashore. He sent Breena, Radley, and Arialle to investigate. Marina took some trade beads and left them around the area, in hopes of convincing the locals that the company was friendly. Kishara found some tropical fruits that were edible and tasted something like blackberries, but bigger and much juicier.

 

The "away" party found tracks leading downriver – six or seven people in bare feet, a mixture of men, women, and children. They stealthily followed the tracks until they came upon a group of people resting in the shade of a huge ficus tree – two women, three young children, one old man, and one young man. The young man appeared to be injured, and the old man was tending his wounds while the women comforted the crying children.

 

Radley and Breena knew they had to help, so Radley cast a spell allowing him to speak and understand the peoples' language, and the two of them stepped out into the open. The response was immediate – the women and children took off running, while the two men grabbed spears and threatened the party.

 

Radley tried his hardest to convince them that he and his companion were friends, but the men were too frightened to listen – especially when Radley mentioned that he was a priest who knew magic. The young man threw his spear at them (missing narrowly) while the old man ran. Radley tried to Command the young man to stop, but he was too frightened to fall prey to the priest's spell.

 

As the man ran, Radley casually mentioned that Hathym probably could shoot a treebranch down to stop the guy. Arialle took this as an insult to her archery skills, and she did exactly that. The man, his way blocked, fell down to his knees and began to cry. Radley and Breena approached cautiously. Radley cast a healing spell to stop the bleeding, then pulled out his healing kit and sutured the wound shut. While working, he noticed that the wound was a stab wound and was very clean – like a steel weapon made it rather than a stone or wooden one. The man kept asking, over and over, why they were doing this. Radley explained that they were friends and weren't out to harm anyone.

 

When Radley finished the simple surgery, the man grabbed his spear and ran. "Well, that's gratitude for you," Radley sighed. The three heroes decided to get back to the camp and report. Obviously, there were hostiles in the region.

 

That night, Marina advised that they set a double-watch. Nothing interesting happed in the night, and the next morning, they set out again. Halfway through the day, Kishara spotted a column of black smoke coming from the jungle just ahead of them. The warriors prepared for battle and began planning to set ashore to see what was happening.

 

They rounded a bend in the river and saw it – a small wooden village on the bank of the river was ablaze. Panicked people were running around, screaming. Others were moving more deliberately through the smoke and chaos, attacking and killing anyone they caught.

 

Dungeness' eyes narrowed in righteous rage. "Put ashore!" he ordered. "We must stop this!" But his command was not necessary, as the entire group of heroes were already on the move...

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Re: FH Campaign

 

Is anyone still following this thread? Shall I continue posting? :)

 

Bill.

 

Yes please. I'm certainly still very interested in following this thread.

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Re: FH Campaign

 

As the boats came around a bend in the river, the expedition saw a native village in flames. Many people (presumably the villagers) were running around in a panic, pursued by others armed with steel weapons. The pursuers were massacring the others – women, children, men, everyone. Dungeness wasted no time ordering the heroes ashore to stop this horror.

 

There were quite a few canoes on shore. The houses were all on short stilts – maybe 4 or 5 feet high. Many of them were blazing hotly, throwing black smoke and hot sparks everywhere. Visibility was poor, and the smoke made it hard to breathe.

 

The waterfront was the very edge of the problem – there were only a handful attackers here. None were paying any attention to the riverbanks, so the boats made it to shore without attracting any attention – until the party's archers began to put arrows into the attackers. The heroes made short work of the attackers, while Huang-Jin shouted for the villagers to come towards shore, where the rest of the team could protect them.

 

Since this was only the edge of the attack, the heroes needed to go deeper into the village to stop the madness. They moved through the carnage, seeing bodies everywhere. This was a fairly large village, surrounded by a low wooden wall. Every once in a while, the heroes spotted a villager fleeing for his or her life, usually pursued by one or two men armed with steel blades. The heroes made sure those men regretted their decision to get up that morning.

 

By the time they reached the center of the village, where a terrible amount of carnage greeted them, they could tell there were two epicenters to the disturbance – one to the north of the village, one to the south. Sounds of fighting, shouting, and screaming came from both directions. They chose not to split the party, but to focus on one of the problems at a time. They went north, where a fleeing villager told them the village's gate stood.

 

They discovered a handful of men had taken the main gate. Though most of them appeared no different from the others the party had dispatched, one of them was dressed in an elaborate, skull-like headdress, surrounded by blackened corpses and laughing with the thrill of his obvious victory.

 

His glee faded as the heroes fanned out to take him and his men down. As soon as he spotted the heroes, he conjured from nothingness a 10-meter long snake, which he sent to attack the heroes. It was a hard fight. Two men attacked Arialle after seeing her drop one of their own with one shot. She went down under a flurry of blows, proving that she is not nearly as good in hand-to-hand combat as she is with a bow.

 

Breena charged the priest, but her way was blocked by the giant snake, which proved very difficult to kill. The priest made her job even tougher by placing a curse upon her, making her movements slow and uncertain. Kishara tried to counteract the priest's curse with a spell of her own, but the priest blasted her with a bolt of darkness that burned like acid.

 

Then Hathym surprised everyone by ignoring the two native warriors attacking him and instead charging the evil priest. The priest desperately back-pedaled to get out of the angry Elf's way, and cast a Cloud of Mist to protect himself.

 

Meanwhile, Radley managed (against all odds!) to KO the two warriors who had injured Arialle, and used his holy magic to bring her back from the brink of death. He dared her to shoot the warrior who was trying to hack Kishara's arms off, and (despite her groggy state) she managed to do so. He now owes her a day's pay. =;)

 

Marina cast a field of darkness over Hathym and the priest, reasoning that doing so would put them on even footing (since at the moment, only Hathym was blinded). The priest, realizing that the fight was as good as lost, used the cover of darkness to summon another giant snake and flee through the broken gates.

 

The heroes considered chasing him, but figured that they could never catch him. Instead, they took a few moments to recover and heal themselves as best as they could, then headed south towards the other disturbance. This time, they formed a quick plan before they got into the fight, knowing that they beat the bad guys last time more through luck than strategy – and nearly lost one of their own in the process!

 

To the south, the party found a group of warriors had rounded up a bunch of villagers, and were harassing the hapless and unarmed people, like wolves attacking a caribou. One of the warriors was a huge, heavily muscled man wearing a feather and bone headdress – obviously the leader.

 

The heroes used the cover of smoke (and the power of magic) to surround their foes and then, on a pre-arranged signal, fired a volley of arrows into the warriors, killing one of them outright. At the same time, an invisible Radley attacked another of the warriors from behind, knocking him cold in one blow. Dishonorable, but effective.

 

Breena and Marina charged the final warrior, knowing that if they killed him, the leader would be all alone -- and a much easier target. They finished the warrior off with no trouble, but then the warrior-chief counter-charged. Marina went down in one mighty blow, and Breena was left to fight alone...

 

...Until Kishara popped up from behind a pile of wood and cast a vine-entangle spell on the chief, wrapping him tightly head-to-toe in thick jungle vines. Arialle took the opportunity to fire an arrow into the helpless chief, but all she managed to do was cut the vines holding him down. Oops.

 

Even so, though, the heroes' plan was sound. With no other distractions, the entire party was able to gang-up on the chief. He fought to the bitter end, asking no quarter, but in the end the party's teamwork put him down. Once he was dead, the other warriors fled the village and the carnage ended.

 

The villagers were grateful for the intervention of the heroes. When the fires were extinguished and order was restored, they invited Dungeness and the heroes to the chiefs' hut. After ritually sharing a drink (which tasted like spoiled beer), the chiefs told the party that for many months now, rumors have been trickling downstream about a tribe of people who had suddenly become hostile and powerful. They had been attacking tribes further up the river, slaying their men and children and taking the women as slaves. This tribe (which they called "the Enemy") had always been aggressive, but they had never ranged this far downriver, and they had never been this powerful.

 

The chiefs didn't think much about these attacks until a couple of weeks ago, when survivors of the attacks came trickling down the river and through the jungle, telling horror stories of villages burned and people massacred. This village began to post boys on the walls to watch for signs of trouble, and the men roamed the jungle keeping a watch out – though it was all for no good. Yesterday's hunting party failed to return, and today, in the cover of the morning mist, the Enemy attacked with such sudden savagery that no one had time to react.

 

Where the Enemy got their steel weapons, the chiefs did not know. They have never seen weapons like that before – they tend to use spears with beaten copper points. Of equal concern was where the priest learned such powerful and deadly magic. The priests of the villages around here – even large villages, like this one – are never so powerful.

 

Marina asked if the villagers had seen people like the expedition before, but none of the chiefs had ever seen anyone who dressed so outlandishly, nor who had such odd skin and hair.

 

When Breena asked about the skulls on the river and the old abandoned stone building, all the men in the room made a strange sign with their hands and looked to the floor. One of them explained that they don't ever talk about those things; local tribes placed the skulls there as a warning away from that place.

 

Then a very ancient chief, wrinkled like a prune and with hair as white as ash, spoke. "There is an ancient legend," he said, "of the people who lived in these jungles, long before the gods ever fashioned mankind. They were powerful in the ways of magic, and mighty hunters besides. They tamed the jungle to do their bidding, and even the animals walked in fear of them. They could take any shape they desired, they could appear as the bird, the panther, the spider, even the tree. But the shape they most favored was the shape of the snake, which they worshipped.

 

"Their power was so great that even though they lived so long ago that the land was still young, their footprints can still be found in the deepest parts of the jungle. It is they who built the ancient stone ruins you saw, and whose curse still rests on those crumbling stones. But they became too powerful, and the gods grew angry at their multitude of sins, and they sent a terrible storm to punish them. The storm lasted a whole month, and when it was over, they were gone, never to return again.

 

"But now, I fear that they have returned, to our grief."

 

The other chiefs tried to hush the old man, but he would not be silent. None of the others had anything to say about his story, except to say that it was a tale meant to frighten children from straying into the woods. When pressed, however, all of them admitted that they believed the story was true. They weren't so sure that this attack signaled a return of some ancient evil, though.

 

After the meeting, Dungeness took Marina and N'Amwei aside to get their opinions on the next step. N'amwei had heard stories much like the old man told, and was very nervous about continuing deeper into the woods. The expedition was not put together with a war in mind, and most of the team were not fighters. He voted for cutting short the trip; at the very least, he wanted nothing to do with the Enemy.

 

Marina argued the other way – that if the expedition could help, it was their duty to do so. Someone was supplying the Enemy with steel weapons and teaching them strange magic, and as a result innocent people were dying. But she understood N'Amwei's concerns, so she suggested heading up the river for just another week or two, just to reconnoiter the situation and see if there was anything they could do.

 

Dungeness agreed with Marina. He was more than willing to find out about the Enemy and put a stop to their predations if possible, and was unwilling to cut his exploration short. The team got permission to camp here for a few days to get rested up, and then they would head further up the river.

 

TBC!

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Re: FH Campaign

 

The heroes were made welcome in the village, which was one of the larger villages along the river, so the people here were used to strangers – traders from other tribes coming up or down the river. Of course, they'd never seen anyone as strange as the heroes, with their pale skin and white hair, strange clothes and outlandish speech, but they were still quite hospitable.

 

The damage to the village was extensive but not irreparable, and after funerals were finished, the people got back to their day-to-day tasks. Arialle was still hurt, and Radley decided she needed a week of recuperation, so Dungeness used this as an opportunity to take extensive notes about the peoples' daily rituals and habits, dragging Ulkjl and Huang-Jin around with him everywhere. He essentially left the heroes to do as they would, with one caveat: Don't get into any trouble.

 

Marina pulled everyone aside to discuss what she had learned in the chief's council. She told the others that areas marked with skulls are considered off-limits and taboo. She said that one of the village elders had told a story about an ancient, evil, shape-shifting people who lived in the jungle a long time ago, before the gods wiped them out for crimes too terrible to contemplate. She also mentioned how the people here have a very bad superstition about snakes.

 

Breena asked if she could go out hunting with the men. They refused to allow it, saying that hunting was men's work, and not suitable for a woman. Hathym, on the other hand, was invited to go out hunting. He respectfully declined, preferring to explore the jungle his own way. Radley considered trying to teach card and dice games to the locals, hoping to bilk them out of some valuables, but ended up deciding against it. Instead, he learned some of their games (though he never really got a good understanding of how they worked).

 

Marina decided to spend some time with the village elder and ask questions of him; maybe get clarification on what he told her earlier. He was delighted to spin tales of the old days (especially to someone who hadn't heard them all a dozen times before!), and answered her questions freely. He explained that the other villagers wouldn't talk about such things because they feared the bad luck their words might bring. He, however, was not afraid of bad luck, since he was so very old and would die soon anyway.

 

He told her that fake skulls were left near the old ruins as a warning for people to stay away. All the tribes in this area knew that the skulls were a boundary that they should not cross. The tradition started many generations ago, in the time that human beings were just beginning to settle the jungle. The Old Ones would sometimes hunt humans, and left gristly trophies behind as a warning for other humans to stay away. After the gods destroyed the Old Ones, the tribes continued this tradition – though they did not use real human skulls, but fake ones made from clay, rock, or wood.

 

Kishara wanted to find out more about the spellcaster the heroes had fought, and about the giant snake he summoned. However, she found that the villagers were reluctant to say anything about it, making a strange gesture with their left hand and avoiding eye contact. Realizing she would get nowhere with the adults, she decided to ask the children. She entertained them with simple but flashy cantrips (which they loved!), but they too wouldn't talk about the snakes, saying only that if a child was bad, snakes would come out of the jungle to carry her off forever.

 

On the third day, though, Kishara found a young boy, maybe 10 years old, who was not afraid and was determined to prove himself a great hunter, guide, and explorer. His name was Lencho, and he told her that he knew where some old stone ruins were. The other children were too afraid to go to them, but he has gone to them and actually touched the stones once, during the hot season last year. He volunteered to take Kishara to see them, and she agreed (though first she told Breena where she was going). Breena, bored with hanging around the village, went with them.

 

The stones were about a half-day's hike away from the river, and weren't much to look at – but the boy was thrilled that the others were interested enough to come out here and see. They poked around for a half hour or so, finding nothing of interest. In fact, the ruins were hardly even recognizable as such – just a few stones loosely arranged in a rough circle, mounds of earth and vegetation obscuring anything interesting.

 

However, while poking around, Kishara, Breena, and the boy were interrupted by a group of hunters from the village, who happened to be in the area and heard noises. They were angry (perhaps "livid" would be a better word) that the boy had come here, and upset at Kishara and Breena for breaking a sacred taboo of the people. The hunters dragged the taboo-breakers back to the village, and then spoke with the council of chiefs in hushed tones while the rest of the villagers gathered around to watch, worried looks on their faces.

 

Kishara explained that she had not seen any skulls nearby, so she thought it was safe to look around. This worried the chiefs even more, since apparently the skulls around that area had been stolen or destroyed. After some consultation, the chiefs said that those who touched the stones would have to go through a purification ritual. Both Breena and Kishara agreed, and Marina and Dungeness also volunteered to go through the ritual (since Breena and Kishara are under their command, they felt they bore some of the responsibility for their actions).

 

The four of them, plus Lencho and his uncle, were ceremonially cast out of the gates, which were then closed and barred. For the rest of the afternoon and into the early evening, they heard some kind of construction going on inside the village. After the sun had set, they saw a large fire blaze up above the walls, and heard drumming from within.

 

After an hour or so, they were allowed back into the village, where they found every villager gathered around a huge bonfire, men and women in elaborate masks dancing to the jungle rhythms with wild abandon. Men in masks greeted them at the gates, and then led each one in turn three times around the fire, then into the chiefs' hut.

 

What happened in the hut, they were sworn to never speak of. However, when they returned to the main square (an hour or two later), the drumming and dancing became more frenzied. The masked guides told their newly-released charges to dance and drink, and they all joined in. Before long, most of the rest of the party joined in the dancing and drumming. Ulkjl pierced the night with his ox-horn; Radley and Slick decided to cut loose, even Arialle jumped up to dance (despite Radley ordering her not to). Only Huang-Jin and Hathym hung back – the former for propriety's sake, the latter because he wanted to keep an eye on things to make sure no one got hurt.

 

(How very un-Elflike of Hathym – to refuse to party, dance, and drink!) =;)

 

The next morning, when they woke up, the memories of the night's activities were little more than a blur. Radley, after his head stopped pounding, bound Arialle's wounds (re-opened from the night's activities). Everyone else stayed in their hut for most of the morning.

 

Four days later, Radley proclaimed (at Dungeness' urging – he was getting anxious to get back on mission) that Arialle was fit to travel again. They loaded up their boats (filled with new supplies and trade goods), and set up the river once again.

 

The river journey was peaceful for three days; on the fourth day, they came upon the remains of a burnt village on the north side of the water…

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Re: FH Campaign

 

I've really enjoyed your FH Campaign posts. Hope you keep them up!

I was wondering, is your campaign based in the Turakian Age campaign world or is it a homebrew world? I'm not familiar with Hero or the TA setting.

 

Thanks for the good read.

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Re: FH Campaign

 

I've really enjoyed your FH Campaign posts. Hope you keep them up!

I was wondering, is your campaign based in the Turakian Age campaign world or is it a homebrew world? I'm not familiar with Hero or the TA setting.

 

Thanks for the good read.

 

You're welcome, and thanks for the compliment. :)

 

My campaign is a homebrew world that I've been running for many years. It started as an AD&D game, and moved to Hero only a couple of years ago.

 

More to come... ;)

 

Bill.

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Re: FH Campaign

 

Is anyone still following this thread? Shall I continue posting? :)

 

Bill.

 

I'm enjoying following it too. I'd be interested in seeing the character sheets for the PC's as well.

 

Scott

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Re: FH Campaign

 

> The river journey was peaceful for three days; on the fourth day, they

> came upon the remains of a burnt village on the north side of the water.

 

The party immediately disembarked to investigate. The village had been burned nearly two weeks ago; there were no survivors to be found. Breena’s tracking ability told her that the attackers captured a large number of people and herded them upriver; a handful of others (probably survivors) went downriver. They discovered nothing else.

 

Two weeks past the main village, the landscape around the river (which until now has been relatively flat) began to grow hillier, and in the distance high hills could be seen. This excited Dungeness; he felt that the company might be near to discovering the source of the Black Blood River.

 

At the border of the hills, Hathym noticed a bunch of skulls on posts (like they saw before) and strings of human skulls in the trees tied together with vines. Closer inspection showed that these are not clever replicas, but the real things – some of them relatively fresh.

 

Breena and Hathym both checked out the riverbanks and determined that these areas saw frequent traffic – in fact, it looked like a well-used footpath along both sides of the river – but not for a few days. Most of the porters and the native guides were growing very nervous, and there was talk of turning back. Dungeness summoned his officers and guards together to discuss what they should do.

 

Hathym came up with the idea of letting most of the expedition camp on the banks of the river, a mile or two downriver from the skull warning posts. Then, he and the rest of the guards would, under cover of night, take a couple of canoes and explore further upriver to make sure there were no nasty surprises waiting for them. Dungeness agreed.

 

After darkness fell, the heroes (at least, those who could see in the dark) headed upriver, a few miles past the skulls, then they went ashore to see if the footpath continued here. It did, but while they were checking it out, they suddenly came under fire from a group of native warriors armed with bows and spears. They made short work of their attackers, then weighted down the bodies and tossed them in the river (so as not to leave any sign of the fight, nor of the heroes’ presence here). However, one of the attackers had only been wounded, and he managed to escape into the night while the party was distracted. He must have been intimately familiar with these woods, because neither Hathym nor Breena were able to follow his tracks

 

Since the night was almost gone, the heroes immediately set back downriver to the main camp. They found the place in an uproar. Apparently, after the heroes had left, a large band of native warriors attacked the camp. Marina, Slick, Dungeness, Huang-Jin, and Ulkjl were able to drive the attackers away, but not before the enemy managed to kidnap nearly a dozen of the porters (including Breena’s, Radley’s, Arialle’s, and Kishara’s).

 

There was now no doubt that the company would continue upriver to find the enemy and rescue the hostages; the only question now was… how should they go about doing it?

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Re: FH Campaign

 

I'm enjoying following it too. I'd be interested in seeing the character sheets for the PC's as well.

 

I tried to upload them, but apparently the message board doesn't like my bizarre homegrown Excel character sheets... :(

 

Bill.

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