Date: 11th Sagittaritou 1546 AE
Location: Winterhaven, Great Agatia Forest, on the south western boarder of the Usilin Imperium.
Vernian Process – The Exile (Keep on the Shadowfell Theme)
(GM’s Commentary: I bought the Keep on the Shadowfell back when D&D 4.0 first came out and none of my players where ever interested in running through it. After a long hiatus from running games I came back but I feel rusty and overwhelmed. I for once would like to run a game without the pressure of needing to deliver a well crafted well written story so I pitched the idea again and my players agreed. But at the same time I would like to make the game different so I decided to run it within the cannon of my already established world setting. This adventure will not be the focus of my game but will partly tie into the next story. This is Keep on the Shadowfell, in a world of dark science and madness…")
Nearly 60 years ago the cult of Orcus built a crossing to the shadowfell using lost technologies and dark rites. Legions of undead and fouler creatures spilled through into the light of day and wreaked havoc on everything in its wake. The Usilin Imperium sent its sky fleet to take back the region. The army eliminated the undead and the cult but couldn’t destroy the crossing as some thing terrible from beyond the gate kept it bound to the natural world. After dismantling the contraptions that supported the crossing, Usilin mages used their magics to drastically shrink it and then sealed it with arcane wards. The Imperium then built a keep to contain the breach; this site is known as the Keep on the Shadowfell. Decades of peace followed and the village of Winterhaven arose within sight of the keep, but the peace wouldn’t last.
During the Great War the commander of the Keep, Commissar Keegan, set into motion the events that led to the keeps downfall. On the 13th of Arieon 1543 AE the Commissar woke up on the stroke of midnight and began to systematically slaughter every resident of the keep. His wife and children where the first to die, then his trusted officers, then he attacked the soldiers under his command. Furthermore the Commissar detonated explosives throughout the keep, destroying interior support structures. Eventually the troops managed to organize a counter attack and put down the mad Commissar after cornering him in a catacomb. Later that month an earth quake reduced the already unstable keep into a pile of stone and wood. After that the Usilin military abandoned the site. Rumors of hauntings have kept people away, until now…
A string of strange events and sightings have once again called for the military’s attention. A state sponsored archaeologist has gone missing in the area and unmarked zeppelins have been sighted in the region. A war relief inspection team has been sent to the site to look into the problem, and solve it if possible.
• Recently a state sponsored archaeologist by the name of Douven Staul has disappeared on the western fringes of the Great Agatia Forest and unmarked zeppelins have been spotted in the region. The Usilin Imperium wants you to investigate the archeologists’ disappearance and evaluate the area for possible pirate activity.
• You will arrive via a trade ship, the journey will take 4 days. A group of patrolling airships are scheduled to pick you up within 5 days after you arrive in the region.
• You are to use the town of Winterhaven as your base of operations, you can expect the locals to cooperate and we would like you to help them anyway you can provided that it helps achieve your primary objectives. The village mayor is a noble by the name of Ernest Padraig, he can provide help if need be and is already aware that you are coming. Do not expect any additional support in this mission.
• As an additional objective the Imperium asks that you check up on the status of a ruin in the area. There used to be a keep here that stood guard over the region.
Session 1: “Just kobolds!”
The team arrives at a clearing, they bid the airship captain goodbye and make their way down the Kings road to Winterhaven. Heading the team is Captain Zaltov, an Imperial commando. With him are: Corporal Xin, A thri-kreen armored trench raider, Caissa, a rare hamadryad and a mercenary artificer, Ver’raat Skalov, a burly half-orc and former sergeant in the Imperial military who became a mercenary after his service was over.
As the team travels along the road they are suddenly attacked by a group of kobolds. During the battle several kobolds are knocked out and the team comes out with mere scratches. The Kobolds are bound with rope, striped of valuables, and then interrogated. The kobolds refuse to talk and Xin executes one to make an example to the rest. One of the Kobolds reveals that they are lead by some one named “Iron Tooth” who works for some one else that they don’t know. The kobolds further reveal that death awaits them back at their hide out for their failure. Ver’rat takes this as permission to kill them and begins executing the Kobold prisoners. Xin knocks out the last Kobold, making it look like a death blow before Ver’rat can get to him. Afterwords the team moves on to Winterhaven.
Among the Kobolds belongings the team finds a few trinkets with symbols on them resembling that of a horned demon. The team holds on to them.
The team is greeted by two guardsmen at the front gate that point them to Wraftons inn and Lord Padraig’s manor. The group decides to meet with Padraig first. They are greeted by another guard at the manor who leads them to an upstairs room. Inside they find Lord Padraig having tea and listening to music from a gramophone. He invites the group to sit down and have some tea.
Lord Padraig explains that Kobolds have been harassing the villagers but no one has been killed yet. The Kobolds seem adamant about keeping people away from the ruined keep to the north. Furthermore unmarked zeppelins have been spotted in the region leading Padraig to suspect that pirates might be active in the area. An archaeologist by the name of Douvan Stall had also come through the area, but never returned from his dig site. Lord Padraig suggests that the group talk to a wounded hunter by the name of Herst, he was recently attacked by Kobolds and claims to know where they could be hiding. He also suggests they talk to Valthrun the town historian if they wish to know more about the area. Captain Zaltov assures Padraig that his team will have everything under control soon. The team heads to Wraftons inn next.
As the group enters the inn they are greeted by a very cheerful bar tender named Salvana. She expresses shock and then excitement at the sight of Xin since she has never seen a “bug man from the south.” Most of the villagers in the inn stare at the group as they had never seen so many strange races traveling together. The group takes this opportunity to eat lunch and question Herst. He was attacked on the way back to town and managed to fight the creatures off, but took an arrow to the knee during the battle. The man explains that he had seen a group of kobolds heading down a stream where a waterfall was. Zaltov asks if he could lead them there, the hunter refuses for obvious reasons. Caissa helps the man by providing him with additional medicines for his bandaged leg. The group moves to question the other people in the inn. Salvana tells them that Douvan Stall had rented a room at the inn but never returned to it, she points them to Elian who had talked to Douvan before he left. Elian explains that Douvan had come to dig up a possible dragon burial site and gave him directions, he marks the location on the groups map of the area. Elian tries to pester the group with more questions about “the big city” and “fancy electrical towers.” The team refuses to comment and moves on. Caissa tries to talk to the elven woman named Ninaran who sat in the corner of the inn. Ninaran was annoyed by Caissa’s questions and proved to be uncooperative. No one in the inn knows anything about her, except that she’s not a local and plans on loitering around the town until the roads are safer to travel. Zlatov vows to keep an eye on her. Next, the team moves on to Valthruns tower.
Valthrun is a paranoid old man who is initially hesitant to let the team inside. He reveals no new or interesting information that the group doesn’t already know until they question him about the ruined keep to the north. Valthrun tells the team to “call the military and tell them to re build the keep.” He refuses to explain why and attempts to hurry the group out of his tower when they pressure him for answers. The team then shows him one of the trinkets they found earlier in the day. Valthrun is instantly intrigued and tells them that the trinkets have the symbol of the cult of Orcus, the demon prince of the undead that seeks to take the Raven Queens throne. The team questions Valthrun further and Ver’rat becomes increasingly annoyed as Caissa, Valthrun, and Zaltov exchange certain questions and answers in eleven. Xin is mildly amused.
Valthrun reveals that an undead uprising instigated by the cult of Orcus happened in this area 60 years ago. The Usilin Imperium put down the uprising and wiped out the cult, the army then erected a keep to watch over the region. Valthrun tells the group that he will tell them more if they can confirm that the cult is back. The team agrees to his proposition. After that Valthrun offers to sell the team some rituals that they could use in their mission. Caissa commissions Valthrun to instead create a ritual that would help ward off undead in case they run into any. Writing the ritual would take a full day so she would have to come back later to pick it up. Ver’rat demands that Valthrun give them the rituals for free. The rest of the group disagrees and talks him out of it. After the group finishes bartering with Valthrun they leave the town and head off the to last whereabouts of Douvan Stall.
Along the way the team is ambushed by Kobolds again. This time the Kobolds are better armed and better prepared. During the battle one of the kobolds takes out a flare gun and attempts to fire it. Xin manages to knock him out causing the kobold to drop and fire the flare into the forest. The flare starts a small fire which Xin quickly puts out by lying on it. When the battle was over, two kobolds where unconscious, the rest where dead, and Ver’rats mechanical maul was broken which sent him into a short fit of anger. The team prepared to interrogate the surviving kobolds.
(DM’s Commentary: WOH easy on the cruelty guys! I know this is suppose to be dark and gritty like Warhammer 40K but DAMN! I had to remind the group afterwards to drop misconceptions about there being “just kobolds” since this is a sentient race; one that has had a long history of oppression and death. Note to self: the team leaves behind 20 bullets, 1 slinger pistol and a 50 foot rope after that first encounter. Why you no pick up stuff??? XD)
Session 2: Impostors!
Zaltov takes a moment to tie up one of the unconscious Kobolds and then helps Caissa loot the dead bodies. Further down the road Xin walks towards the group with a unconscious kobold on his shoulder and a fancy looted flare gun in hand. Zoltov loots two odd smelling bullets and turns his attention to the surviving kobolds. When Ver’rat “calms down” he join Zaltov as he tries to wake up one of the unconscious kobolds. The kobold proves unresponsive and Ver’rat spitefully kicks him, jarring the creature awake. Zaltov orders Caissa to repair Ver’rats maul and the three men begin to interrogate their new prisoners.
Interrogating the first kobold reveals no new information so the men leave the wounded creature alone. Xin strings his kobold on to a tree branch and slaps him awake. Unlike the others, this kobold is adorned with higher quality vestments, indicating that he is of a higher rank. Ver’rat points his shotgun in the creatures face, intimidating it into speaking. The Kobold reveals that “Iron Tooth” is the lieutenant of some one named “Klarel” who hired their group to perform a number of tasks, chief among them being to monitor the near by town and to keep people away from the northern ruins. Beyond that he knows nothing of Klarel or what his plans where. Zaltov decides that he has heard enough and Ver’rat once again interprets this as permission to execute the prisoner.
The three men turn around to find that Caissa and the other Kobold are both missing. Zaltov and Ver’rat both climb up a large steep rock to get a better view of the area while Xin tracks down a blood trail leading away from the road. Ver’rat and Zaltov don’t have much luck seeing anything since their view of the area is heavily obscured by trees. Meanwhile Xin catches up to the runaway kobold. The small creature begs for mercy. Xin pities the creature and unties him, but not before making the kobold swear to go to Winterhaven and turn himself in to the authorities. The Kobold agrees, and further reveals that Iron Tooth keeps “something” locked away in the back of their hideout that he doesn’t want anyone to see. Xin leaves the kobold alone and runs back to the road. Zaltov spots Caissa walking through the forest and slides down the steep rock, Ver’rat follows suit. The team regroups back at the road and Caissa revealed that she had only gone to take a drink of water from a nearby stream.
Meanwhile Peony is awoken with a splash of water to the face. She is a prisoner of several armed brigands and Douvan Stalls last surviving assistant. The only reason she has been left alive is because her captures leader objected to the killing of women. Peony had been held inside an autocarriage for nearly a week waiting for the chance to escape… One of her captures unties her hands to let her eat breakfast.
Finally the team arrives at their destination to find two guard drakes and several suspicious looking armed men around the dig site. Among them is a well dressed man wearing a suit and a fedora. The Drakes growl at the sight of the approaching group and the well dressed man beckons them to come closer to see what they have discovered. He claimed to being an associate of Douvan Stall and that the archaeologist was sick and resting in his tent. The team is not convinced. Furthermore Caissa gets an arcane message from Peony warning her of the mans deception. Xin approaches the suspicious man and continues to talk to him while Zaltov and the rest of the team move out of sight to a more advantageous position. The talks don’t go well and eventually the man in the fedora draws a revolver and shoots Xin near point blank range. Xin’s heavy armor absorbs the initial shot and the battle begins.
Zaltov and Ver’rat are assailed by the two drakes and then further harassed from afar by brigands with rifles. Xin takes a hard rifle butt to the face and is shot again, he responds in kind by knocking out one of the brigands and heavily wounding the well dressed man with a solid strike of his hammer, knocking off his fedora in the process.
The brigand guarding Peony takes his attention away from her to check outside. She uses this opportunity to blast the man with the full force of her arcane might. The brigand stumbles out of the autocarriage and fires off his pistol at Peony. The shot misses and Peony responds with another blast of arcane energy, ending her captures life. She unties the rope around her legs and then makes her way to a row of tall rocks where she observes the ensuing battle from above.
Xin, having heavily wounded the brigands leader, turns his attention to the firing squad raining bullets on the rest of his team. Xin springs into a charge and leaps above rocks where the brigands took cover in. He slashes the throats of two men and the third brigand puts up his rifle in time to block his attack but fails to dodge the electrical bolt from Caissa’s crossbow.
Ver’rat and Zaltov manage to finally kill the two drakes, but not without receiving heavy injuries. Meanwhile the brigands leader attempts to make an escape but is quick caught by Zaltov who delivers a witty one liner and a knock out blow.
Agrid: “Who… Who are you?”
Zaltov: “I’m your worst nightmare, and by that exension, the master of the four winds strike!!!”
(DM’s Commentary: HOLY BAT BALLS BATMAN! Xin and Zaltov both deserves a gold star for bad assery. I try to stay away from describing combat on adventure logs in major detail since it takes so much time, but here it was just too much fun. I am glad to have a group of such “colorful” characters.)
Session 3: Lurking In The Night
Agrid and the other knocked out brigand are tied up and brought to the excavation. Zaltov, Ver’rat and Caissa interrogate Agrid while Xin searches the surrounding area for valuables. During the interrogation Peony comes out of hiding and approaches the group. Ver’rat bears his shotgun on Peony who quickly identifies her self as the last surviving member of Douvan Stalls group. Caissa takes care of Peony while Zaltov and Ver’rat continue their interrogation.
Agrid reveals that he was hired by a scientist named Klarel to find slaves and mercenaries for his project. Agrids work was technically finished but Klarel forced him to run one last errand, to find a mirror from the nearby dragon burial site. Unexpectedly, Agrid ran into Douvan’s group. He was ordered to kill Douvan’s party and excavate the site himself. But Agrid couldn’t bring him self to kill a woman so he left Peony alive to be sold on a slave market. Douvan’s body and the bodies of his companions where all taken to the keep in the north under Klarels orders. Why? he did not know. Agrid also reveals that he has no love for Klarel and would gladly pay the group for his freedom. The other brigand is awakened and interrogated to confirm Agrids story. For what ever reason the team decides to let him go; he tiredly walks off into the forest never to be seen again.
Seeing that the group had learned everything they could from the slaver, Ver’rat attempts to execute Agrid. Peony notices and fires a well aimed magic missile that throws off Ver’rats aim. While Ver’rat reels from just being shot, Xin leaps in and disarms him. Zaltov aims his pistol at Ver’rat and threats to kill him if he doesn’t keep him self under control. Ver’rat begrudgingly agrees and is allowed to retrieve his weapon. Zaltov reveals that he has a deep hatred for all slavers, he decides to add insult to injury and orders Ver’rat to break Agrids legs and leave him for dead. Agrid spends the next 5 agonizing minutes cursing the group. The team heads for the autocarriage on the hill where Peony had been held prisoner. As a final insult, Xin loads one bullet into Agrids revolver and throws it back to him before disappearing behind the trees.
During the time of the interrogation Xin had been busy gathering and organizing valuables. He stocked the autocarriage full of boxes packed with items of archaeological interest. He looted money, weapons and ammo from the bandits. He found an amulet that had belonged to Douvan. He had also found the strange mirror that Agrid had mentioned. The mirror had no apparent magical properties but did have unsettling aquatic decorations unlike anything he’s ever seen.
Peony thanks Zaltov and his team for rescuing her. She expresses a desire to avenge the deaths of her companions and asks to join Zaltov’s team. The group agrees to her proposal and welcomes her aboard.
After the team boards the auto carriage they find that there isn’t enough space aboard for Xin. So Xin volunteers to stay behind and keep watch over the dig site. Zaltov agrees and promises to return later in the night. Xin climbs up a pine tree and prepares him self for a very long afternoon. The rest of the team arrive in town with no problems. Upon arrival it begins to snow, Caissa jumps out of the autocarriage and prances around town in joy. The team is bewildered by her actions. They let her be and continue to the inn to discuss their next move.
Zaltov questions the strategic significance of the dragon burial site since such a thing would normally concern educational institutes and not the state. Peony explains that ancient burial sites hold more then just artifacts, they also hold esoteric ritual papers, ancient devices and storage machines that could hold all manner of information. Dragons in particular hoarded much information and the Usilin Imperium prides its self with having the greatest understanding of ancient technologies.
Zaltov asserts that the teams original mission is technically finished but decides that they should continue to investigate the pirates activities. The towns folk had mentioned kobold activity around a waterfall, the team decides to head there in the night after a well earned rest.
Zaltov immediately heads to his room to sleep. Ver’rat moves the boxes from the auto carriage to his room before retiring for the day. Caissa enjoys her time outside for a few hours before heading to her room to sleep. Peony takes this rest period to enjoy a warm meal, take a hot shower, and buy her self some new clothing and proper adventuring gear.
Meanwhile back at the dig site Xin sits in his pine tree patiently waiting for some thing unusual to happen. Warm padding inside his plate armor keeps him from freezing as the temperature slowly drops. Soon it stops snowing and afternoon turns to night. During this time Agrid had crawled his way to a rock where he spent the night trying to nurse his broken legs. He appears to be waiting for some thing… Xin eventually drifts into torpor but remains aware of his surroundings. At 9 o clock some thing stirs in the forest and a female silhouette approaches Agrid. The figure speaks to Agrid but Xin is unable to make out what is being said. Eventually the conversation grows heated and Agrid points his pistol at the figure. The figure responds by quickly shooting him in the head with a hand crossbow. Afterwards she makes a gesture with her left hand and two shapes creep out of the forest. The shapes appear humanoid, but both have two long whip like tentacles extending from their shoulders. They move with eerie grace across the dig site, gathering bodies along the way. Xin recalls an old story that he had heard as a hatchling, one that spoke of a mythical race of goblinoid creatures with whip like tentacles on their shoulders. These creatures where called “Dolgaunts.” After the creatures had finished their work they head off to the north where the keep ruins lie. The female figure takes one last look around the dig site before disappearing into the woods. Xin is immensely disturbed by what he had just seen.
Later that night Caissa, Zaltov, Ver’rat, and Peony assemble and make their way to the dig site. The group foregoes the use of any lights for fear that their enemies might spot them in the dark. Zaltov is the only one in the group that cant see well in the dark and has to be guided by hand. When the group arrives at the dig site they quickly notice that Agrid and all the bandits bodies where gone. Xin comes down from his tree and recounts what he had previously seen. But he assures the group that he is mentally stable enough to continue with the investigation. The reunited team now makes its way to the waterfall.
(DM’s Commentary: The group goes from executing prisoners to crippling and leaving them to worse fates. I find this both horrifying and mildly amusing. Beyond that they had spent an awful lot of time loitering in just one area and I wasn’t about to let the session end on a dull note, Xin gave me the perfect excuse to show case the Lovecraftian baddies that the group would later face.)
Session 4: Assault
Caissa leads the group to a stream, from there they make their way to the waterfall. The group stops at the sight of a kobold encampment and quietly formulate a plan of attack. The Kobolds in the camp appeared to be moving equipment and boxes into a cave beyond the waterfall. The waterfall itself flows down from a steep cliff, and further lights can be seen above the cliff indicating that another possibly larger encampment was above the waterfall. The team asserted that the waterfall entrance was the best point of entry into the base. The problem was that if the group all attacked the waterfall entrance then the kobolds in the encampment above the cliff could rain fire down on the group. So the team decided to split up; Zaltov and Caissa would head above the cliff and provide a distraction for the group. They would use the rifles that Xin had looted earlier to make it appear that their numbers where much larger then they actually where. Zaltov further ordered that Xin, Peony and Ver’rat not begin their assault on the base until after he takes the first shot. Caissa gives Xin and Ver’rat two extra combat tonics in case they needed emergency healing. After biding them farewell, Caissa and Zaltov quietly disappear into the woods. Xin, Peony, and Ver’rat quietly sneak into position around the kobold encampment.
After a few minutes of waiting the crack of a rifle pierces the silence and a splash is heard behind Xin. A sniper in the back of the camp had managed to spot the group. The team quickly springs into action and begin their assault early. Seconds later gun fire is heard beyond the cliff, signaling that Zaltov and Caissa had begun their attack. The waterfront team use the trees as cover. Xin makes his way through the forest, fighting kobolds along the way, and then attacks two groups of entrenched kobolds at the mouth of the waterfall. Most of the kobolds turn their attention towards him but find that their pistols have little effect against his armor. Ver’rat and Peony both hang back to fight the more sneakier kobolds in the woods; Ver’rat is heavily wounded and is forced to use a combat tonic to get back into the fight.
Two kobolds run into the waterfall and Xin gives chase. On the other side of the waterfall he comes face to face with more then a dozen angry kobolds, they charge at him in a mass frenzy. Soon Ver’rat and Peony enter the fray.
Elsewhere Zaltov and Caissa are faced with an encampment full of dozens of kobolds. In the center of the encampment is a small ironclad airship. The two quietly set up their trap until they hear a rifle shot. Zaltov and Caissa decide to spring their plan early. Luckily the Kobolds fall for their ruse and begin to wildly fire into the forest believing that they where under attack from a larger enemy force. Eventually the airship turns its machine guns on the forest to cover the Kobold retreat. Zaltov and Caissa are forced to keep their heads down to avoid the hail of gun fire.
Beneath the waterfall; Xin, Peony, and Ver’rat end up taking on a kobold force much larger then anticipated. By the end of the battle: Ver’rat is riddled with bullet wounds and hyped up on enough drugs to make a bull elephant high. Xin needed one battle tonic to get him through the fight and managed to absorbed an armory worth of bullets. Peony incurs a number of wounds during the battle and was knocked out at the end of the fight by a kinetic blast of flame from a kobold spell caster. After dressing their wounds and taking a short rest, the group explores the now empty kobold base.
Peony wakes up and joins her team in searching the base. She finds a telegraph machine and loots copies of the final messages that where sent and received by the device. Unfortunately the messages are coded. Xin discovers a trash can full of burning papers, peony puts out the flame with her magic and Xin begins to gather the burned papers into a small container, he theorized that Caissa can restore the pile of ash back into paper with her restorative magic. Elsewhere in the cavern where unburned documents, which Xin also gathered and stored. Meanwhile Ver’rat searches for valuables in a store room and finds only loose pipes, old guns, and boxes. Unsatisfied he turns towards the closed metal door in the back of the cave. Ver’rat is no mechanic but decides to fiddle with the mechanical door anyway.
After scouring the cavern of anything useful, Peony and Xin both turn their attention to the large map of Usilith propped up against a wall. Across the map are pinned photos of esoteric machine parts. Peony recognized some of the machine parts as belonging to certain museums. In addition the two find a list of items on the map, all of which are crossed out except for one titled “The Mirror.” Xin and Peony suspect that the Kobolds had been stealing the machine parts through out the Imperium and bringing them to this area, and the last piece they needed was the mirror that Agrid had been sent to retrieve.
Ver’rat managed to hack the locked door and get it open for the group. Beyond the door was a dark hallway leading deeper into the base.
(DM’s Commentary: At this point things are starting to get rather fuzzy as I am having trouble remembering the things that have been happening in my game. Which is rather embarrassing. I realized later that my putting in so much information into the Kobold base was redundant since my players had already known that their true enemy was bunkered down at the keep. So panning out the story even further with little snipets of what was going on behind the scenes was wasteful. Remember, show, don’t tell! and let your players figure out the rest.)
Session 5: Irontooth
Caissa and Zaltov come out of hiding after the airship takes flight. The Kobold encampment lies scattered before them. Zaltov searches through the camp for valuables and finds a shiny new Heilgian rifle with 3 clips of ammunition along with a box of trail rations. Caissa discovers a large blast door in the center of the encampment leading down into an underground shaft, she ties a rope to a tree stump and tosses it in. Zaltov volunteers to head down first. As Zaltov makes his way down his gloved fingers slip on the rope. He lands with a loud CLUNK but is unhurt. He dusts off his coat and Caissa quietly slides down after him. They look around and find that the pit was some kind of docking bay with repair tools and heavy machine parts scattered about. They recognize some the machinery as belonging to a battle walker. Both agreed that it was a bad idea to stick around for long.
Xin, Peony, and Ver’raat hear a muffled thump come from the end of the hallway. Xin tells the team to hide, he then advances forward and hides in an adjacent corridor at the mid point of the hallway. After a minute the door slides open to reveal a silhouetted figure. Xin rushes forward with blinding speed and tackles it to the ground. He finds a very surprised Zaltov, and Caissa aiming her crossbow at him. Zaltov says nothing and waits for Xin to get off him. Xin leans in and whispers “remember that day?” before finally getting off of Zaltov.
The reunited team exchanges accounts as to what had been going on since they had split up. They agree to one more sweep around the base before heading out. During this time Peony faints from exhaustion. Ver’rat agrees to carry her.
During the sweep the team finds an empty barracks and a small prison with a leaky rock ceiling. Xin discerns that the prison is directly underneath the creek above and that destroying the ceiling would flood the base. Zaltov agrees with the plan. Using supplies found throughout the base the team jury rigs an explosive device. (there was plenty of gun powder and cannon shells) Xin positions the device inside a structural support beam and lights the fuse with a shot from the flare gun. The team escapes to the surface using the heavy load elevator in the battle walker repair bay. When the elevator reaches the surface a loud explosion rocks the ground, soon enough the creek drains into the base. Satisfied, the team moves out.
At the edge of the kobold camp a sudden STOMP resonates through the forest. It is followed by another steady STOMP accompanied by the crack of a falling tree. Zaltov orders the team to hide. Caissa takes position behind a bush atop a bluff. Zaltov, Xin and Ver’rat with Peony in hand hide in bushes at the edge of the forest. While hiding the group hears a repeating mechanical clickety clack, it stops after 15 seconds… Suddenly an enormous dark shape leaps out of the forest and lands in the middle of the kobold camp with a resounding CRASH. It was the battle walker that Zaltov had feared. Its rear turret quickly turns towards the group in the bushes and fires. The team is unable to escape the blast and is scattered by the explosion. Zaltov, Ver’rat and Xin are heavily wounded, and Peony is left dying.
Caissa immediately begins fire bolts at the battle walker, doing little more then scratching its armored skin and catching the drivers attention. Xin is the first to recover after being dazed by the battle walkers initial attack; he picks up his shield and moves away from the group, keeping a steady pace with the walker as it stomped its way across the camp. He gambles with the thought of the battle walker belonging to Irontooth and begins to shout insults. The walkers commander responds using an external loudspeaker, the one commanding the machine was indeed Irontooth.
After a counter insult from Irontooth the top hatch of the battle walker opens up and a kobold pops out to man the walkers sub machine gun. Xin puts up his shield and endures a hail of gun fire. In the mean time Caissa throws down a caustic rampart in the walkers path, hoping that the machines leg would be damaged when it stepped on the pool of corrosive chemicals.
When the stream of gunfire ends Xin is still standing, his shield had held against the onslaught. He takes advantage of the short pause and leaps on to the battle walker, taking the kobold gunner by surprise. Xin quickly smashes the side of his head with a hammer, knocking him out instantly. By this time Ver’raat and Zaltov had joined the battle.
From other end of the camp Caissa took aim and fired a bolt at the pilot slit. The sharp needle like steel finds its mark and kills the driver, causing the machine to stumble forward. The battle walker luckily balances its self and grinds to an emergency halt. Zaltov begins to climb the walker while Ver’raat hammers away at the walkers legs hoping to topple the massive war machine.
Xin pulls the pin off a stick grenade and drops it into the walker, after which he quickly pulls down the hatch and sits on it, dooming the crew inside. A resounding THUMP drowns out the cries of panic. Black smoke oozes out of every crevice and port hole of the wrecked walker.
Zaltov finally climbs his way to the top of the walker and remarks “Just like like that day!” eliciting a response from Xin, “Yeah, that day indeed.” Xin opens up the hatch to make sure that nothing was alive inside, the smoke obscures his view. Suddenly two long tentacle arms burst out of the hatch and pull him inside. A pair of glowing eyes pierces the smoke… Xin is immediately locked in a strangling match with a four armed monster. Eventually Xin struggles through to gain the advantage.
Horrified, Zaltov looks down into the hatch with his pistol aimed. He sees a break in the smoke and fires at the two red eyes. Luckily the bullet hits its mark but doesn’t kill the four armed creature. The abomination pushes Xin out of the battle walker, knocking him into Zaltov. The two men look up to see a large four armed humanoid with muddy orange skin and two long octopuied tentacles on his back.
Zaltov gets back up and punches the creature across the face, it retaliates with a back hand strike that nearly pushes Zaltov off the walker. As Xin struggles to his feet the creature jumps down on to the forward gun of the walker, and from there it leaps down to the ground where Ver’rat and Caissa both take aim and shoot.
Xin and Zaltov both get up and climb down the walker. By the time they reach the ground the creature had been riddled with crossbow bolts and shotgun pellets. Zaltov moves in to finish him off. He lands a perfect round house kick, knocking the creature to the ground. It turns over on its back, coughing and wheezing. Zaltov presses his boot down on the creatures chest and aims his pistol at its horribly deformed face. He asks, “What are you?” The creature gives him a smile, revealing one shiny metal canine among a maw of crooked teeth, its Irontooth. He croaks “Klarel and Orcus, prepare my way!” The creature wraps its clawed hands around its neck and tears out its own throat. Zaltov holsters his pistol and returns to the group. Xin tears out Irontooths iron tooth and takes it as a trophy.
Peony is found barely clinging to life where Ver’rat had left her. Ciassa lights a lantern and immediately begins to dress Peony’s wounds. She manages to stabilize her, but more work is needed from a trained physician. The group hurries back to town with Peony in tow. They reach the town chapel where they give Peony over to sister Linora the town priestess and only physician. All they can do now is rest and hope for the best.
(DM’s Commentary: Note to self, spend those extra army points to batten down the hatches next time you toss a battle walker at the party, and of course abide by the conventions of realistic warfare because armored vehicles typically travel with ground troops close behind! fool! That battle was a lot more anti climactic then I expected, but awesome none the less. I had to do alot of improvisation within that regard. I am also aware that I allowed many unrealistic events take place throughout this session. (I doubt anyone would be able to walk, let alone fight, after surviving an explosion.) I also learned that Thri-Kreen are ridiculously over powered with their 30 foot long jumps. Note that Peony fainted because her player had to leave early that night; and Irontooth knew where the group was after rolling a natural 20 for his perception check.)
(Besides that this was not the first occurrence of the “remember that day” joke, it began somewhere in session 2. “Remember that day” has become a running gag where Xin or Zaltov mention “that day” after seeing or doing some thing very crazy. Zaltov and Xin are both old war buddies and “that day” refers to a mission that had gone horribly wrong, the details of this mission have yet to be established and probably never will.)
Session 6: Shadow of the Keep
The team dress their wounds at the inn and each retire for the night. Ver’rat returns to his room to find the window suspiciously open. He shuts the windows and checks on the boxes. To his surprise he finds that the boxes had been tampered with, some one had searched them and then carefully closed each of the lids. Luckily nothing was stolen. He decides to wait until morning to tell the group of the disturbance.
Caissa spends a mere 4 hours meditating in her room and is the first to get up. She quietly sneaks outside at 5 AM in the morning and makes her way to a nearby creek. The snow had stopped and a deathly pallor hung over the town. Something wasn’t right with the world here and it was only getting worse, but one cant help but enjoy the quite stillness of the chilly morning and the gossamer sparkles of ice that coated the forest.
Caissa spends a few minutes in knee deep ice cold water, absorbing the precious water through pores in her feet. On her way out of the creek she notices some thing in the woods and takes aim with her crossbow. A large tentacled creature had begun to approach her, it stops at the sight of the crossbow. Caissa calls out “I’ve already killed one of your kind…” The creature quietly disappears back into the woods. Why? Caissa can only guess. It seems that the Dolgaunt was scouting.
Shortly after Ciassa had snuck out of the inn Xin comes out of his torpor and heads down to the tavern bar where he helps him self to a few cups of ale and a bottle of vodka. By afternoon Zaltov and Ver’rat had awoken. All of the team except for Peony regroup at the tavern. Xin is immediately chewed out by Zaltov and Salvana for helping him self to the alcohol. Despite having consumed copious amounts of ale and Vodka the humanoid insect is still in fighting condition. Xin hands Salvana 5 gold pieces as payment, she gleefully takes the money believing him to be too drunk to count properly. Xin was merely being generous.
Ver’rat reveals what he discovered during the night and the group decides to secure the boxes in the basement under the Inn. Salvana promises to watch over the artifacts. It becomes evident to them that who ever had gone through Ver’rats room was searching for the mirror. After eating lunch the group heads off to see Peony.
Peony opens her eyes to an unfamiliar room. She is immediately jarred by a wave of pain. The events of last night were foggy, as if she had been having a nightmare. It felt good to lie there, but she had things to do and places to be so she forced her self up. Her clothing and equipment where missing, and her chest was wrapped in bandages. She covered her self with a blanket and began searching the room for her belongings. Peony hears footsteps behind her and quickly turns around to find a woman in priestly vestments standing in the doorway. She identifies her self as Sister Linora and beckons Peony to lie down and rest. Peony manages to convince the priestess to let her go. Linora retrieves Peony’s belongings and recaps daily events. Among them being an mysterious outbreak of nightmares among the villagers, ones involving black orbs and a strange crystal mountain with some thing inside it… some thing that no one dares to describe. A knock is heard at the door of the chapel, its Zaltov and company.
The reunited team purchase more combat tonics from the priestess and run into the two Kobolds that Xin had spared. The two had taken refuge at the chapel knowing that the priestess would help them. The rest of the group immediately realize what Xin had done. Zaltov decides to let go of the matter despite his merciless disposition towards pirates. Furthermore Xin convinces the two Kobolds to help the town prepare for a potential pirate attack. (GM’s Comment: Woohhoo, go diplomacy!) The Kobolds agree to later meet with Lord Padraig to offer their services.
Next the group met with Lord Padraig to report their discoveries. In light of their findings the town lord deems that the best course of action would be to prepare the town for battle in case the pirates return. The team bids the lord good bye and head to Valthruns tower for answers.
Valthrun listens to the groups tale of Iron tooth and the strange events surrounding the area. He had heard enough to warrant the full story of the keep. Valthrun boils a fresh pot of tea and has the group sit down for an extended conversation. He spins the tale of the Keep on the Shadowfell. He tells them about the cult of Orcus, the dormant shadow crossing, and the events leading to the keeps downfall.
Its now apparent that the sky pirates are in league with the cult of Orcus and have come here to re open the shadowfell crossing. The town could call the army to put down the cult, but by the time they arrive it might be too late. The team resolves to infiltrate the keep and put a stop to the cults activities despite the odds against them. The group also shows Valthrun the mirror that they had discovered at Douvan Stalls dig site. Peony had been carrying it in her adventurers pack the whole time. Valthrun examines the mirror and tells the group that its likely a component for the arcane contraption used to open the shadow crossing, or it could be part of an ancient weapon. The group decides to spend the rest of the day preparing for their march on the keep.
(DM’s Commentary: This is where my game started to decline. My constant attention to detail panned out things far too much, making simple things like buying equipment take far too much time. Most of the time was spent role playing and my players genuinely wanted to make sure that the town would be able to fend for its self after they left for the keep, which is a good sign that they cared. In addition my memory of the aforementioned details starts to decline here. My plot was very muddled and such is to be expected when you try to fit an adventure into a custom setting. My inability to keep track of my own details has resulted in a number of glaring plot holes, luckily my players where having too much fun to care.)
Session 7: Into the Darkness
Yesterday Caissa ordered a magic circle ritual from Valthrun, today he completed it. Trouble is that it would take a full day for Caissa to learn it. Valthrun agrees to help mentor her on the contents of the ritual so that she would master it in a mere 8 hours. Zaltov agrees to the terms and advises the rest of the team to get some rest and get supplies, as they would all be moving out at midnight. Xin, Ver’rat, and Zaltov all head out to find the town mechanic, who also deals in arms. The group buys extra grenades, and a fair stockpile of incendiary ammunition. In the following 8 hours nothing interesting happens. Caissa masters her ritual in time to find Valthrun asleep in his chair. Peony gets some rest. Ver’rat spends his time making tea for the team and loitering around town in case the pirates show up. Xin nurses a light hangover and Zaltov gets some extra sleep.
At midnight the team assembles, they leave behind all unnecessary equipment (bed rolls and the like) and head out to the keep under the cover of darkness. After an hour long walk they eventually come to a large clearing, one devoid of all life, as if the forest its self refused to grow any further. In the center of the clearing was the broken silhouette of the keep. The team stealthy approached the ruins, wary of any sentries that might be watching. Strangely there were none. Inside the keep the team finds a ruined chapel with a defiled statue of the Raven queen. Her wings had been carefully chipped to resemble tendrils, and covering her body were coils of barbed wire and planks of wood with nails punched through them. The entire team is shaken by the awful sight. Caissa takes it as a precursor of what awaits them inside the keep should they venture further. Peony catches the teams attention and points to a stairway at the side of the chapel. Zaltov orders Peony to turn off her mage light and cautiously heads down the stairway, the rest of the group follow close behind him.
The stairway opens up to a small dark room with three passages, in the center were four pillars surrounding a bear rug. At the far end of the room is a machine gun emplacement surrounded by a wall of sandbags with the silhouette of a slouched figure manning the gun. Zaltov takes a drastic risk and quietly heads towards the machine gun nest believing that the figure wasn’t paying attention. He notices the trap underneath the bear rug and dodges around it, using the pillars to cover his approach. He gets close enough to leap at figure and then suddenly stops. The figure at the gun was a corpse…
(DM’s Commentary: I made the mistake of panning out too many unnecessary details at the start of the session. In the last half of the session I manged to build some good tension by describing some memorable imagery. I am good at building anticipation and atmosphere at least. This was also a great time for Ninaren to make her big reveal as an agent of Klarel, but I chose to abandon this plot point at the last second because it would have panned out the game further. I am still uncertain as to weather this was the right thing to do.)
Session 8: The Dead Walk
Zaltov signals for the group to halt and quietly whispers “Labyrinth protocol.” The team splits up, each taking a different passage. Caissa kicks over the bear rug and finds a rat filled pit underneath. Ver’rat rounds a corner with his shotgun at the ready. Zaltov hops over the sand bags to investigate the corpse while Xin checks out the surrounding room. Peony nervously looks down a dark corridor, fearful of what might be watching her from the far end. The tension is almost palpable.
Zaltov looks over the corpse and discovers that its a hobgoblin who appears to have been partly decomposed by some kind of acid and then shot from behind. Zaltov calls over to Caissa to examine the corpse in more detail. Xin points out the shell casings littering the room, indicating that there was a battle fought here. Ver’rat arrives and points to the slime trail on the ceiling leading away from the corpse and down a corridor. Caissa concludes that an ooze had attacked the guards stationed here, forcing them to retreat further into the keep. Zaltov recollects a haunting story about how oozes reached incredible sizes from gorging on soldiers felled in trenches of the Great War. Oozes are often dealt with using fire and explosives as most weapons have little to no effect on them. The team takes heed of the danger and continues deeper into the Keep.
The team comes to a series of catacombs where they stop to investigate a strange arcane circle inscribed on the tiled floor. Caissa fails to recognize it but knows enough to see that it will only activate when touched by a living creature. Peony volunteers to examine the circle to determine its effects. Zaltov orders Caissa and Xin to look around the area. Xin lights a lantern and heads deeper into the catacombs with Caissa. The two round a corner and stop at the sight of a hoard of huddled humanoid shapes. One of the shapes looks up at Xin with glossy black eyes and begins to shamble forth with malicious intent. The other creatures follow suit. Within seconds Xin and Caissa are both caught in a melee with a hoard of walking corpses. The two hold the line but quickly find that the undead don’t stay down for long. As one is slayed another previously felled undead takes its place. Zaltov and Ver’raat arrive to provide assistance, leaving Peony alone.
Peony looks up to find a group of undead charging at her from down the hallway. She summons a lightning pillar that fells every one of the creatures with bolts of lightning. The creatures soon begin to get back up one by one and resume their charge. Peony summons another lightning pillar to stop them. Little by little the hoard draws closer until they are just within arms reach. Eventually Peony figures out that letting the corpses roast under a sustained lightning pillar is enough to kill them for good. On the other side of the catacombs the team begins to employ their incendiary ammo to kill the undead. The battle is over within a minute.
With the threat neutralized the team takes this time to rest. Peony returns back to examining the arcane spell circle. She determines that the circles would induce extreme panic and pain if touched. Xin figures that a bridge of undead corpses should allow them all to pass without problems. His plan surprisingly works. The group proceeds deeper into the catacombs where they are stopped by a large metal blast door.
Session 9: The Imperium
An enormous mechanical blast door stood at the end of the antechamber, surrounded by sturdy dwarven stone work. At 15 by 22 feet it was easily large enough for a small automobile to drive through. No buttons or levers where anywhere in sight, indicating that it can only be opened from the other side. In the upper left corner of the blast door a break in the stone work revealed a conveniently placed voice pipe. Xin attempts to climb up to the voice pipe but slips and falls. The group argues over methods of opening the door when they are interrupted by a muffled voice from the voice pipe.
The voice demands that the group identify them selves. Xin is the first to speak up and attempts to persuade the figure on the other end that they were a patrol that was attacked by undead. The figure demands a pass phrase. The rest of the team plays along with the ruse, but their efforts yield no progress as the voice continues to ask for a pass phrase. Eventually the figure on the other end identifies him self as a member of the Usilin military and demands that the group leave the area or face dire consequences. The team is dumb struck by the revelation. Zaltov steps up to tell the truth and identifies him self as a member of the Usilin post war relief army. The figure on the other end tells him that they have no authority here and must leave. While most of the team argues with the voice Peony starts looking for answers in the documents from the kobold pirate base. She had brought them along just in case the team needed additional clues.
Ver’rat attempts to smash the door with his hammers unique ability but barely manages to make a dent. He begins to toss insults at the figure on the other end. After an exchange of insults it becomes obvious to everyone that neither party was going to yield. Captain Zaltov is faced with conflicting orders but he resolves that the team carry on with the mission. Everyone agrees without question.
Peony’s search through the documents yields few clues. She finds reference to a “contact” stationed at Winterhaven to spy on the village. In case the contact needed to return to base, they would need to use a pass phrase to get passed the blast door. The exact nature of the pass phrase is not mentioned anywhere. No one is happy with the prospect of going back to town to search for this contact. Peony tells the group that dwarven architecture usually comes with secret passages and various traps that could yield a back door. The team agrees to search the catacombs for secret passages.
After a thorough search of the area the team finds nothing. Xin smashes his hammer against a wall in frustration, making a resounding THRONK that echoes through the halls. Everyone is intrigued by the unusual pitch. Xin smashes his hammer against the wall again. Everyone realizes that the wall is hallow. (GM’s Note: Everyone searches the catacombs for buttons and secret levers with poor perception checks, and Xin’s player, being clever, hit the one wall that was fake through a simple educated guess.)
Xin and Ver’rat both begin to hammer away at the wall until they make a hole, Peony flashes her mage light inside confirming that there is a chamber on the other end. Xin knocks on the floor tile beneath him and then pulls it out to discover a secret lever. With a pull of the leaver the stone wall slides down into a hidden compartment, revealing a completely unremarkable empty chamber on the other side. Peony dares Ver’rat to go in. Ver’rat goes to the end of the chamber and swings his maul, it passes completely through the wall, nearly throwing Ver’rat off balance by the force of his own swing. Ver’rat turns around to tell the group about the illusory wall but is cut off mid sentence when a hoard of arms suddenly grab him from behind and yank him through.
Ver’rat is pulled to the ground and beset by a hoard of snapping jaws. Zaltov quick leaps through the illusory wall and begins to pull the undead off. Xin jumps in after him. Caissa and Peony both wait outside the illusory wall where they begin to kill off the undead that are pushed through by Xin and Zaltov. Soon enough all the undead are disposed of. Ver’rat is treated for minor scratches and bites.
The team discovers a dusty secret armory beyond the illusory wall where they find a work table, mechanical components, and plenty of old firearms. An elegant brass gramophone siting on the edge of the work table seems to stand out among the generic supplies. Peony and Xin walk up to inspect it. A dusty vinyl record titled “I’m A Member of the Midnight Crew by Eddie Morton,” sits on the turntable. Suddenly the tone arm of the gramophone lifts up and silently drops down on the record, seemingly of its own phantom will. The disk begins to spin…
I’m A Member of the Midnight Crew by Eddie Morton
(DM’s Commentary: At this point I fear my games pace has completely been thrown off due to “life” forcing me to run the game in two hour sessions and my inability to move things along. My flaws and strengths as a GM are starting to show. What ever the case we must press forward! I intend to improve my pacing.)
Session 10: The Talking Gramophone
- Team discovers a talking gramophone that keeps records. The Gramophone explains that there are secret tunnels through out the keep and that the last Commissar that was in command of the keep went insane.
Session 11: The Commissar
“Xin and Zaltov, solvin mysteries! Xin and Peyone, killin all the baddies! Xin and Caissa, misscommunicessa! Xin and Ver’at, he was here wat?” – Zach
Session 12: Conspiracy
- Commissar Keegan tells the group of the secret tunnels in the natural caverns that where constructed during the great war. The tunnels lead to the inner sanctum of the keep where the Crossing is located. The group remembers that the area the Commissar spoke of is the place that the ooze lurked.
- the team cautiously treked through the natural caverns and discovered the oozes supposed lair. They eventually find a cistern with dark muddy water, and in the corner of the room was the hidden entrance to the secret tunnels. Caissa took a look at the water and noticed that there was some thing very large moving in the water. She informs the group and the team immediately vacates the room to the secret tunnels.
- The secret tunnels are discovered to be a complex maze, but the group navigates using minor clues showing where others have passed through. Worse still, the team finds that they are being followed by some thing as the sound of creaking wood is heard in the darkness behind them.
- While treking through the secret tunnels Xin steps on a landmine. Luckily Caissa disarms the mine. Further down the tunnels the group discovers more land mines and avoids them all.
- Some thing sets off the landmines far behind the group, collapsing that part of the tunnels.
- The team finds their way into what appears to be a sewer, and they find a shaft leading upwards. Up the shaft they are spotted by a group of soldiers who throw down a rope for the group.
- Zaltov and Xin decide to go up. Ver’rat goes up next but keeps hanging just out of view in case Xin and Zaltov need help. Peony and Caissa stay behind to watch the tunnels.
- Xin and Zaltov are confronted by a group of Imperial soldiers. Both groups discover that they have conflicting orders. The lieutenant leading the negotiation goes back to get get the commanding officer. It soon becomes apparent to Xin and Zaltov that the troops here are demoralized and tired.
- The commanding officer is revealed to be Major Zell, also known as the “War Chief.” He is a war hero that helped with the subjugation of an elven colony.
- Zell reveals that he and his men had come here to secure the crossing in order to use it as a weapon against the Heiligians in preparation for a possible future war. His orders came from the chief scientific adviser of Empresses inner circle. Xin and Zaltov both know that the Empress nor the Church would ever allow forbid the use of dark magic as a weapon. Major Zell said he was certain that the Empress would allow it once she saw how useful it was. Everything starts to make sense now, this entire affair was a military conspiracy.
- Zell gives Xin and Zaltov an ultimatum, leave or fight. Xin immediately leaps at Zell in a surprise attack and pulls him toward the shaft with the intention of throwing him down.
- Ver’rat climbs up to join the fight. Caissa makes it up next. Peony climbs last but isn’t as quick as the rest of the group. Worse yet, when she looks down, she finds the Ooze that the group had been fearing at the bottom of the shaft. Peony rushes up the rope but slips, getting no where. The ooze makes it up the tunnel just mere inches away from her feet.
Session 13: Close Call
- Major Zell dies after being pushed into the Ooze by Zaltov and meeting his end from a grenade dropped by his own men.
- Peony comes very close to dying having been engulfed up to her knees in ooze.
- Xin comes to rescue Peony but slips and lands in the ooze. He grabs on to the rope, holds on to Peony and tells her to do the “windy thing.” Peony pushes back the ooze with a massive whirl wind, the creature sinks down into the bottom of the shaft.
- Major Zell’s remaining soldiers are persuaded to help the team as Zaltov assures them that he will make sure that the soldiers will be not be hanged for treason.
- The soldiers decree to move out of the keep immediately and the team decides that the soldiers base will make a good camp for the night.
Session 14: The Inner Sanctum
- The group battles an enormous statue in a room full of mechanical traps.
Session 15: The Thing In The Portal
Session 16: Martyr