Seekers of the Ashen Crown week 17: What lies beneath

In the pitch black of the ruined tunnel, still looking for the mirrors that would light up the moon pool, Jak tried to assuage Lestok’s curiosity by dropping a rock down one of the black puddles himself.  An oily cloud emerged from it and tried to grab him, hanging in the air after he jumped away.  This fully engaged Lestok’s attention, and he proposed tying a string to a rock and using the string as a fuse to see if they could light it on fire and dissipate it that way. All he got for his troubles was a snapped string that he sensed had been eroded by the negative, necrotic energy contained within the cloud.  Quentin’s attempt to shape water in the cloud was similarly unsuccessful, and Lestok’s thoughts turned to more exploration.  He quickly whipped up G.N.O.M.E.S. protective suits for everyone, with Kayde fussing over how ugly they were.  Back to indulging his curiosity, Lestok tried poking the cloud with a stray bone, and again, nothing happened.

Aruget took the lead as the party continued down the tunnel and into a similarly decrepit cavern.  As he entered the cavern, two red pinpoints of light emerged out of the darkness and a shadowy figure plunged its hand into Aruget as if trying to steal the very life out of him.  The rest of the party frantically tried to end it, but it kept turning intangible and twisting away in the air until Aruget managed to get his revenge, dealing a killing blow.  He and Quentin identified the creature as a wraith, the embodiment of evil and dark, and said that anyone killed by one would become undead themselves.

Jak again turned his attention to trying to help Lestok by getting a sense of where the mirror might be, but his focus turned to panic as he stepped into one of the dark, oily clouds which engulfed him, snuffing out his lantern as Aruget watched in horror.  Thanks to the G.N.O.M.E.S. suit, he was able to pull himself out, but took a lungful of the substance in the process, gaining a nasty cough and further worrying Aruget, who was certain that Jak was either dying or turning into a wraith himself.  After mischievously messing with the paladin a little, Jak was able to convince him that he was fine.

This room was in ruins.  It was full of rubble and decayed things that disintegrated under the party’s touch, though a small, half-melted pewter clasp that gave off a smoldering light caught Quentin’s attention as he turned towards more tunnels, which he sent little sparks of light down to investigate and caught a small glint off of something silvered in return.  Kayde transformed into a shadow and floated down, followed by Jak, Lestok, and Aruget, the latter of whom fell into another cloud but, like Jak, was saved by Lestok’s suit.  In this new room, Jak found a few trinkets of interest to Lestok, a bronze tiger war mask which he handed to Aruget, a locket containing a picture of a hobgoblin couple that he kept for himself, and – much to Kayde’s delight – a potion of greater healing to help soothe some of the lingering injuries that continued to plague the elf ever since being gored by the minotaur on the road.  

Returning to the original cavern, another tunnel to the east proved to be clear of the foul clouds.  Kayde, very uncomfortable at being in this dark, filthy place, scouted ahead but noticed nothing out of sorts.  As him and Aruget continued ahead, they came to a cavern ablaze in purple light – the walls were covered in veins of raw byeshk, and byeshk stalagmites and stalactites and columns stretching from floor to ceiling were everywhere.  Within the columns, the party could see goblinoid bodies trapped inside, their faces twisted in horror. Unnerved but not shaken, Aruget pointed out that they looked not like actual bodies, but like images that had been blasted into the rock.  Lestok was determined to locate the source of the horror on the goblinoid’s faces when a mob of ghosts rose out of the floor to attack!

Aruget quickly put one down, then called on his ancestor ghosts to aid him.  As they looked at him with fear on their faces, the ghosts split in two and began fighting each other.  With this unexpected help, the party was quickly able to end the fight (but not without sustaining a few minor injuries).  The two phantoms who remained looked back at Aruget, walked over to the images of themselves burnt into the stalagmites, and melded into the rock in a burst of light…and then both the phantoms and the images were gone.

Behind the Scenes

  • Question of the week: Who or what has been the greatest love in your life?
  • G.N.O.M.E.S.? I couldn’t tell you what the acronym stands for, but it’s Lestok’s environmental protection power. He flavours it as a suit made out of cardboard. You may remember it from helping him to avoid burning up in the fight in Gydd Nephret’s apartment.
  • Speaking of Lestok, he charged into battle armed with a femur. Make of that what you will.
  • The ancestor spirits coming to Aruget’s aid was thanks to the GMs very generous allowing of a specific interpretation of the “Angry Mob” adventure card. It’s not normally how that card would work…but the flavouring was so cool that he handwaved a strict interpretation of it.

Seekers of the Ashen Crown week 16: Make no bones about it!

In the caves, Yeraa led both parties through the dark to a collapsed tunnel that needed clearing.  As her people got to work on it, Quentin asked the hobgoblin spellcaster mage Marduuk if there were any creatures in the caves to worry about.  He suggested that there might be daelkyr remnants as well as dolgrim and dolgaunts, and Quentin quietly relayed this news to Jak and Kayde along with a suggestion that they keep this from Lestok to prevent the old gnome from getting hung up on theorizing.  Lestok, though he couldn’t hear this whispered exchange, was visibly hurt from being left out of the conspiring but said nothing.

After about an hour of work, the cleared tunnel turned out to lead to a large chamber with a high vaulted ceiling and a large six-sided obelisk in the center, surrounded by four obviously looted upright sarcophagi and piles of bones.  As Lestok warned the group to watch out for skull spiders, Quentin was investigating a sarcophagus when a chip of rock flew off the structure and into his eye, painfully blurring his vision.  Lestok, encountering the locked door on the chamber’s south side, attempted to open it using his fork as a lockpick, while Jak took a closer look at the obelisk and made out artwork depicting battles between hobgoblins and the daelkyr.  Meanwhile, Lestok discovered that the door had no lock on it, adding insult to injury after he’d already bent the tines of his fork in anticipation of using it as a makeshift pick.  Moving his attention to the obelisk, he could feel waves of necrotic energy coming off of it, enough to concern even an insatiably curious gnome.

Before long, Yeraa solved the puzzle of the obelisk and declared that only goblins could go through it, much to Lestok’s disappointment and in spite of his warnings of death on the other side.  The goblins placed their hands on the obelisk, Yeraa spoke a few words, and the runes flared to life with an eerie blue glow.  As she faded away, she told Aruget “watch yourselves!” as she and her party disappeared in a blinding flash of blue light.  As the party’s vision cleared, Lestok saw another burst of energy come from the obelisk and radiate through the room…causing the assorted goblin and hobgoblin skeletons strewn about the floor to reassemble themselves and stand up.  

Though the party was outnumbered, the odds were in their favour.  Kayde popped the head right off of one of the smaller skeletons with a twist of his knife, while Lestok busted out his “fun in a can” on the largest group he could see.  Just on the edge of that larger fray, Jak was quickly surrounded, but held his own, not taking them out but avoiding their blows.  Aruget blinded another group of skeletons with Dol Arrah’s light as Jak fought off another assault and moved back to back with the paladin, while Lestok joined the huddle and quickly swiped a brush of his G.I.N.S.U. cutting oil across Aruget’s axe.  Jak finally got a good hit in and sent one of the larger skeletons flying across the floor in pieces, while Quentin unleashed his lightning and fried another group inside of their armour.  As more skeletons flailed in Lestok’s G.R.O.S.S., Aruget quickly dismantled two with one blow as the rest of the party made quick work of what remained. 

The khyber shard Yeraa had given Aruget flared to life, with the dirgesinger checking in to make sure everyone was alright.  Meanwhile, Quentin approached the obelisk to try to uncover its secrets, and got a burst of insight from a book he’d read at the Morgrave library before leaving Sharn, which confirmed Lestok’s hypothesis about necrotic energy.  On the south side of the room, the previously locked door opened at Kayde’s touch and revealed another, pitch-black chamber with lots of rubble on the floor, more inert skeletons, and its floor and walls stained black as if by fire.  Kayde could make out that several patches of black on the wall were rippling like water, and he threw a rock into the room to test it before entering.  He heard it bounce, stop, bounce again, and faintly ping as if it had fallen down something deep.  Jak asked Yeraa to confirm that they were going the right way, and she said that this cavern was indeed their path.  Quentin dug deep into his memory and recalled a story from his time in Darguun, about how underneath one of the Six Kings there is a moon pool, which is lit by moonlight refracted through a series of mirrors, along with rumours of numerous Dakhaani emperor’s tombs beneath.  Lestok, his curiosity raging, was determined to investigate the “water” walls, but Jak feared for his safety and put a firm hand on the old gnome’s shoulder that he couldn’t break free from.  Quentin reiterated that he was pretty sure the necrotic energy in this room came from something on the other side of the obelisk, and Lestok’s attention returned to it…

Behind the Scenes

  • Question of the week: What grudges or grievances do you hold from the Last War?
  • Quentin overcame a -6 penalty to learn that lore about the moon pool. Between that and using the “Spill the Beans” adventure card on the obelisk, I feel we succeeded in our weekly goal to befuddle the GM.
  • Adventure cards? That is one of the coolest things about Savage Worlds Adventure Edition! At the beginning to each of our sessions, the two players who roll highest on a d100 get a card that can be played at any time during that same session. These cards can be of great benefit to the player(s)…or provide twists and turns in which help comes at a cost.

Seekers of the Ashen Crown week 15: For Honour

With Ashtura’s Blade surrendered – and Yeraa appeased – she led her group and the party further up the Six Kings to a plateau where she removed a bag of ash from her belt, pouring it into the outline of a large circle on the ground for the amalorkar.  The changeling agent Tik (as his hobgoblin persona, Tikulti) explained that amalorkar translated to “honour fights”, a show of good sport and good conduct, and asked the party to pad their weapons appropriately so that no one would be seriously injured.  Combatants were to fight one on one, with the first team to five wins claiming victory by knocking their opponent unconscious, forcing them out of the circle, or scoring a good hit without receiving one in kind.  Kayde tried to bow out due to his lingering injuries, but Aruget and Quentin took him aside and insisted that would not go over well with the goblins.  Tikulti overheard the party’s dilemma and stepped in, saying he would be the one to fight Kayde, much to Jak’s relief.

First up was Yeraa herself, challenged by Aruget.  The dirgesinger lived up to her name and sang a song of power and inspiration, which clearly affected her fellow goblins, and managed to throw Aruget temporarily off his game before he sidestepped, returned her blow, then took out her legs and knocked her out of the ring. 

Next up for the party was Lestok, eager to take part in this event that he did not grasp the seriousness of.  Shrugging off his Fumigator 9000, he boldly declared that he would challenge the toughest of Yeraa’s party with nothing but his fists, and got his wish when a surprisingly burly female goblin stepped into the ring.  She easily dispatched the cocky gnome, picking him up by his ankles and throwing him out of the circle.

Jak, eager to avenge Lestok’s loss, fought the large hobgoblin Lestok had tried to challenge before getting his actual competition.  His quickness and agility won the day when he tangled his much larger opponent in a net, tripping him out of the ring.

Quentin fought a fellow magic user, forming the ground itself into a powerful grasp around his ankles, dragging him out of the ring and earning his respect.

Kayde fought Tikulti as promised.  Right off the bat, Kayde got the advantage and pushed him back a little, then baited him to the edge of the circle and where he ran right out of it as he lunged at Kayde, earning him jeers from his fellows for how easily he was defeated.

Aruget stepped up to the ring again, encouraged by the party as being their best chance for success.  Encouraged by Quentin, he taunted his large hobgoblin opponent, getting in his head.  Throwing his Tiger’s Blade and charging Aruget dodged his opponent’s attack as the enchanted byeshk axe returned to his hand and he caught the hobgoblin under the chin with its haft, knocking him out and securing the party’s victory.

While the two groups mingled in the spirit of new friendship, Lestok’s opponent congratulated him on his bravery and accepted his invitation to try some of his special spice blend later, Jak thanked Tikulti for looking after Kayde, and Quentin asked his opponent Marduuk about the dirgesinger tradition while Yeraa remained standoffish.  As they continued up the trail, Yeraa waved Aruget over and told him that the stories said the caves contained two pieces of the crown.  They would encounter an obelisk that would teleport the goblins one way to seek out Murkoorak’s Orb, and asked Aruget that the party seek out Zaarani’s Solitaire in the moon pool.  He thanked her for her confidence and she said that they had proven themselves and were sanctioned by the Six Kings themselves.  

Meanwhile, Kayde got tired of everyone speaking goblin and tried his hand at a greeting, interrupting Quentin’s conversation with Marduuk, who laughed heartily at his pronunciation.  While Quentin encouraged Kayde to keep talking as an unwitting distraction, he summoned a bird to pass a message to Tikulti, whom Jak was unsuccessfully trying to bond with.  The group reformed and Arguet brought them up to speed, while Quentin shared with them Tikulti’s reply – that there was nothing he wanted to tell them for fear of blowing his cover.  Jak, though disappointed, agreed that it was wise for himself to stop bothering Tikulti.

As they came higher up the trail, Yeraa directed them to a cave whose entrance was covered in vines, saying they would travel together until they reached the obelisk, and gave Aruget a khyber shard wrapped in byeshk that she said would allow them to keep in communication.  With that, the two groups entered the cave, to face the mysteries that lay inside.

Behind the Scenes

  • Question of the week: What are your feelings about the Treaty of Thronehold and the Last War?
  • Tik really threw his fight with Kayde, though not 100% intentionally – that was one of the few times I’ve seen an NPC crit fail.
  • The amalorkar was conducted as version of a Dramatic Task.
  • Tik told Jak that Yeraa thinks Aruget is our boss. Jak thinks we should roll with it, since they seem to have a rapport.
  • Speaking of Tik, Jak’s gregarious nature got the best of him. He really wants to make friends with a fellow Dark Lantern changeling, but has no idea how to go about it. Tik’s definitely not into his methods.
  • Will Lestok’s burning curiosity allow him to be in two places at once? He really wants us to switch places with Yeraa and go through the obelisk…but then he wouldn’t know what the Solitaire does! Oh, the indignity!

Seekers of the Ashen Crown week 14: Deception, treachery, and Six Kings at last

While Lestok continued “improving” the wagon, Jak and Hestian continued to chat, and Jak became aware that he seemed remarkably comfortable and collected for a trader traveling alone in the wild. Before too lon, Quentin came up to Aruget and whispered to him that something was amiss and it was time to move on, but this conversation caught Hestian’s attention though he did not immediately respond.  After a little more back and forth, Hestian decided to drop his ruse, and declared that it was time to relieve the party of their valuables as part of his crusade against the Brelish crown.  While Jak attempted to talk Hestian down, Kayde appeared from behind the cart disguised as the trader with his hands bound, trying to convince the men in the trees that “Hestian” had been taken captive and it was all an elaborate ruse – and then an arrow smacked into the cart beside Aruget.  In another attempt to scare off the highwaymen, Lestok created an illusion of a bomb under the cart and claimed that he’d learned what caused the Mourning and wasn’t afraid to cause a second one – but that attempt to deceive also fell flat as Hestian called Lestok’s bluff that he’d be willing to kill his own people along with Hestian’s.  Quentin correctly identified the group as being part of the Swords of Liberty, an anti-monarchist terrorist organization that the captain of the Eminence had warned him about, and then unleashed lightning into the woods from where the arrow had come. 

 As Aruget tried to grapple Hestian, the highwayman nimbly backed out of the way and Jak shoved Aruget the rest of the way to the ground to save him from another arrow. Kayde, however, was not so lucky, as the already-wounded elf attempted to morph into his shadow form and was hit with an arrow before he could transform all the way. Lestok, trying to get out from under the cart, stumbled straight through his illusion and fell and hit his head.  However, Jak’s aim with his crossbow was true, and he managed to put down several Swords from both sides of the road, helped by the brush fire Quentin’s lightning started which chased them out of cover.  Wisely sensing this group was more trouble than he’d bargained for, Hestian took off down the road running and the party escaped with their valuables and their lives, while confidence got the better of Jak and he called out to the fleeing men that “the Citadel sends its regards!”

Getting some distance between them, the Swords of Liberty, and the fire, Quentin healed Kayde’s new wound as well as Lestok’s head.  As the party traveled through the night, Quentin was squinting at the map when he tripped, tearing it badly.  Luckily, Lestok turned out to have studied the map and had an excellent memory of it.  Much to everyone’s surprise but his own, he successfully guided the party from landmark to landmark.  Jak was impressed and asked Lestok if he’d really lived in Sharn his whole life, to which Lestok replied that he had, except when he was in Cyre during the war – but he didn’t care to talk about that. 

The next day, they came into the Graywall mountains proper, and coming around a river bend they found themselves face to face with the Six Kings.  Aruget stopped to admire the view and stand in awe of the Dhakaani empire’s might, while Jak mused that it was a wonder that an empire that could build such a monument ever fell.  As they made their way towards the dig site described by Captain Kalaes, two goblins and two hobgoblins appeared.  One of the hobgoblins was a tall woman in leather armour, the other fit Kalaes’ description of his agent, Tik, and one of the goblins had his hand on a large wolf…and was surprisingly burly for a goblin.

Their welcome was not warm.  The woman introduced herself as Yeraa, the dirgesinger the party had been tasked to help, and demanded that they name their price for Ashtura’s blade and hand it over.  Reluctant to give up their one bargaining chip, Aruget appealed to Yeraa that the party was indeed mighty and did in fact have atcha even though the rest of them were chat’oor.  Yeraa was unmoved and once again demanded that the party name their price.  Jak then made a case that the party was one of men who did their duty, and that it would serve no one to prevent them from doing their duty (under the guise of being Morgrave researchers out to preserve history), but Yeraa continued to hold firm.  Then Quentin stepped up and made another good case for the party having muut, and that they would happily exchange the blade for knowledge so that everyone’s duty could be completed. At last, with some prompting from Tik, Yeraa agreed to the party’s terms and asked them to bond with her in the spirit of amalorkar.  While Quentin seemed to have an idea of what that meant, Lestok feared it might get bloody…

Behind the Scenes

  • Question of the week: What is an interesting or uncommonly known fact about your character that others may or may not know?
  • That fight with the Swords of Liberty was our party’s first crack at what Savage Worlds calls a Quick Encounter – a truncated, narrative combat in which everyone, friend and foe alike, does just one roll and narrates their actions and intentions. It’s a really cool way to get a fight in without doing a full-blown combat!
  • A quick goblin language lesson:

Aatcha: the Dhakaani concept of personal honour. It must be earned, and carefully protected.

Muut: the Dhakaani concept of duty, something owed to the empire and your comrades.

Chaat’oor: directly translated as “defiler” and used as a pejorative for species not native to Khorvaire, particularly humans, which Jak is currently disguised as.