Very cool. It reads kind of like a game manual for an RTS, but has tons of detail, and is a cool concept in and of itself. I like this whole mercenary theme a lot of people have been going on lately, and this is a great post. No other word to describe these guys except "cool". Go to Comment
"The bishop asks the party to take the relic to a gaurdhouse. Why? Why a guardhouse? Why not the temple of their religion?"
The Bishop asks them to take the relic to the "Tower guard AT the high house of Baran". This is the high temple of the order. From the guardhouse they are escorted to the curators and leaders of the religion.
"The bishops asks the party to do this. Why? Are they aprt of the church?"
Yes, they are - "Seeing the horns of Baran upon the shields of the clerics..." The Bishop (A Bishop of Baran) sees the emblem of Baran upon one or more of the shields of the clerics, and then makes them swear a binding oath that they are who he thinks they are, and that they will not do any harm to the relic.
The answers to your questions were all in the submission, but it's rather long, and I can see how you might have missed them. Go to Comment
En route to the city, while traveling on a backroad, the party is ambushed by some lightly armored trackers. Although they might manage to kill a horse or two, and wound members of the party, they should be fairly easy to kill.
However, after the party has finished licking their wounds, they find to their dismay that they had killed their own men, hands of Baran under false orders. Searching the bodies will reveal a note from a "Bishop Artemi", instructing the trackers to retrieve a stolen relic from a party of false clerics, whose description matches closely that of your own party.
Now what? There is no way to find out how far this treachery goes. Whether Artemi himself was behind this, or if he was simply a pawn being pulled along by a higher power is unknown. The obvious choice would be to continue to Barynthor, and explain the events to the high hand himself. A simple solution, if it were not for the fact that the next town they rest in is home to Bishop Artemi himself.
Should the party choose not to investigate, for any reason, skip past this next paragraph.
Upon confronting Artemi, he will plead innocence of conspiracy. He does admit to signing the note, but insists that he recieved word from a traveling ranger, and gave the orders to the trackers to be on the lookout for any such occurances. He does not sound very convincing. The band now has a choice - execute Artemi for crimes against the House, trust him and let the matter rest, or bring him along to the House to settle matters there. If he is executed, move right on to the next paragraph. If they choose to let matters rest, the quest will end when they transport the relic to the High House, who will send out men to investigate Bishop Artemi. However, if they choose to bring him along, Artemi will wait until the character's backs are turned, and attempt to assassinate them. Being a feeble old man, not in any way a fighter, his attempt will fail horribly, and he will end up drinking Elderthorn juice, committing suicide before the clerics can end up subduing him. If this occurs, skip to the last paragraph.
So - if the characters chose not to investigate, or to execute the Bishop, a few days later, they will come across a party of armored characters carrying a heavily bound chest, matching the description Artemi gave in the note. Oops. Turns out the old man was right, and it was the trackers who made an honest mistake. If the characters manage to kill the group, or at least recover the relic, then with a good amount of pleading, they can convince the High House that they made an honest mistake with Artemi, and that two relics outweighs a dead Bishop. However, should the group get away... How will this look? The characters have killed a Bishop of the House, and allowed a relic to escape. Looks like it's time for the holy fires. If after a long time the characters still cannot catch the group, the relic will appear weeks later in an exotic market marked as a rare alchemical ingredient. If the PCs have the gold to purchase it or the skills to steal it, they're back on track. If they still can't get their hands on that relic, then suffice to say they'll get a few visits from swords of the House, but nothing that won't end after a few months.
Finally, back to the last choice. There are obviously dark forces at work here. Someone is pulling strings in the House, weakening it by turning it against itself. It is now time to introduce Plot #2 - The Relic is Fake Go to Comment
Note - If you arrived here from plot #1, after reading the first paragraph, move on to the seventh paragraph.
Unbeknownst to the party, the relic is actually a skilled forgery, created by agents of a rival House, planted in the cellars of the House of Baran in Sarente, and "uncovered" in an arson. Agents placed in the Parish of Bishop Sevir were enought to convince him of his authenticity, and as soon as the party left to transport it, notes were sent to Bishop Artemis to send rangers to attack the party. Why? To create controversy while weakening the ranks and morale of House Baran. For members to find out that some of its best clerics (the characters) have not only been killed, but killed as traitors, would be a great blow to the House.
Many things could happen in this case. If one of the party discovers it's a fake, the characters could travel back to Sarente and confront Bishop Sevir. He would of course claim innnocence, and would sound sincere enough. If pressed hard enough, he could point to three members of his temple that he feels have been acting odd of late. Two are simply in love with each other, and have been hiding their affair from the temple - these would be the first two the characters encounter. If they choose to press further, the third man will flee from them upon questioning. Should they capture him, he would not talk for anything short of torture. If the PCs are willing to torture, he will reveal that agents of the House of Zultoch, a house of the Fallen Ones, was behind it. He will not reveal who lead it, or the location of the House or its members, but he does scream out the name "Artemi". Should the PCs either not find the man, not catch him when he runs, or not resort to torture, if they go back to Bishop Sevir, he will admit that he believes agents of Zultoch are behind it, and that he suspects a nearby Bishop Artemi, but has no proof. In this case, as well as the one of torture, skip ahead to paragraph four.
If the characters do not discover it is a fake, the curators of the High House of Baran sure will, and the PCs will be under some hard questioning when they deliver it. They will be sent back to Sarente to question Sevir, after which they will go through the same steps as they would had they turned back, albeit with a lead to the house of Zultoch as a head start.
In both cases, they should have a lead to Artemi. When they come to his town, he will also deny conspiracy or treachery, but will sound unconvincing. He will not reveal anything to the characters unless they choose to torture him, but should they make that decision, the daughter of Artemi will enter from the back door of the temple and run to him. The characters are now presented with a dilemma. Do they take a man from his daughter and torture him to death, though they are of a House of Light, or do they have mercy upon him, perhaps allowing a traitor to go free?
If they choose to have mercy on him, skip to the next paragraph. If they choose to take him, then after much torture, he will reveal the location of an underground meeting house of Zultoch, seconds before he wilts and dies. He states that to enter, one only has to lift the king. Should the characters then question townspeople about the fate of his daughter, they will be met with puzzled looks. It appears that Artemi never had a daughter. It seems the Lord of Madness can reach deeper into the minds of the good than many would think. The characters can now move on to the House of Zultoch, so skip ahead to the third scroll.
If the characters choose to have mercy on Artemi, he will wait until their backs are turned, and attempt to assassinate them. Being a feeble old man, not in any way a fighter, his attempt will fail horribly, and he will end up drinking Elderthorn juice, committing suicide before the clerics can end up subduing him (same as in Plot #1). The characters will also notice the daughter has somehow disappeared in the scuffle. Or did she even exist?
With Artemi gone, the only lead they have is found in his cloak pocket, a scrap of paper with the word "Seven Broken Tails" on it. Asking townsfolk about it will have no response, although some might find the name familiar, and mention that to the characters. If they ask around long enough, a poor vagrant from the streets will approach them. He mutters incoherently, but in between his ramblings, the words "Follow us" and "Broken Sevens" will appear again and again. Should the characters choose to follow him, he will give the following monolouge -
"Seven tails and broken three. Over up and down the third. Lift a king, map and see. Overlook the rock of tails. See tails and broken three. King in three and king in third. Mother of tails sees He the King."
The only lead the characters have is to visit the local mapmmaker, who will give them a map of the surrounding lands. What would stand out is seven small creeks running around the town in a fan formation. The three on the right are all curved at richt angles, and all creeks join together as one many miles down. A ledge overlooks the creeks, and a hill stands to the right of the last creek. Should they travel to the ledge, they will see the three "broken rivers" and the hill to the right of the third. If they travel near the hill, they will notice a pile of stones, one with a rough, worn and barely visible carving of the emblem of the lord of madness. This is the King of Mad Men, and by lifting him, one enters the cavern of the House of Zultoch. If the characters tortured Artemi, they will already have the location, and will only have to puzzle out what "lifing the king" means to enter. Go to Comment
The caverns of Zultoch are a frightening maze of dripping tunnels and strangely lit caverns, adorned with gruesome "decorations" (mutilated faces stretched over wood frames, fingers nailed to walls, dark writings carved into human flesh, etc.) and maddening patterns of stone carvings. Flickering candles create deep shadows, and echoes abound down the stone halls in disorienting patterns. The caverns are strangely deserted, although it seems as if activity has been recent. After several hours, they will stumble across a tattered, blood-stained map of the tunnels, left by a previous explorer. Little do they know that this map was made by the mad vagrant, before the agents of Zultoch broke his mind. Using the map will lead them out of the maze and into a much more organized yet still quite "decorated" area.
After a few minutes of silence, they will find themselves explosively ambushed by men of Zultoch. They are magi and clerics, clothed in tattered robes of red and black, and wearing grotesque masks. They will appear out of side tunnels and strike quickly, only to disappear just as quickly, leaving only echoes and shadows behind. They work spells that addle the mind and confuse the senses, inciting fear and panic. Characters may find themselves struggling to hold onto their own minds, and will often imagine creatures in the shadows out of the corners of their eyes. It is less a trial of combat skill than it is of mental fortitude. If they can manage to survive the caverns without breaking, they will eventually be led to the central hall, a medium-sized cavern of wet hewn stone, where they will find pages of manuals, notes, plans and messages from the house of Zultoch. A door can be seen near the far end of the cavern, and daylight can be seen peeking through its cracks. At the same time, the characters hear the scrabbling of feet and swishing of robes behind them, as the men of Zultoch approach.
If the characters flee, they can escape out of the door and block it easily enough from the outside. Should they choose to stay and fight, they will be able to physically hold the door, but will have to realize that they cannot witstand the onslaught of mind-altering spells for much longer, and will have to flee.
In either case, they can then return to the High House of Baran with their stolen information, and recieve a hearty reward in rank. House Baran will then send several legions into the area to purge the caverns, unless the characters want to go back in and get revenge, albeit with thirty soldiers at their backs.
Still, rank and respect is fine, but it doesn't cut down enemies. As a reward, the characters can choose from the following items, or all of them, if there are a lot of characters in the group -
Orb of Baran's Mind-Stealer - A deep blue orb, as big around as a man's hand, and swirling with white star-light. When held tightly and squeezed, it effectively shields one's mind from the surroundings, while still allowing one to control the body. One cannot hear, but can see perfectly, and feels although one is floating. One cannot feel fear, nervousness, or any emotions at the time; instead, one thinks in a straight line, thinking only of what one needs to do, and how to do it. Any spells altering the mind or consciousness do not affect one. The effect lasts for however long the DM wants it to.
Gem of Mindblight - A milky white stone, carved into a faceted gem shape. When grasped and pointed towards something, it flares into white radience, illuminating all surroundings to the user and causing all illusions to vanish. The invisible will become visible, and anything that does not exist will cease to appear. Anyone not using the gem will see no difference in his or her surroundings.
Shieldstone of Avantar - This is a round, steel cap resembling the central caps of shields. It can be affixed to wooden and metal shields with some metalsmithing. Inside the cap is a round, magically charged disk of an unknown metal. When the shield is held, any magical effects that would alter the mind or senses can be blocked, at which point they are scattered in random directions in weaker peices. These "spell-pieces" not only are weaker versions of the spell cast, but are variations as well. For instance, if someone cast a spell that would have their victim see a tentacled monsted appear before them, if they should be hit by a piece reflected by the shield, they might see a scaled rat float upon the ceiling, or a transparent unicorn - use your imagination. Just make sure no friends are standing in front of you.
Phew - that's all! Pat your characters on the back, and head down to the nearest tavern. Go to Comment
I love the hinted-at philosophies of planar summoning and elemental existance, as well as peeks at a fantasy world with organized crime and gunpowder...it was very richly written, and had a lot of authenticity to it.
On the other hand, it was a little hard to follow, and took a few reads for me to get it (perhaps because I am writing this at 1:00 in the am).
I think I'll hold off on a vote until I am able to pull my scrambled brain around and take another look at it. Go to Comment
Swords are the standard run-of-the-mill Ironbones, created in great numbers by mage circles to serve as shock troops to supplement armies of Death Walkers and Hobgoblins, and also used in packs to "clean out" small areas of resistance.
They appear as human skeletons covered in a darkly gleaming metal, usually seen roaming in packs. Their fingers end in long pointed spikes, and their mouths are filled with solid metal teeth, which can snap down hard enough to bite through bone. They usually carry longswords, rapiers, or clubs - always one-handed melee weapons. They do not wear armor, as their plating is enough, but may carry a shield of the same alloy that covers them. Although their gait is somewhat jerky and awkward, they move with surprising speed, and are exceptionally strong, which is usually a surprise to adventurers expecting them to crumble under their swords. They are not intelligent in that they cannot create or avoid traps, but are fairly skilled in fighting, and have a decent knowledge of group fighting formations, which they will use to their advantage if part of a pack. They are quite hard to destroy, even more so than normal skeletons, for even severed into several sections, snapping jaws and stabbing claws can pose a danger. Also, their metal plating seems to serve as a kind of spiritual barrier, making it even harder to free their souls and take the "life" out of them (see "On Death and Undeath" for more explanation). Go to Comment
Fists are much less common than Swords, created as the tanks of the ranks of Ironbones.
Standing over seven feet tall due to magical enlargement, their plating is much heavier and thicker than that of the swords. They lack the sharp claws and teeth of their lesser counterparts in favor of heavily plated club-like knuckles and almost an inch of plating on their foreheads. They never carry shields, instead wielding massive two-handed hammers, clubs, staves or axes, any weapon that does not require finesse to deal a brutal blow. They often supplement groups of Swords, rushing headfirst into battle to scatter and immediately weaken the enemy. They are immensely strong, and have relatively the same intelligence as Swords, albeit a little less strategically intelligence. They fight mercilessly, dealing swift and powerful blows left and right in a frenzy. If they should lose their weapons, they will use their massive fists and pound opponents into oblivion, and can crumple an enemy's helmet with a well-placed head butt. However, they pose much less of a danger when dismantled. Go to Comment
Claws are the assassins and rangers of the Ironbones, lithe and agile creatures used as scouts by the Armies of Night.
At first glance, a Claw may appear quite similar to a sword - it is the same size, and has the same metallic plating. However, even if one cannot see it quite clearly, there is definitely something different. It moves with a slinking gait, much smoother than the jerking shuffle of a Sword, and no scraping sound can be heard as it creeps along. If one survives long enough to see it in full, the difference becomes immediately apparent. Instead of a sword and shield, a Claw has its hands, with fingers ending in claws almost eight inches in length, retractable, and as sharp and deadly as ten daggers. Its mouth is crowned by wickedly sharp teeth, with two prominent fangs reaching down past the chin. On its back it carries a bow and quiver, and moves with an uncanny intelligence for a dead of its kind. Claws were used as scouts and rangers, to infiltrate cities, using their claws to climb over walls, or to pick of enemies in secrecy from afar with the bow. They are much quicker and agile than their counterparts, and their limbs do not scrape against each other due to a special lubrication and polishing treatment in their creation. They fight in bursts, leaping off walls to attack with their claws, then running off to loose arrows from the shadows. They have an almost living intelligence, and can sense traps, assess tactical situations, and use the area to their advantage. While they are much more elusive than their heavier counterparts, the lubrication procedure also makes them slightly easier to dismantle. However, this is balanced by the fact that their natural weapons (the claws on their hands and feet and their teeth) are still quite dangerous alone. Go to Comment
Hoods are the rarest of the Ironbones, created for the sole purpose of eradicating magi of the light.
Many seasoned adventures, though they have faced many Iron denizens in their lifetimes, have never come across a Hood. They are reclusive, and the rarest of the Ironbones, created by the finest of the Night's magi in limited number. They are fearsomely intelligent, even more so than Claws, and are the most dangerous of the entire ranks. At first glance, they can immediately be distinguished from their "lower" brothers. Firstly, they are clad in a dark hooded robe, inscribed with the runes and insignia of the Night. And unlike their fighting brothers, the metal plating a Hood is not the same dark steel, but a lighter, silvery metal that glows faintly. But perhaps the most frightening difference is that, where Swords, Fists and Claws have only gaping sockets, a Hood has twin gems inset where eyes once rested, that sparkle with a dark inner light. The most astonishing aspect of these creatures is that they were imbued with enough intelligence and power to cast elemental spells, and powerful ones at that. The gems in their skulls hold vast reserves of the power, and Hoods are quite adept at using spells skillfully and effectively. Since their sole purpose was to combat the mage-warriors of the army of light, many their spells are geared towards weakening and disabling spellcasters. And as if that were not enough, their alternate metal plating has an added advantage - it serves to dispel and reflect a portion of all spells cast at it. However, while it can still enter into melee combat fairly effectively, it is much weaker than Swords or even Claws, and its magically resistant plating is much weaker against swords than the dark steel of its brothers. For this reason, if a Hood senses the battle is not in its favor, it will cast spells of shadow or illusion, and flee to a safer area. Hoods realize their value to the Night, and will not waste themselves needlessly. Hoods are becoming quite sought-after by necromancers hoping to control them, but as many an unfortunate spellcaster has learned too late, their loyalty is to the Night, and to the Night only. Go to Comment
Hmmm - that's a good point about the claws and bow - never though about that! I'll make them retractable, how's that? As for the other point, the purpose of making Ironbones was not to have a low-cost, expendable warrior, but to forge up a real heavy-hitter for the armies. Go to Comment
Whew - A big thankyou to Nobody for e-mailing me the music file. Inexplicably, the link also works for me now. Great stuff! This is a first for the Citadel as well - who knows, maybe in a year or two the Citadel will have a "Music" and "Artwork" section...
Just a thought - anyways, love the music, and it really fits with the quest as well. Cool idea, and good execution! Go to Comment
Very odd. I have tried it in both firefox and IE. No settings should block it. Oh well, I don't want to take up space on what seems to be a good post. I'll comment on it again if I can find a way to hear it! Go to Comment
I like all the names except for "Flashing Spray of Red". Otherwise, I like how their names are strings of words rather than invented names. Not something I would use for my pantheon, but fits great with orcs. Go to Comment
My solution was the Rothondrim. In my world, the Rothondrim are a race of men, yet still somewhat hobbitish, being short and round. They were one of the four origonal races of the continent, which has since become filled with all manner of men from far lands, now established cultures and kingdoms of their own. During the traditional cataclysimic battle of my continent, the Rothondrim took it pretty hard.
The ones of the east were set upon by one of the blood traitors, a Fallen Magi, and most fled to the northern west. Set upon by the hounds of the fallen ones along the entire passage, they came to find the northern Rothondrim broken by plague and war. In the end, the Rothondrim race has settled into three distinct kingdoms and areas following the war.
In the east, those Rothondrim who stayed behind to defend their homes, and survived, became the men of Sul, Broken Hand, a small kingdom centered around the remains of the Rothondrim cities and built on the edges of a dark forest created upon the Dark Magi's death. They are a close-knit, deeply religios and superstitious society, mistrusting of all the outside world, especially magi. They carry the pain caused to them by the dark ones daily, and are slow to forget and forgive.
In the northern west, where the largest population of Rothondrim sat, the kingdoms of the north founded the Haven-Kingdom of Veldea, a land created for the Rothondrim and guarded by the keeps and castles and armies of the kingdoms of the north. It consists mostly of small farming villages widely spread out over fields and forests, with the occasional white-towered city crowning a hill. Origonally, it consisted of the Rothondrim who origonally lived there, along with the eastern refugees, but it has now become a peaceful haven for any who wish to live in peace and modest comfort. This is the "gem" of peace and truth of the continent, and the northern kingdoms would themselves fall to see it protected.
Lastly, the Rothondirm mostly untouched by the wars established the small trading Kingdom of Ric Arana, better known as the Midlands. While the Rothondrim of the middle north and east were being slaughtered and overtaken by the Fallen ones, those of the Midlands grew fat off of the war, trading to the northern kingdoms at great profit. Now, it is a land of wealth and decadence that grows richer by the hour, and has a decidely different culture than those of its brothers.
So, in esscense these are the "hobbits" of my world, with a lot of variation, in that they are men, and they are separated into three distinct areas. Still, Veldea is the "Shire" of the world, a peaceful kingdom of content farmers and refugees.
Hope that was a good start!
(note - Soon, I'll make a scroll of my own about these guys. I've got pages and pages, and this just reminded me that they exist.) Go to Comment
The Chinese, when attacking a castle or fort, flew kites over the city wall and used the length of string it took to get it there as a measurement to know how far they had to dig a tunnel to get under the wall.