Thursday, June 30, 2011

Kingdoms of Kalamar Play Report: Session III - Mopping up Bandits

Last night's session went off well for the most part, though there was a disagreement as to the procedure for treasure division amongst the players. All shook hands in the end and it seems that there's a working provision going forward for how these kind of things are to be handled. Hopefully.

Basking in the glow of the villagers' adulation at peacefully solving their problems, the party settled into the inn to drink, celebrate, and unsuccessfully proposition the barmaid (much chagrined to learn that she was a slave and had negative opinions about the current social order of things). The party met a young bard named Walter that evening as he gave a punji concert to anybody (nobody) who would listen and decided that he would make a fine addition to the party. A tentative agreement that "we should really investigate those other bandits . . ." was reached and everybody found their ways to bed and rest.

The morning arrived and the gnomes departed while the party made ready to track down the bandits. Various plans were discussed including "dressing down" and lying in ambush while posing as merchants or helpless travelers amongst others, but it was readily agreed that the best start would be to visit the site of the original ambush and look for any tracks that might remain after 24 hours, and speaking with the sole survivor of the attack that they had rescued. The girl was able to reveal that her parents were spice merchants and that the attack was sudden and violent. Early on she was shot with an arrow and collapsed, but she remembers seeing "a hideously ugly bandit with arms that hung nearly to his knees, perhaps some sort of half-orc" but otherwise they were unremarkable in any way.

A quick investigation of the ambush site revealed some interesting things First, there was the obvious signs of the melee and combat that had happened there, including, still, some blood stains. Their own tracks, travelling west to east, were also present. Another set of tracks, a single individual, travelled at a run from east to west through here, perhaps hours after the party had gone through the first time. Much speculation about spies and unseen watchers was indulged in.

Most interesting, though, was the obvious signs of the bandits. Fever was able to make out the initial hiding places of the attackers, how they had charged the field, slain the family, and then carted off the valuables and headed north towards hills somewhat visible in the distance. They were obviously burdened with something heavy (the loot?) as they went. The direction for the party was obvious.

Going quickly, the party happened upon a cleared area surrounded by a "palisade" (really more of a cow fence with delusions of granduer) surrounding several wagons, livestock, working folk, and a series of interconnected tree houses ten or more feet off the ground. At about 150 yards distant, the party was fairly certain they had not been spotted. Sending Harmony the gnome "priest" in for some scouting confirmed that the bandits had set no wary sentries and those with weapons were not paying a great deal of attention to what was going on outside the camp than to chatting with friends and family within.

Plans of battering rams were quickly dismissed and, instead, it was settled that the paladin and the bard would go forward for "negotiation" to provide a distraction while the rest of the party remained as hidden as possible and deployed for an ambush of their own, and so the paladin and the "swishy" bard approached openly calling for a parlay. Cautious, most of the unarmed folk ran immediatly for the shelter of the tree houses while a small squadron of bowmen and a large swordsman held a quick conversation. Sensing an opportunity for profit (seeing only a single paladin and his . . . pet . . . and knowing that the Order of the Eternal Lantern was in the area) in hostage ransoming, the bandits ordered the paladin to lay down his arms and surrender.

Things did not go at all as they had planned.

The duo retreated slowly before the oncoming bandits, drawing them out further into the open. The attack was sudden and brutal. Thrown daggers from the gnome and quick sword and ax work from the rest of the party along with a cleverly applied light spell made short work of most of the bowmen, leaving only the swordsman to retreat back towards the tree houses. Just as the swordsman gained the ramp, already bleeding from half a dozen wounds, a last dagger lobbed by the dwarf, of all folks, ended his life in plain sight of another squad of bowmen that had taken up station in the entrance to the tree house complex.

Seeing the swift and violent death of their fellows, the remaining bandits quickly threw up their hands and surrendered, asking only that theuy and their children be spared. They declared that whatever bandits were left would have been gathered in the shrine by their leader, Hanari. Shouts for parlay went unheeded, so the castle was stormed and the party went in armed for bear.

Luckily, or unluckily, the first door the party walked through proved to be the shrine and, in a bit of turnabout being fair play, a light spell blinded Fever the ranger, forcing him to drop to the floor as a flight of arrows hurtled through the doorway, one of which found a mark in his back. The paladin threw himself over his comrade and into combat and, displaying a remarkable ability to slay any and all foes, set about dealing death throughout the room. The rest of the party swarmed in and, within a few minutes, the entire remaining force of bandits was destroyed. Over the next hour, the party searched the hideout, looted it of all valuables, and returned to the village to a hero's welcome.

One item of note they did find was a letter addressed to the leader Hanari informing him that his payment was overdue and that soon it would be neccessary for his superiors to rectify that mistake. It was speculated that this was only a small branch of bandits under the general managment of a higher, more organized group. This would, in fact, account for the startling lack of half-orc or otherwise hideous bandits as described.

As an aside, I was a little unprepared for the capabilities of a party with so many people in it. They are extremely capable at dismantling just about anything I send in their way, so I think I'm going to begin to pump up the encounters a bit to see about challenging them more. I don't think it would go amiss to see about some monsters that would otherwise destroy such a low level party, but since there's enough of them they should manage. We'll see next time.>

Friday, June 24, 2011

Play Report: Kingdoms of Kalamar Characters

Since there is no game this week, I thought I'd take a moment to introduce the victims of this campaign, good sports that they are.

Fever Oxbar: A human ranger named such because of a childhood illness. Driven from his home for reasons he keeps to himself, the man is more comfortable with animals, whom he considers more honest and honorable. One can hardly blame him.

Harmony Mezzuzah: A swamp gnome thief . . . er . . . "cleric." Yeah, that's the ticket! A happy-go-lucky wanderer that passes herself off as a basic fighting cleric, most recently visited a temple (and left quite hastily). Comes from a large family of wanderers, bards, and entertainers, two brothers and six sisters. She still keeps in touch with Brother Noah every few years. A devout follower of Barlen, the god of beer.

Dagmar Silverbeard: A male dwarven fighter from out of the precincts of Karasta, the conquered city of the dwarves. He was caught out of the city during its fall and has since devoted himself to wandering the world in search of he knows not what.

Bedewyr: The de-facto leader of the party, a Paladin of the Eternal Lantern and partial to fruit pies. A Brandobian by birth, and now an expatriat wandering the countryside of Kalamar, he eventually found his way into religious and martial training, taking up the mantle of a paladin. He is imposing and intimidating, though good of heart and eager to see justice prevail. His history as a slave has assured that he has a keen eye for the suffering of others, and a true intolerance for permitting the strong and evil to pray upon the weak.

Hallamar and Shnrissa: Hallamar, a cleric of the Fraternal Order of Aptitude, and Shnrissa, a red haired and fiery tempered warrior woman.

Halanan grew up amid sheep and very little else on his parent's farm
just outside of Sobeteta. Bored by the thought of a life spent tending
livestock, Halanan spent every free minute he could asking questions
of everything and everyone else from the 'outside' world. Curiousity
and a thirst for understanding ultimately, through a turn of events
that Halanan has spoken of to absolutely nobody about, led the
then-teenage boy to seek position among the servants of The Mule in
the Fraternal Order of Aptitude. Halanan proved to have a strong mind
for grasping mathematics and logical theory. He grasped principles of
engineering and architecture with impressive speed despite his late
coming to his calling.

He spent almost nine years reading, learning, studying, researching
everything he could, until the call of attending a new
settlement-fortress near to Bepido came. Seeing a way to combine the
ability to sate the adventurous thirst for knowledge with a chance to
share the knowledge he had already attained in a union of effort that
could only be seen as blessed by The Enlightener, Halanan quickly
volunteered to travel to Bepido. It was along the road that he met
Shnrissa, a warrior by profession who was seeking enlightenment
and a way to better herself to be more than a mere swordswoman.
Stepping in to his defense outside of a tavern he had been staying
overnight in, Shnrissa added to the plea for teaching she had left
him with the night before. He was fortunate to have her near
association when some unpleasant-looking thugs tried to lighten the
holy man's backpack, and the incident did much to persuade Halanan to
change his previous refusal to a grateful acceptance, provided that
she accompany him on his mission to Bepido and, perhaps eventually,

Tam: Tam is a half-elven wizard just beginning his career in the arcane arts. He is quiet, reserved, and very capable with a charm spell, quick to aid those in need.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Play Report - Kingdoms of Kalamar Session II

Last night was the 2nd session, and it went well, though I was startled how, in practice, just how linear Ver'Kusi/Ovini's crypt really was. Yeah, I know, it's just a crypt, but it was the subject of a fair amount of ribbing and "chugga chugga" remarks last night. Fighting a shadow and 6 zombie dogs shut them up right quick though.

Learning that Dak'Wi lived nearby and was Ver'Kusi's closest friend in life, the party decided that the best course of action would be to go and speak with him. The half-elf mage, having cast his spell for the day and enjoying a few drinks with his charmed gnome friend, stayed behind in the inn, but a red headed traveling swordswoman tagged along with the party to make up for the loss.

Approaching Dak'Wi's farm, the party noticed that it looked to be a bit lusher and better maintained than some of the neighboring farms. It seemed that this old man was a superior farmer as both clerics of the Mule opined . . . at great length . . . while referring to statistical analyses and charts that they both had stashed, presumably, in the sleeves of their robes. The rest of the party had learned, by this point, to stuff cotton in their ears at such junctures and soldier on quietly.

As they crested a small rise, they found Dak'Wi himself waiting for them while mounted on an older looking horse, waiting to meet them before they got too close. Undeterred and determined to embark on a preliminary recon, one of the clerics broke off and began to circle the house, muttering to himself while everybody else treated with the old man.

Where the negotiations with the gnomes had been rife with intimidation (a six foot tall paladin with hand on the hilt of his long sword towering over you with overt exclamations of disapproval and readiness to slaughter you out of hand), negotiations with Dak'Wi were, in comparison, remarkably polite. When informed of the situation, that hostages had been taken and that, it seemed, his old friend was at the root cause of it, Dak'Wi was sympathetic and said that, indeed, the two had been adventuring companions many years ago. Ovini/Ver'Kusi, he said, was quite good at getting his hands on treasures and of doing so quietly and stealthily, and that from time to time, he would do so even if it meant taking it out of the hands of its rightful owners. Indeed, he does know that Ovini came away from their time with the gnomes quite a bit richer, but he had learned well before then not to ask about such mysterious windfalls. That it was stolen is not overly surprising.

However, what had this to do with him? Dak'Wi, as was clearly apparant by his plain dress and simple home, had none of the treasury himself and he had buried his friend with all his worldly posessions not 6 months ago. If it were not for the assiduous politeness of the Paladin and others, the situation would have devolved into a bloody conflict next. It was clear that the only thing for it was to enter the crypt and reclaim the treasury to return to the gnomes, loathe though they might be to disturb the rest of any man. In the end, Dak'Wi agreed to lead them to the crypt as long as they promised not to disturb his friend's rest any more than was neccessary in order to protect the lives of the innocents.

While this conversation went on, the fellow who had wandered around the house and been largely ignored since he was assumed to be sick or insane found himself behind the house and spotted a few shapes moving at the edges of his vision, seemingly observing the house. Unsure of their purpose, he scrawled a message in the dirt on the ground warning the figures away from the place, that the old man was insane and dangerous. He then proceeded to rejoin the group.

About this time, an older, grizzled outdoorsman approached and seemed more interested in speaking with the old man's horse than any of the humans. In the end, he learned from the horse that these were adequately ok folks and so he decided to join them on their little adventure. (Another new player)

The old man led them to the edge of a small thicket of trees and said that the crypt was straight ahead, no more than a few minutes' walk. He would not be going with them as he had long ago retired from adventuring life. After all, as he pointed out, he had left no traps and there were no monsters there when h e first buried his friend 6 months ago, so it should be perfectly safe. Needless to say, their short walk was interrupted by a large, monstrous spider, which despite my best efforts, didn't even manage to bite a single one of the jerk PC's. The creature was dispatched handily by an angered paladin who seemed eager to be gone from this place. A quick scamper up the tree revealed the spider kept no treasure.

The crypt was easily found, and after several minutes of checking for stonework traps or hidden doors (the dwarf) or mechanical traps (the gnome thief er . . cleric, yeah that's the ticket!), the party bashed at the door to remove the lead and, with great glee, the two clerics of the Mule put their engineering skills to work and removed the doors from the hinges rather than letting the gnome attempt to unlock them. Inside, they discovered that the place was a little larger than they had anticipated. It was clear that this was obviously the burial of a person faithful to the Raiser, complete with the standard accoutrements as the first two rooms attested. The third room, though, gave them pause . . .

Realizing they had found the sarcophagus of Ver'Kusi and his 6 faithful hunting dogs, the party employed not just a little meta-gaming knowledge and prepared for a fight. The paladin, after glaring at the sarcophagus for a minute, declared that it was evil and dangerous. Nevertheless, he was the one to pry the lid off and look inside. There, indeed, was the gnomish treasury, along with a decaying corpse with the words "May the Gods forgive me." carved into the coffin, and two leatherbound books. Realizing there was nothing else for it, the paladin reached in and took the sword, and was immediately attacked by an evil undead Shadow.

The group squared off against the shadow while one of the clerics of the Mule tried to flee, but his escape was cut off by six zombie dogs that had risen from their coffins to attack. In a feat of uncharacteristic heroics, or merely suicidal tendancies, the cowardly cleric threw himself bodily at the dogs in a bid to buy time for his companions. And was promptly devoured for his trouble.

The battle was long and hard fought, but in the end, the group emerged victorious without too many injuries. They removed the treasury as well as the two books and brought them back to town to discover that the gnomes had already brought the hostages back in anticipation of the trade. Despite the fact that a significant portion of the treasure was missing, the gnomes determined to leave without further pressing the claim as the paladin reminded them that they had been taking hostages and he was prepared to start shortening gnomes by a head if need be. It was decided that the missing portion be considered weregild in compensation for the inconvenience suffered by the families of this town and that the gnomes would leave in peace, never to return the next morning.

Afterward, the learned members of the party examined the two books. The first was a plain, leatherbound folio with a brief account of adventures that Ovini and his friends had near the Obakasek Jungle, hot on the trail of a rumored treasure cache, complete with map, but they were turned back by humanoid tribes and a druid who did not take kindly to their pilfering ways. The other was a higher quality book with a rune or pictograph of some sort on the cover. Much puzzeling over it revealed that it was an historical symbol, but of what nobody could say, and the half-elf magic user was able to chime in and say that it appeared to be High Elven pictographic writing. What it said he had no clue.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Play Report - Kingdoms of Kalamar

[em]Rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerrated. Suffice to say, life has been more than a little mad. However, I have, at long last, been able to assemble a group and begin a campaign that, I hope, will last for a while at least. We're using the AD&D 2nd edition ruleset, with a host of house rules, and the Kingdoms of Kalamar campaign setting. Hope you enjoy the recap.[/em]

It’s been a good long time since I ran a game, and I’ve been staring at the Kindgoms of Kalamar campaign setting book for a long while with the overwhelming urge to play it. So finally, last night, I managed to get my chance. Despite the weather and lack of air conditioning, I think everybody had a good time, even though we were converting half the group from third and fourth edition to AD&D again.

There were seven of us, with an eighth promised for the next session. I do not have the exact particulars of the party at the moment as the character sheets have all gone home with the players for final touchups, but in broad strokes, the party consists of Tam, a half-elf mage who makes excellent use of a charm person spell; a dwarven fighter; Bedowyr, a Brandobian Paladin of the Eternal Lantern; not one, but TWO priests of The Mule, one LE and one LN which made for some fascinating debates on opposing philosophies and tactics; a gnomish thief/”cleric” of Beer (not The Bear, but the divine Beer the beverage); and finally a human fighter of indeterminate background and skills yet.

Having heard that an alliance of the Halls of the Valiant and the Assembly of Light, with some support from other sympathetic churches/deities, have taken it upon themselves to build a new stronghold in the heartland of Kalamar, rife with banditry and on the brink of anarchy, has put out a call for help in the form of soldiers, priests, and “freelance explorers and mercenaries,” our group of heroes has decided to investigate the call and determine the nature of the work being offered. The request for aid indicated that the temporary base of operations was the city of Bepido, so the group headed in that direction, passing through the Barony of Salanid on the way.
About an hour after midday, approaching the outskirts of a tiny village named Arun’Kid, the travelers discover three bodies on the ground, and the remnants of wagons that have suffered some fire damage. There are broken arrows littering the ground all around. Quick investigation revealed that two of the bodies, an older man and woman, were corpses, while a third, younger, body of a young woman had survived, barely. A bit of magical healing from the paladin stopped the bleeding and saved the girl’s life, but it seems the two clerics were hesitant to utilize their own divine powers to restore her to consciousness. A quick search of the area revealed lots of tracks all over with a fairly obvious trail leading off to the north.
Deciding that the best thing for it was to toss the girl over a shoulder like a sack of rice and drag the other two bodies into town, the party did just that, tramping into town with three bodies in tow. They immediately took note of the temple of the Bear and how, despite the remaining winter seer of the surrounding countryside, it bloomed as if in high summer, but decided instead to take the girl to the local tavern. They met Pem’Ge, the girl tending bar and requested help from her. The girl, having more sense than a group of adventurers, immediately sent for help from Tuveri and the Temple of the Raiser.
Tuveri arrived and introduced himself as the de facto leader of the village until a new elder was to be decided upon and demanded to know what had happened. A long conversation sorted out the details and assured the townsfolk present that the group was not, in fact, bandits but genuinely interested in providing help to a misfortunate individual. After about ten minutes of this, a scream was heard from outside. After pausing for a minute or two to ponder the nature, gender, age, and possible comeliness of the scream, the party rushed to the door to investigate and saw a woman being dragged away by three small figures towards the edge of town. With a thunderous challenge, the paladin, LN cleric, and dwarf fighter charged in to stop the obvious abduction. Just before they reached the scene, though, a brilliant spray of color shot out of the high grass to their flank and washed over them, to no effect.
Tam the half-elf mage made good use of a charm person spell that lured away one of the three kidnappers to him to make friends. In the next instant, four more of the figures, which the trailing thief was able to identify as gnomes, burst out of the grass and attacked the cleric and paladin with padded clubs in an attempt to take them hostage. Matters did not end well for them and they were swiftly slain by the combined forces of the party, who left them to bleed out in the dust. A moment later, all three of the melee combatants collapsed into the dust like limp rag dolls, but were swiftly kicked awake by an irate gnome thief. A quick census of the town revealed that there were a total of 5 missing persons, two children, two young wives, and an older woman, whom the party had witnessed being dragged away.
A quick search of the bodies revealed only leather armor, clubs, and short swords on the bodies. No coin or other belongings. It was apparent that wherever they had come from, it was close by for they could not have gotten far with no supplies. Though none of the party could track an elephant through a snow field if their lives depended upon it, a helpful hunter was able to point out that a few sets of tracks seemed to lead off to the north, and it looks as if they were dragging heavy things between them as they went. Before pursuing, though, the group decided that it would be a good idea to interrogate the newly friendly gnome who was, even now, enjoying drinks in the tavern while the LE cleric expounded upon the dangers of allowing too large a population of free gnomes at liberty within the village.
The young gnome, who had tagged along on this mission in the first place for a bit of excitement, was resistant to provide information to the paladin, who after all was not his friend like the mage was, was persuaded by intimation of imminent violence upon his person to reveal that the gnomes of clan Barleton had been chasing a villain named Ver’Kusi, previously known as Ovini, to this town for over 40 years after the man had stolen the entirety of the gnomish treasury and made off with it in the night. The leader of the group sent to extradite the thief and return him to justice, Barston, felt that it was important that, being short, the gnomes negotiate from a position of strength and so set about kidnapping a group of hostages to use as leverage against the village. Originally, the intent was to take 6 captives, but that had not worked out properly, and . . . oh, it’s too bad you let my friend bleed to death in the dirt . . .

A few more threats of horrific violence and a vow of non-violence except in self defense later and the party was led directly to the gnome camp which was north of the road a few miles east in order to conduct negotiations for the safe return of all the hostages. Tempers frayed, shouting matches were engaged in, and threats of violence were made, but in the end, the gnomes managed to delivery their demands (1. The return of Ver’Kusi to their custody for justice, 2. The return of the treasury) and vowed, in return, that the hostages would be kept safe and whole.

The party returned to the village to deliver the demands, and had decided, though they despised the gnomes’ methods, that this man should indeed be brought to justice. They were surprised to learn that Ver’Kusi had been dead for six full months now. In a bit of desperation, they searched the deceased’s house, but found it, despite being a nice home, having no secret compartments with hoards of valuables stashed in the walls, but did learn from somebody that Ver’Kusi had had a friend named Dak’Wi, who lived nearby . . .