Monday, 23 May 2011

Divine Intention: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Gods - Part 2

Chapter 2
Out of the Frying Pan

“The holy fire of Memmnon city was one of the great disasters to the nation of Varassia prior to its time of turmoil. How the fire came about few people know, though many theorize that it was an act of sabotage or arson by the thieves guild against one of their supposed enemies. What few people were told however, is that the investigation shortly after discovered that the fire itself had a magical origin. This was of great concern to the city officials, who had kept the nation free of the blasphemous magic for decades. Ironic then, that it was the cities inexperience of magic that prevented them from combating it with any great effectiveness.”
- John Barlywood – Conspiracy and War in the North

Damon's player couldn't make this session so we had his character take the long way round to meet us next time. Starting off, our characters are summoned by the head mage of Farrel and offered a job to steal a holy book from the vault of a rival city, Memmnon, in the anti-magical nation of Varassia. Arriving in the city, our characters poke around a bit till they are contacted by members of the local thieves guild who have an offer of mutual gain. Also rearing her head however, is Trust, the DM's original character, who has ambitions of her own.

“Taking what she had learned from her earlier adventures, Trust had worked up the ranks of the Varassian thieves guild astoundingly quickly. The top position was tantalizingly out of her reach though, as the magic fearing Varassians dared not consider leadership by a planes touched tiefling. It was providence then, it seemed, that sent Carnack Cousland to her, seeking favor to enter the Varassian vault. A seemingly unsolvable situation, coupled with a man with no morals, could tip the balance of the Varassian underworld in her favor.”
Ezio de Sirenze – Here We Stand: The Teifling Peoples Road to Acceptance

So, Trust offers our group a different option: Assassinate the leader of the thieves guild. The DM had set this up so that, upon investigation we would find that there was tension between the guild leader and his house servant, allowing our characters to redirect suspicion. This didn't work too well though, as for the first of many times Carnack and Lerissa agreed that a house fire gone out of control would work much better.
The DM made sure this wasn't without consequence however. The group get spotted, to which Carnack jumps on Lerissa's back as she teleports away, landing them in a noble's garden. As the fire rages, it takes a quarter of the city with it. Killing thousands, ruining trusts plans, and leaving the city on alert from suspicious foreigners. Only Trust and Megi were bothered by this , mirroring the DM's disdain for us bypassing his setup, Lerissa was as indifferent as her players predecessor character Azreal. Carnack himself doesn't care how many die as long as it gets the job done.

“The cleric known only as Tom, from parts unknown, was a gentle soul. He had not a bad bone in his body, and was willing to do what it would take to set right the world's wrongs. In his travels, he had heard the legends of the sleepers, and saw a way to use these legends to re-shape the injustices of our world”
Denton Romulus - Bound for Glory: Those who dared to change the Realms

Busting into the vault was easy money, nabbing Carnack a Helmet of True Sight and the others a few other magical items. Things were soon to go downhill though, as the aforementioned magical tome was nabbed by an enigmatic and seemingly indestructible cleric called Tom. This put the group in an uncomfortable position, leaving us to pander to the cleric to try and obtain the tome.

Chapter 3
That Old Corker about Stepping into my Parlor

“The drider infestation of northern Varassia is not nearly as old as people think. The nations ancient stories of horrific monsters stealing people away at night are often attributed to actual encounters with the driders, but this actually comes from good old fashioned Varassian paranoia.. The driders arrival in the region only occurred not fifteen years ago.
Running out of resources in what was the great mines of Lolth's providence, many groups splintered from the Drow empire in search of carving out their own fortune. The crust under Varassia was a natural target, since the nations aversion to magic meant that is was practically untapped for resources that would have normally been taken for rituals. Digging their way north, the drow failed to anticipate that they would garner the attention of the driders, and upon arrival were set upon. Without the protection from the empire, it was the Drider Queen who exerted command over this new settlement, but her ambitions would soon lead her beyond the cavernous depths.”
- Gabriella Burke – Mapping the Realms Underdark

Damon rejoins us this session, oblivious to the chaos that Carnack had unleashed on the unsuspecting city dwellers. Taking shelter at a convenient inn, the group is then faced by a bunch of mysterious cultists, who take a particular interest in the cleric Tom. Carnack and Damon play dumb, but this backfires when the cultists decide to take the others hostage. Carnack and Damon continue to play dumb, and the others are taken away. Begrudgingly, the two decide a rescue is in order, as Tom still has the items they require.
Damon and Carnack track the cultists to a nearby village, and discover a secret hide out under a temple. Much to the surprise of the priest. Unfortunately, only Megi and Lerissa are within, and Tom has mysteriously vanished. Great. Ancient stone murals direct the group to the mountains in the north, which they head to, being their only lead at the moment.
When they get to the mountains they discover them to be inhabited by the spider-like Driders. Carnack surmises that they might be reasonable and for once takes the diplomatic option. They are not reasonable, and the group suffers another tough beat down before finally overcoming them.

It's about this point that my comic Nobody's Heroes takes place.

Chapter 4
Running on Empty

“Our Goal – To never allow the tyranny of divinity and magic sully this nation again. To never allow those to posses the power of Gods. To never allow the breaking of the ancient codes. The sleepers must not awaken. To this we will give our lives, and take the lives of others if necessary. We choose to discard our morality to this end. Choose the possibility of damnation. Choose to make choices that others would not make. For the good of our country. The sleepers must not awaken.
- Creed of the Cult

After battling through the caves against driders and a particularly nasty Beholder, the Drider Queen decides to give our characters the grace of an audience. She happens to know where Tom may be heading, and offers part of the solution in return for raiding a nearby village for slaves. Normally not fazed by such actions, Carnack does reason that potentially an escaped slave could make the entire group a target for the authorities, but on the other hand the usually pious Damon has no problem with this plan. They agree temporarily, then decide they may have a better option.
Heading north they investigate the spreading plague of werewolves. In what ultimately turns into a confused muddle, Damon and Carnack contract the curse, but find that Tom has been somewhere near and conveyed the cure to the locals. Along the way they discover that the cult has been spreading out and streaking its muscles. In turn, so have returning conspirators the Black Hand.
It gets worse, they then find a mystical grove, shielded against all but Carnack, who's atheism is not affected by it. In the grove an ancient tomb houses two mysterious angels and an empty container that appears to have been tampered with. By Tom. With recent lycanthropy resolved, Megi, the only character that seems to have been dishing out any damage in combat encounters, is then kidnapped. Great.

Chapter 5
You should have Specified

“Discredited and exposed in Wardovia, the Black Hand needed to consolidate their efforts in order to make up for the loss of their stomping ground. Varassia was a natural choice, since their rampant anti-magic paranoia was an ideal environment to manipulate. Fortuitous it was then, or so it seemed at the time, that the emergence of Revenant, a seemingly benign messiah, occurred almost immediately. For all his miraculous power, Revenant was exceedingly trusting of anyone he came into contact with, making him the perfect puppet dictator.
One small problem still remained however, the power that Revenant has obtained had come from an ancient sleeping God.. Should another individual access similar power, they would be able to rival Revenant. Fortunately for them, their newest member, former Head of the Farrelite Mages Academy, had advised them of all this. He also brought news of another issue. Invasion.
- John Barlywood – Conspiracy and War in the North

Returning to the magically restored city, our group are granted an audience with Tom. It doesn't go well. Tom is now the god-dictator of the nation, a puppet of the Black Hand and as mild mannered as usual. He doesn't take well to intimidation either, and throws Carnack out on his ass. Trouble finds the group wherever they go, and Damon's player decides its all too much and voluntarily dies. I'm having none of this silliness though, and Carnack passes a skill check to pull Damon back out of the afterlife.
As it turns out Farrel have decided to be a bit ambitious and take advantage of the chaos by invading. The group have a word with their original quest giver, who it turns out has the book, won't pay them and is now working for the Black Hand. Bugger. With no other option then, the group offers its services to the invading forces, who help them out a bit in locating Megi. Heading back to the secret hideout under the temple. Carnack and Lerissa do a spot of torture. Carnack's choice of putting one poor individual out of his misery involves him sticking his thumbs through his eye sockets into his brain. Horrible, but damn it was fitting for the character.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Divine Intention: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Gods - Part 1

“The period of malcontent is often cited to have begun with the resolution of the Wandering War, or in some circles a direct consequence of the events of the Wardovia Job. Undeniably the first true acts of the period of malcontent are the events that took place in Varassia during this time. The kingdoms east of the Wardovia/Andavia channel had long existed in a steady peace, surviving with their strange and radical customs. The island nation of Farrel however had grown ambitious over time, and decided that now was the moment to expand its sphere of influence.
Mercenaries coming in from the east would often find interesting work there. Work that was not in the strictest sense, diplomatically sound.”
- John Barlywood – Conspiracy and War in the North


Clunk. The group rotates once again to change roles, moving me back to a player character and a new DM stepping in. I must admit that I'd enjoyed my period as DM, so it was a bit odd going back to a situation so out of my hands. The character of Carnack had really grown on me and its not often I play evil characters, so statting him up to a Fighter/Wizard, he set sail to the island nation of Farrel. Unbeknown to him however, plucky cleric Damon was also on his way there, and the two end up reluctantly teaming up. Finally joining them are two new characters, Azreal had been swapped out for tiefling warlock Lerissa and the DM had his own guest PC, Half-Elf Wizard Megi.

“After his rather enigmatic actions during the Wardovia Job, Carnack Cousland headed east, via sea, following the route engraved on the back of the shield of Bahamut he spirited from the Wardovian relicry. To what this route was leading to, is still a point of contention, as is whether or not Cousland knew what was awaiting him. All we can speculate is that he knew to some degree that arcane powers would somehow be involved.”
- Roma Drangasti – Beyond the Wandering War

So, Carnack returns as a full blown character this time round. I wanted him to essentially be a bruiser with a few tricks up his sleeve, so I multi-classed him with some wizard powers, and this worked out quite well. Character wise, Carnack got several moments to capitalize on his self serving nature, and his reputation of being somewhat like a walking atomic bomb sometimes was backed up in one particular occurrence. More on that later though.

“And so our hero headed east, knowing not what adventure and peril would await him. Damon had defeated the dread Black Hand and the vile conspirators in Wardovia. What other evils would he banish in the name of Ioun? Standing aboard the rocking ship, striding over the waves, Damon stroked his beard in contemplation, thinking back to his days as a ship hand. Had this proud man of faith known the chaos that was to come, he may well have returned to this simple lifestyle. Free from the burden of responsibility. Life, however, rarely allows such simple choices.”
- 'Tripshot' Murphy - Anthem: The Adventures of Damon Volume 2

Cleric of Ioun Damon returns also, ready to overkill with white searing light all over again. As you will see later, Damon worked as a brilliant foil for Carnack, often seeking the diplomatic (though not always ethically sound) solution over the violent. The two would bang heads on several occasions and infighting between them was rife, this however, just made the campaign all the more interesting.

“Like many young Farrelite women of her age, Megi had been inducted into the Arcane academy to be trained in the mystical arts and eventually rise to a position within the island's government. Megi was as ambitious as her calling suggested, and when her graduation grew close, sought after a far reaching assignment for her final initiation. It was this assignment that she was paired together with the warlock Lerissa and two mercenaries from west of the continent. It is unknown how much of what was to transpire was part of Megi's schemes, blind luck, or a combination of the two.”
- Crispin Lennon – I Don't Want to Spoil the Party: Famous Farrelites

Guest character from the DM, Megi was an enigmatic half-elf that the DM had acting constantly suspicious. How much of what she was up to within the plot we still don't know, but she was often used as a driving force to keep the group moving along when we ran out of ideas, which happened quite frequently. Not a lot of her character was brought out due to the DM constantly juggling between her and the game, however she did seem to favor Damon over Carnack, possibly due to her and Carnack both being equals in ambition.

“Nothing much was expected of Lerissa. While demon blood was not looked down on in Farrel in the way it was in the western kingdoms, her rather comical feline features had few people taking her seriously. As most tieflings drew demonic features from whatever demon sired their bloodline, Lerissa had her features drew from some of the less aggressive forms of demon that drifted on the edge of the nine hells, leaving her with feline ears and tail.
Like most young Farrelites of an arcane nature, Lerissa was inducted into the academy to train as a warlock and later inherit a position of government. Lerissa wasn't really interested in politics, had no particular love for her profession or homeland and longed for escape. When her final initiation came calling, an opportunity finally presented itself.”
Ezio de Sirenze – Here We Stand: The Teifling Peoples Road to Acceptance

Cat girl Lerissa was the final member of our fab four. Her player, a pretty big fan of anime, wanted to feature a catgirl as his next character. Initially I was a bit skeptical, but we allowed it by invoking the original explanation of Tieflings having different demonic features depending on what demon they descended from and how strong the bloodline. I have to say Lerissa really grew on both me and, weirdly enough, Carnack too, and somehow a catgirl wandering around out psudo-medieval inspired land worked just fine.

Chapter 1
To the Manor Born

“First of the modern mageocracies, the small island nation of Farrel was never seen as much of a prominent force in the realms. After all it was practically just one city on a small island without even much fertile farmland or room for expansion. However, the populace had gradually built themselves a prominent trade empire, and was seen by many as an accessible trade associate. Safe ground in seas swarming with pirate brigands such as the notorious Clodhopper”
- Deltiod Brennan – The Early Realms Renaissance

And so our campaign kicks off . Carnack and Damon both run into each other by the docks and begrudgingly decide to stick together, which would be the beginning of a not very peaceful partnership. The two wander the city looking for information and checking out shops for magical items. Differing from my way of doing things, our new DM was a lot more sparing of environments, and I confess found it a bit difficult to navigate the city without a more detailed map.

Not that this mattered too much, this campaign was in many ways a lot more focused than mine was, so exploration wasn't exactly on top priority. Carrying on, Carnack insists on heading to the library to find out as much information as he can about the island, but finds it hiding many possible deadly secrets. As the campaign went along, we never found out what these deadly secrets were. Oh well.

“After Farrel's legendary uprising of days gone by, much knowledge of the previous regime was lost... or destroyed. Very little is known of life on Farrel prior to the uprising, even down to bare details like whether it had previously been a mageocracy or the mages had only come to power afterwards. What is known however is that after the uprising the island was, and still is, scattered with artifacts of arcane power left over from previous ages. It is therefore common practice in Farrel to find mercenaries hired to locate such artifacts in the darker corners of the city.”
- Deltiod Brennan – The Early Realms Renaissance

It isn't long before the two fellas find adventure. Carnack and Damon find themselves hired by a wealthy noble to locate an artifact in a derelict and monster infested manor home. The catch however, is they have to take two magic apprentices with them, peeving Carnack off even more. So that introduced Megi and Lerissa. Heading to the manor house, our DM decided that since we were of a higher lever now, it'd be a good idea to level up the monsters as a matter of course. This led to us getting an almighty beat down from the first group of humble kobolts we ran into.
The rest of the session continued in similar fashion. Lerissa had to fight through a trap of whirling blades till she was on her last legs, and Megi would constantly go around acting like she knew more than the rest of us (given the fact that she was the DM's character, this isn't exactly unexpected). Finally the game finishes with a battle with a cave troll, whose miniature unfortunately ended up getting decapitated just like its counterpart in game.