Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Beyond the Westwall: Session 1 (5/29/13)

Well, I made my return to the GM's chair as of last Wednesday night (5/29/13), and it felt damn good! I'm running a new campaign using Labyrinth Lord (augmented by some house rules). As for the world which my players are exploring, I'm using a combination of Rob Conley's Points of Light and Blackmarsh settings.

Our story begins in the hamlet of Westguard, which lies to the west of the Grand Kingdom. Indeed, the hamlet is currently the only outpost of said kingdom in the frontier beyond the Westwall mountain range (and thus the name of the campaign). Scattered across the landscape are the ruins of a much older civilization called the Bright Empire, which fell centuries ago.

It is deep winter, and the region has been under a heavy pall of clouds for weeks. During that time, snow has fallen almost continuously. Thus, Westguard has struggled to keep its lanes free of mountainous snow drifts, and the locals find it difficult to move about the town without great difficulty.

The first session opened with our intrepid party of adventurers (seemingly) safe and warm in (where else?) the common room of an inn called The Wailing Banshee (very original, no?). The PCs include a female thief named Vela (Pam), a female elf named Umitsu (Mark), a male halfling named Bogo (Bill), and a male fighter named Gerard (Josh).

The thief proceeded to case the crowd in the common room and cut the purse from a drunken sailor as he caroused with his fellow seamen. Bogo distracted the sailors with some halfling drinking songs to make Vela's work easier. The elf amused herself by putting rats to sleep in the common room. Gerard was fixing for a good brawl.

Umitsu decided to ask the lascivious proprietor, Tanner, if he needed any help with his rat problem. After leering at the elf and getting slapped on the head for his trouble by his wife Cecilia, he agreed to pay the elf a small sum if she could clear out his cellar. Umitsu agreed, but when the proprietor continued to leer at her, she slapped him hard enough to knock him out. The wife, Cecilia (who, rumor has it, was the inspiration for the inn's name), applauded the elf's actions and bade Umitsu continue on her assignment to clear the rats in the cellar. Umitsu took Gerard with her, in order to keep him out of trouble if nothing else. This all occurred while the thief and halfling were robbing the sailors.

The halfling, Bogo, also took it upon himself to listen in on conversations. In this way, the group heard rumors of a dungeon built by the decadent Bright Empire centuries before. It's said that the dungeon was used by the ancient emperors to torture enemies of the state for entertainment, and is supposed to be filled with all manner of deadly traps...and perhaps riches. Bogo also learned of a recent rash of disappearances among the townsfolk. Four people have gone missing, with one elderly woman returning as suddenly as she had disappeared. The woman has been in a coma since her return, with no one able to wake her (not even the priests of the town's temple to Phaeton, the god worshipped in the Grand Kingdom).

In the cellar, Umitsu found a good many rats and put them to sleep...but then noticed that one back wall of the cellar was pulsing. Gerard lit a torch and, to their horror, they saw that a ten-foot-square section of the cellar wall was covered with some sort of yellow-green slime. When Gerard tried to take a closer look, a pseudopod lashed out from the wall and slapped against his armor.

It was then that Vela and Bogo went down into the cellar to check on their allies. Reunited, the group decided to do something about the wall-clinging slime. In short order, they managed to melt away sections of the slime with a torch, but not before the slime split into two halves: one of which slipped behind a rack of ale casks, and one of which sucked itself into a crack in the wall. Upon inspection, the group felt air flowing through said crack, and decided to break through the wall.

Before they could finish, however, two town guards came down into the cellar, looking to arrest Umitsu. They had been called by one of Tanner's daughters, who happens to be a barmaid at the Wailing Banshee. The party told the guards about the slime, and when one of the guards poked a sword between some ale casks, a pseudopod lashed out at him. The guards were spooked and ran off to obtain the help of a magic-user on the town's payroll.

The party broke through the cellar wall and found a tunnel, but no sign of the slime. They moved down the length of the tunnel and came to a circular chamber. In the walls of the chamber were carved niches, each of which held a human skeleton dressed in decaying rags that once might have been fine robes. The floor was covered with a mosaic depicting the face of Phaeton, surrounded by the faces of other ancient gods including Sarrath, who the ancients believed ruled over the underworld (Phaeton eventually became the primary human god, with the other gods become "angels" or, in Sarrath's case, the equivalent of the Christian Devil).

Closer inspection of the mosaic found that one of Phaeton's gemstone eyes was actually a sort of button. When pressed, the circular section of the floor depicting Phaeton's face dropped a few feet into the floor. This revealed a small hole in which rested a tiny ornate chest. Inside the chest was a strange cylinder similar to a scroll case. This case, however, seemed to be protected by a combination lock of sorts: along the length of the case were seven dials with seven symbols each (the symbols being letters from the language of the Bright Empire).

As the group was inspecting the strange cylinder, they heard a grinding of stone. To their shock, they saw one of the skeletons was rocking in its niche. This, they discovered, was due to the rear section of the niche being pushed inward. They could also hear guttural voices that, as Umitsu discerned, were speaking the language of goblins and orcs.

As the party began to leave hastily from the chamber, the elf watched as the stone at the rear of the niche fell into the burial chamber, revealing the forms of five orcs fighting over who would enter the chamber first. They spoke of an orc named Orog, presumably a chieftain of their tribe, and how something in the chamber had been "calling" to him and driving him mad. Orog had received visions of the chamber's location, and the orcs had somehow tunneled to it, despite the frozen ground.

As the majority of the party drew near the cellar, they noticed a disturbing sight: the yellow-green slime had stretched itself across the opening in the tunnel. It seemed they were now caught between the slime and some angry orcs...

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