Decaying Lands 22: Skeleton Staredown

PCs Present & Played:

Claus, Magic-User 4 (Vegas)
  Wiebke Bott, linklady & burgeoning apprentice
Jewel, Really Good Dog 3 (Rudy)
  Buddy, ratter dog
Karl Gelt, Exiled Prince 1 (Helpful Waffle)
Tenkos, Cleric 3 [plague doctor kit] (Sugarplum)
Viggo Marklund, Specialist 3 [bounty hunter kit] (Peanut Butter)

Long hiatus! Too much work, no time for games. Last time (a long time ago) the party explored an underground... something. They burned some torches, saw and were ignored by some skeletons, stole a bag of silverware, and swiped a bunch of fancy rolled up tapestries.

Sidebar: Shoutout and thanks to Ian Reilly for the awesome d100 skeleton table that is starting to become very relevant to the party.

When we came back they were loaded down with the rugs and across the large atrium from the seemingly excavating skeletons. They debated as to whether to take what they got and leave or investigate further. Either character or player curiosity (or fear of leaving whatever was happening to progress) ended in a decision to keep going after stashing the tapestries and silverware back in the elevator. Viggo specifically made note that he was dumping out the silverware and keeping the sack with him.

Alas, while they were doing all this the torch they had left in one of the statues in the elevator hallway went out. Karl and Tenkos' torches were still burning brightly though so they weren't too worried.

Their aim was to explore more of the underground while still avoiding the industrious skeletons as much as possible. They skirted the leftward side of the atrium and heading towards the top hallway since they hadn't seen any skeletons going in there yet.
From 1 clockwise round to 4.

Partway down the hallway an arch descended from the ceiling. The writing was Old Teutonic but Karl was still able to make it out. It read:

"Let the rest of the honored dead never be disturbed."

As they approached they saw that the archway descended down the walls as well, with an inch of stone coming out of the wall covered in iconography holy to the Church. Think that Karl went thru first and when he didn't get zapped or disintegrate then everyone else came thru as well.

The hallways split into five different alcoves that they eventually found to all contain doors. Each doorway had its own descended arch above it bearing the name of the one presumably entombed inside. They went clockwise around in this order:

  • Karoline the Stout
  • Marleen the Mendicant
  • Emil the Sapper
  • Saskia the Bookish
  • Adelmar the Forthwith

Karoline the Stout's door was thick solid wood, reinforced with iron bands, with a knob and lock right in the center. Viggo checked around the perimeter of the door and inside the lock looking for needles or blades or anything else out of the ordinary. All he found was the glint of what looked like hinges on the right side of the door. Quick work with a set of thieves' tools and Viggo had the door open.

The tomb itself was dominated by a large stone sarcophagus, carved in the image of a large, muscular woman in full plate, greatsword held in her hands. On the far wall was a mural showing an idealized version of the woman carved on the sarcophagus standing triumphant on a field of battle. It looked very much like one of the tapestries they took from the feast hall (maybe exactly, hard to tell since they left the tapestries in the elevator).

Everyone except for Jewel (and Buddy) went inside the room. The very good dog and her ratter companion held back, wary of "disturbing the rest of the honored dead." 

They lit the candles that were left in the candleabras and very quickly decided to open the sarcophagus. Claus covered his mouth with his ascot, Wiebke and Viggo got out their crowbars, and they heaved just enough to crack the opening and look inside. Big puff of dust and then they saw a skeleton in some plate mail with a big sword.

Sidebar: I love that Claus has a froofy ascot that he is also willing to use for practical purposes. I also love that this party kind of hits the spread on respectability, with a seemingly higher class dandy or academic (in reality a depraved magic-user) and well-mannered noble (lost prince!) traveling around with two potentially scary, grimy, but ultimately effective and respected professionals (plague doctor and bounty hunter). I guess Caleb kind of fits in between them depending on how much he pretends to be a knight. Jewel opens up a whole 'nother avenue of options all by herself.

First reaction was "Why isn't this skeleton moving rocks?" Their opinion was split between the lid being heavy and the archway denoting some kind of holy area that was blocking whatever was animating the skeletons. Not wanting to take any (more?) chances they finished opening the lid all the way and quickly took the greatsword out.

They wanted to grab the plate mail too so we talked about how one could save time by not taking care for the bones and just smashing them to get the armor out without having to undo straps and whatnot. In the end they decided to leave the armor there since Caleb wasn't around and left leave the greatsword in the hall.

At this point they took stock of the general area behind the descended arch, which is when they found that all five branches led to doors and that they all had engraved arches above them. Karl also checked the back side of the entry arch and saw another inscription:

"Let the rest of the damned never come."

This made them all a bit uneasy and seemed to reinforce their theory that this area was special somehow.

They kept going round the doors, clockwise. Jewel took Buddy and posted up on their side of the arch, in the darkness. She didn't seem to want any part of looting the tombs so she stood guard, using her doggy hearing and super good doggy nose (Scent the Ineffable - smell undead within 30') to watch their back.

The next door belonged to Marleen the Mendicant: simple, metal, and no obvious way to interact apart from a small slot directly in the middle. Viggo dropped a silver piece through the slot. He heard it slide in and hit some metal but nothing else. Tenkos tried a copper piece and heard a lot more moving parts as some mechanism behind the door clicked and the whole thing lost tension and swung out.

Marleen's tomb was even more sparse than Karoline's: only a single candelabra was there to be lit and the carving on her sarcophagus was much rougher and simpler. The mural showed a humbly dressed woman leaning down and comforting wounded soldiers, again reminiscent of one of the tapestries the party took down.

There was nothing inside her sarcophagus apart from some moldy robes and a wooden cross on a steel chain. Karl, the most religious out of the party, took the cross in the hopes that it might have some power against the undead they had seen.

Sidebar: While Tenkos is a cleric, and that might make one think he is the most religious, the faceless doctors from Ghallia are a bit more practical in their application of faith and caring for the souls of humanity. If they hadn't been so effective at keeping back the plague that ravaged Ghallia the Church probably would have burned them all as heretics long ago.

Two doors down, three to go. They tackled Emil the Sapper next. His door was big, stone, and featureless. Inspecting the door came up with nothing but then Viggo widened the search to the stones around the door. That revealed a loose stone that was quickly pried out, leaving a cavity that went back a bit and ended in a t-bar extending out from the dirt. Viggo reached in and started to pull. As he did, he heard two clicks.

While this was happening, Jewel heard some shuffling and grinding of bone approaching, different from the normal excavatory sounds she had been monitoring of the skeletons working. She raced back towards the torchlight with Buddy...

... as it suddenly got a lot brighter. The first click Viggo heard was the door opening but the second one was the fire bomb that was also hooked up to the t-bar and oil and fire shot out into the hallway near the door (per p60 of LotFP Rules & Magic). Oil & fire as written isn't really that bad, just a d4, but if it hits 4 then it can cascade. Everyone mostly got just scorched, except Wiebke.

Wiebke rolled a 4. We didn't have stats for her yet so I had Vegas roll her HP and Con score. HP came up 1. Not looking great. Con 16 gave her 3 total HP, which was better, but now she had to make a save or take more damage. Had to get better than a 15 on a d20, and she did not. Don't remember what the next damage roll was, but it was more than enough.

Wiebke Bott, former linklady, had been burned to death. Viggo was really upset to be exploded TWICE by fire traps. After they realized Weibke couldn't be saved Viggo checked into the mechanism more and saw a metal wire attached to the back of the t-bar, separate from the main pull line.

Sidebar: In retrospect just a simple oil & fire trap is not really that deadly, especially for something to guard a sapper's tomb. I should have made it stronger! I was thinking the threat of catching on fire was a good danger but practically speaking it's not terribly likely (roll max damage, fail a save, then roll max damage again). I also should have probably just rolled damage once but here we are.

Side sidebar: I may be the most upset out of everyone that Wiebke died. Definitely top 3 of my favorite NPCs so far and I was really curious to see where her relationship with Claus went. T_T

Claus picked up the smoldering body of Wiebke and put it in the sarcophagus of Marlene the Mendicant. Karl said a prayer over her and everyone agreed that Marleen would probably have been okay with this.

Meanwhile Tenkos took his torch with Jewel back towards the arch and found themselves staring at the hollow eye sockets of a skeleton, garbed in tagged  northman's clothing. It didn't move, just stared at them from the atrium room with its head cocked.

The rest of the party continued, undeterred, to the tomb of Saskia the Bookish. The door again had no obvious holes or handles but this time they did not find anything on the wall around it. The door was smooth and was made out of a single sheet of some kind of dark green, almost black stone.

Someone made the obvious "speak friend and enter" joke but to no effect. They guessed that "the Bookish" meant that this person was probably a magic user and so they wanted to cast some magic on the door to try and get it to open. They did a quick inventory of Claus's spell slots and came up with two magic missiles, a free 2nd level slot (usually used for comprehend languages for Jewel) and a scroll of Summon that Claus had prepared back during his downtime in Bremmlecht as a nuclear option if all else failed.


They went with magic missile and four shining pink bolts of eldritch energy slammed into the door, each one causing more and more of the rock to chip off in large chunks.

Sidebar: I tried really really hard to describe a slate blackboard without calling it a slate blackboard. In retrospect I could have said it was like shale or slate and it wouldn't have given too much away. Trying to describe things in qualitative terms without being super obvious is a challenge I really enjoy as a referee but I can see the potential to go too far as well.

The four bolts punched a sizable hole in the middle of the door but also made quite a significant amount of noise. Jewel began to bark as she smelled more undead approaching and a number of skeletons appeared out of the darkness to join the decayed northman:

Skeleton wielding its own arm as a club
Skeleton wearing a spiked helm
Skeleton covered in wax
Skeleton with charcoal burned bones
Skeleton with a shield on its back
Large quadrupedal skeleton with sharp claws and a terrible beak
Skeleton with the head of a large, many-pointed stag

The stag-headed skeleton took a step forward from the group up to the edge of the boundary between the corridor and the atrium. A raspy voice hissed out from its skull and slithered down the hall for all to hear: "Who are you? Whaa-t do you wan-t here?"

Continuing the MS paint streak, it's too fun. Is this remotely recognizable?

Jewel kind of whimper growled (if I recall) and Tenkos mumbled something non-committal. The stag-headed creature's voice slid down the hallway again, repeating its question. Tenkos called back over his shoulder to the rest of the group, "Hey I think we're going to have to fight this guy soon!" and we ended the session.

Sidebar: End time was a little earlier than usual but it was a great break point and some of the players thought it might be better if Caleb was present. You know, just in case.

Torch Inventory:

  • Torch 1: OUT
  • Torch 2: Lit, Statue 4, d4
  • Torch 3: OUT
  • Torch 4: Lit, on the floor?, d6
  • Torch 5: Lit, Karl, d4
  • Torch 6: Lit, Tenkos, d8
  • Torch 7: fresh
  • Torch 8: fresh


d100 Skeleton Generator

I love mspaint. Screw hands and feet though.
Ian Reilly wrote a really flavorful table of d100 skeletons. They are really good! You should go there and read that first. The timing was perfect too because my players had heard some dog rumors about corpses digging down in the graveyard and were trying to investigate. To make my life easier, I made a sheet to populate stats and descriptions based on rolling a bunch of d100s. (Unsurprising spoiler for my players hey random skeletons incoming).

All you have to do is fill in a bunch of numbers on the first column of the first worksheet and the sheet does the rest. I use random.org's Integer Generator to give me a nice big column of numbers 1-100 and then just copy paste them into the sheet all in one go. Here's a link to a generator of 300 to make it even easier.

All of the descriptions on the data sheet are from Ian's awesome table; they get pulled into the first sheet when you fill out the column. All of the stats are whatever garbage I made up. You may want to replace them if you copy the sheet to use because I don't have any kind of intrinsic thought about what skeleton stats should be; I just put seemed good to me (LotFP frame of reference).

HP gets rerolled every time you update the sheet (and apparently whenever you load the sheet) so you may want to get everything set before you pay it too much mind. The "Special" column is pulled from data but the "Special 2" column is editable for when you want to specify what kind of magic shield or wand or whatever the skeleton has. You should definitely use Papers & Pencils d100 wands and d100 staves tables to help with that. I may use Dan D's table of magic masks as crowns stand-ins, too.

I hope this has some use for folks.

If I'm super wrong about old school skeleton stats you can tell me and I will learn something!


Decaying Lands 21: Bottom Floor Exit

PCs Present & Played:

Caleb, Fighter 3 (Just Yolks)
Jewel, Really Good Dog 3 (Rudy)
  Buddy, ratter dog
Karl Gelt, Exiled Prince 1 (Helpful Waffle)
Tenkos, Cleric 3 [plague doctor kit] (Sugarplum)
Viggo Marklund, Specialist 3 [bounty hunter kit] (Peanut Butter)

Last time the party talked to some dogs, got some info about mean squirrels and big people rocks in the woods, met a cagey woman who knows a lot more than she lets on, dug up an elevator, and went 150 feet under the dirt down to the bottom of the shaft.

Sidenote: We had a bunch of technical difficulties getting started trying to get a new video solution working since appear.in decided to start charging $10 a month. Boo. Glad Discord got video chat all rolled out. It's not as good, but it's the right price.

The players were incredibly cautious here. They took Wiebke's torches and then did a quick inventory of other light sources. Turned out only Viggo was carrying any, giving them a total of 8 for a devle of indeterminate length.

Sidenote: this continued a trend of somehow only Viggo having adventuring gear. Going down the elevator he was the only one with any rope (they had to run back to town to get more). Before that he was the only one with a shovel to dig out the elevator (good thing Jewel had scrounged up those mangy squirrel chasing dogs or Viggo would have been digging for a while). I think maybe it all just came with the bounty hunter kit [edit: nope, just the rope] but it still cracks me up that Viggo seems like the only prepared and practical one.

Jewel sent her doggerling ahead. Even though she liked Buddy a lot more than the other ones she had that's not going to stop her from sacrificing him if need be. No horrible traps though!

They went down the hall, encountering four sets of paired statues every thirty feet or so. They deduced that the statues were meant to hold torches but the poses of the statues were warning against entering entering. The last pair of statues were half again as tall as a person and quite imposing but they continued on after a brief hesitation.

The next section of the passage was extra quiet, like all the sound was muted. On either side were dozens of holes from floor to ceiling. They checked into a few before deciding that their primary purpose was to sonically separate the elevator from the rest of the dungeon. Eventually the passage opened ahead at the edge of their torchlight. They lit another torch and tossed it as far as they could, illuminating a cluster of columns surrounding a large dais. On the dais was a huge statue of a humanoid. The overall shape of the statue was not well defined (think Batman cartoon's Clayface) but there was a carved chunk missing at the neck where a head would go.

They were hesitant to enter, especially when they saw some skeletons on the other side of the room carting rubble and stone from one exit to another.

They came in 1. Dais in the middle, columns around it. Skeletons take rubble from 3 to 4. 6 is stairs up. Jewel says hi ;)

Since the skeletons didn't pay them any mind, just kept carting rocks and whatnot, the party decided to head up the stairs, looking for a quicker way out than the elevator they came down on. As they traveled up the stairs the amount of dirt and rubble increased until eventually the got dead-ended in a cave-in of dirt and rock. Along the way however they past a series of murals on either side of the hallway. Paraphrasing, it went like this:

  • Group of people sealing a tomb with an ornate coffin in it
  • Same group of people wrapping a restrained man in some kind of bandages or similar
  • Huge battle, living against the dead
  • Isolated incidents and attacks
  • Restrained man from earlier doing experiments with the dead
  • Same guy pouring over "evil wizard books"

Disappointed, they went back down the stairs in 6 and moved over to 5, trying to keep their distance from the skeletons. They heard them still moving around but didn't have any kind of trouble so they pressed on. They moved past a large set of double doors (no horrible traps, no locks!) and into a huuuuuge hall. There were tables upon tables, all set for a feast (any food long since turned to dust), and tons of weapons and racks lining the sides of the room. They moved cautiously through, theorizing that this was some kind of feast hall for the victorious warriors.

At the end of the feast hall they came to another door, of sorts. This one was a massive disc of stone, set into grooves in the floor, with no obvious way to move it.

Like this but solid stone and bigger than the hole and set in a groove and okay it's not that much like this apart from the shape.

The front was incredibly smooth, so they couldn't get a handhold on it. They tried pushing, thinking it would revolve around a center point. Nope. Finally one of the player went and got some of the polearms from the weapon racks and tried to wedge it into the gap between the circle and the groove. A few of them got to work and were able to get enough leverage to slowly work the disc out of the way, into the side.

This time they found a much much smaller feast hall with much nicer tableware. They scooped up as much as they could stuff in a sack and went toward the back of the hall. Hanging prominently at the rear, each behind a head table, were five very ornate and well made tapestries. Each one had a single, prominent figure in the middle with a battle going on in the background, similar to the murals seen before.

They debated maybe two minutes the possibility that the tapestries were trapped or cursed before taking them off the wall, rolling them up, and hoisting them on shoulders. So far their ideas for the tapestries are:

  • Burn the tapestries because maybe they're cursed
  • Throw them at skeletons
  • Wrap up the skeletons in the tapestries


They ended the session carrying a bunch (5) of rolled up fancy tapestries and a bulging sack of fancy silverware. Now to see whether they investigate further or run with what they got. Someone cue up The Clash.

Sidenote: First real outing of Logan Knight's light rules from the fantastic Sleeping Place of the Feathered Swine (how many times do I have to tell you go buy that thing it's so fun). I made mine a little more forgiving, but so far this is their torch status (yes they only have 8 and four came from the torchbearer).

  • Torch 1: OUT
  • Torch 2: Lit, Statue 4, d4
  • Torch 3: OUT
  • Torch 4: Lit, Tenkos, d6
  • Torch 5: Lit, Karl, d8
  • Torch 6: fresh
  • Torch 7: fresh
  • Torch 8: fresh


Decaying Lands 20: Dogs Are Dumb

PCs Present & Played:

Claus Drexol, Magic-User 4 (Vegas)
  Wiebke Bott, linklady and magical initiate
Jewel, Really Good Dog 2 (Rudy)
  Buddy, ratter dog
Karl Gelt, Exiled Prince 1 (Helpful Waffle)
Tenkos, Cleric 2 [plague doctor kit] (Sugarplum)
Viggo Marklund, Specialist 2 [bounty hunter kit] (Peanut Butter)

Last time the party traveled north out of Bremmlecht to The Crossroads, got a dog rumor about dead bodies digging down into the dirt, met the local priest, and dug up two (empty!) graves while she wasn't looking.

The party weren't exactly sure what to do next after their initial digging seemed to confirm some aspects of the dog rumor. They wanted to get more information about the town so they were on the lookout for a mayor or town elder or something. After realizing that The Crossroads barely qualified as a town their plan boiled down to "look for old people / dogs."

Jewel helped them track down a pretty old lady at the Sapphire Pipe Rose, the fanciest inn with the best location. She then sauntered off looking for a really old dog to talk to. She found one that tried to get her to live the easy life of scraps out behind the inns with him but no luck. He pointed her to a few dogs that had strange run-ins out in the woods despite being told not to go out there and she started back towards the center of the crossroads.

Meanwhile at the Sapphire Rose, a serving woman named Horga warmly welcomed Claus and Karl into the establishment while graciously allowing Viggo, Tenkos, and Wiebke to enter as well. There was an older woman sitting by the fireplace drinking tea but they instead went to the bar, playing it cool.

Playing it cool, that is, until Claus opened up by loudly wondering if anyone else had heard about the bodies disappearing from the graveyard in Teutonitopia! A woman next to him at the bar takes the bait, elbowing him and getting into a full on gossip session. She hadn't heard about any local troubles but farther south she guessed that the troubles in Teutonitopia were due to wizards pursuing illicit magics contrary to the law of the land! She was headed north to the city of Anstholm, purported last bastion of independent Tannemaark culture and possessed of a somewhat rebellious spirit.

Convinced that the traveler couldn't give him much else, Claus moved to sit down with the old woman, Lady Margaret.

"Good afternoon my dear, you must be the rose!"
"Oh dear, surely you know that you're not the first to have tried that line."

Her prickly rejoinder belied a desire for company and conversation, and they got to talking. Wiebke and Tenkos stayed by the bar, not wanting to throw off Claus' more noble air, while Karl took a seat where he could hear their conversation but also keep an eye on the room, looking for any reactions. He also took some time to inspect the inn's namesake jeweled rose, sitting on the mantel glinting in the sun. It looked real enough, and would have been worth a fortune.

Claus went back and forth with Lady Margaret, poking for information, but she poked right on back, asking about what kind of travelers they are and what they're doing at The Crossroads still after already spending a night there. Claus said something vague and plausible and she prodded some more, eventually inviting them all for a more private chat in the back room. They were interrupted by Jewel's special "hey come talk to me!" bark from outside, however, and Claus begged a few moments to retrieve their things from the other inn to move over to the Sapphire Rose.

Jewel had found the dogs that had gone into the forest and really wanted to talk to them with everyone else. During one of Claus' previous castings of comprehend languages she had established some kind of paw signal to cast the spell itself and a particular bark to let the party know that she needs them to come. They found her now outside of the Sapphire Rose with three dirty mangy dogs. She did not look happy.

Their fancy hat-wearing armored up really good dog companion her human companions and (very annoying) new dog friends down the road a bit, giving Claus time to read his books a bit and get the spell ready that would allow him to understand Jewel (and maybe these other dogs).

Sidenote: Claus always leaves his level 2 spell slots open in case he needs to take a turn to prep comprehend languages to talk to Jewel.

They pull off the road a bit and Jewel is visibly agitated. When Claus finishes the spell he understands why because these dogs are idiots and will. not. shut. up. Apparently "HATDOG" (Jewel) has promised them a lot of meat if they tell her and the man-people about the big people rocks that they found out in the lots of trees place.

Sidenote: This is one of the most fun times I have had with NPCs ever. Thanks Rudy for putting up with all these stupid stupid dogs.

Kind of like this but the dogs. Insert "HATDOG" every six words or so. If the time in the link doesn't work go to 50s.

Sidenote: I spent way too much time trying to find an example of what was in my head for these dogs. This was the closest thing I could find after going down a tangent path of "fast tapping" videos and giving up.

Eventually they get that there were some "big people rocks" out in the woods next to a big tree with squirrels in it. And they almost got the squirrels but then they ran up the tree! The struggle is real. Party theorized that the "big people rocks" might be some kind of foundation for a building or something like that. Claus tossed a bunch of jerky rations to the dogs, they expressed feverish gratitude to HATDOG some more, and the party realized that they had left Lady Margaret hanging to go and talk to some dogs.

They hurried back, transferred their belongings to the Sapphire Rose, and ALL (including Jewel) went into the back room. There's a bit of cagey dance, some very pointed comments from Lady Margaret's part about their very strange dog (and her awesome hat!), and then the group eventually laid it all out on the table about their investigation into this rumor about the bodies digging down in the graveyard. In return, Margaret told them what she knew of the Crossroads.

  • Her family was the first to build an inn here
  • The land here all belongs to the lord of Letath (edge of the fief)
  • The Crossroads started to gain more prominence 150 years ago at the start of the War of the Three Kingdoms
  • Letath also got more prominent then due to trade embargo with Ghallia
  • Magic was sharply limited after the war but always vague rumors of magical activity in remote places
It also became very clear to the party that Lady Margaret was a woman who had an eye on everyone as they passed through and maintained a keen interest in any information she could come by. She picked out Viggo as a bounty hunter right away, for example, and made some inferences about Karl and Claus as well. Potential downside to a relationship with her for Karl is that Margaret does not want the local priest to gain any prestige or influence and the young noble was hoping to do just the opposite. First things first though, bodies digging in the dirt!

They followed the mangy dogs down the road with Viggo in the rear, keeping an eye out for anyone who might be following them for Lady Margaret. They don't see anything and continue on into the woods. The dogs were distracted on several occasions by squirrels but Jewel kept them in line, eventually arriving at the "big squirrel tree with big people rocks in the ground."

What they actually found was a series of large stone blocks in a circle next to the tree, just below the dirt.

Kind of like this but a full circle of the stones with a ~10 ft diameter.
They got to digging in the middle of the circle. Viggo was the only one who had brought a shovel but Jewel told the dogs (with some samples from Claus) that they would get more meat if they helped to dig. She stood on the side of the growing pit, lording her doggy helpers over Viggo's exertions with the shovel. At about seven feet down, Viggo hit wood. Their job complete, Jewel told Claus to kill the dogs.

Sidebar: Rudy had to leave at this point so he wasn't able to have Jewel exert any more influence over the dogs' fate than this.

Instead, Viggo helped the dogs out, Claus gave them some extra jerky, and they ran back towards the crossroads! Aw good doggos, good job.

The wood in the pit was uniform and sounded hollow with the exception of an eight foot circle in the middle. Claus, Tenkos, and Karl observed from the top of the pit while the wizard sent Wiebke in to assist Viggo. In for a penny in for a pound, Viggo used his axe to hack a hole in the wood and Wiebke shined her torch in.

Not seeing anything immediately murderable / murdertastic, Viggo and Wiebke hopped in. The wood continued all around the walls with a single gap facing the stones. In the center there's a large column with eight slots evenly spaced around its circumference. An equal number of poles, a few broken, are strewn about the floor. They slot up the wooden poles into the slots, get everyone in, and eventually figure out after pushing on them all together that it's a corkscrew elevator version of the wheel of paint.

They tied off their only 50 ft rope to the giant squirrel tree and down into the hole and started turning the corkscrew.

The rope ran out. They briefly lamented letting the stray dogs go instead of keeping them around to be killed and eviscerated to turn their guts into ropes if the situation got desperate enough! "We gotta keep going, right?!" said Claus.

That lasted only about another 10 feet. They moved the elevator back up and sent Karl to climb up what they had and go back and buy some more rope. He came back with another 100 feet and an extra pint of lamp oil. They continued down, getting dangerously close to the bottom of their now 150 ft of rope before the opening in the wooden enclosure began to reveal a gap in the stones surrounding them. They brought the elevator all the way down, felt it connect with the floor, and stared down a wide stone hallway. Wiebke's torch didn't cast light too far but they could see some alcoves on the side up ahead, and the session ended.


Decaying Lands 19: Digging at the Crossroads

PCs Present & Played:

Claus Drexol, Magic-User 4 (Vegas)
  Wiebke Bott, linklady and magical initiate
Jewel, Really Good Dog 2 (Rudy)
  Buddy, ratter dog
Karl Gelt, Exiled Prince 1 (Helpful Waffle)
Tenkos, Cleric 2 [plague doctor kit] (Sugarplum)
Viggo Marklund, Specialist 2 [bounty hunter kit] (Peanut Butter)

Sidebar: I don't know what's up with the text in this post but some of the sections came out looking all weird despite being set to the same color as everything else and this is the best I could fix it.

Last time the party picked up a new PC, rescued and returned an errant farmboy from a den of gladiatorial combat, met a big ass wolf that could understand them, and stole a ton of money from the aforementioned fighting den.

Sidebar: I am 100% stealing this idea from Skerples over at Coins and Scrolls. I like the short summary and link back to the previous session's write-up to make it easy to walk back when you miss a post. Well done.

Slow start this session, some wrangling required of players and not enough decisive starting from me. Claus and Karl made some noble small talk over Claus' fancy gun that he stole from the Bremmlecht wizard tower. Jewel took her 700 sp share from the fight club beatdown, wanted 100 sp (!!) for some kind of ridiculously fancy hat (picture forthcoming it seems), and distributed the other 600 sp to her friends.

Jewel convinced Buddy to come with her, and Claus was able to persuade Wiebke as well. The ratter was happy to get out of the city with a boss who so far had treated him better than his other pack alphas.

The curious linklady had spent the last four days getting an introduction from Claus on some of the mysteries and principles of magic and needs the barest suggestion of adventure to come along. When he told her that they were heading to Ghallia, potentially even Ghallia-That-Fell, she leapt at the opportunity. After a small advance to help convince her family that Claus was a legitimate sort of fellow who would be training her in some unspecified craft as an apprentice. Lies and magic!

They gathered up and headed out after considering a few different routes to get to Ghallia. Their goal was the town of Frissen five or six days north of Bremmlecht.

This is really the map of Teutonia that I use. Why yes, I am quite embarrassed, now that you mention it. I made this in Hexographer when I had no idea about distance or anything at all. Maybe one day I'll redo it in HexKit.
Two days of travel north got them to The Crossroads, a collection of inns, supporting houses, and farms at the intersection of the main road north/south and two ports roads. They camped at one of the average inns, the Crossed Candles, and got to drinking! They heard a bunch of fun rumors but then Jewel needed to decide if she wanted to hear people rumors or dog rumors. Rudy opted for doggie rumors and boy howdy did we get a fun one!

"The bodies in the graveyard are digging themselves further down every night."

Sidebar: Thanks once again to the folks that helped me fill up this rumor table over on g+ and an extra special thanks to Scrap Princess for this particular rumor and the adventure that will probably ensue. Go check out her blog and blow your mind out. I will be sure to shoutout other folks as their entries come up but probably they are already in that blog list to the right.

Everyone wanted to go investigate except for Viggo who was more cautious: "Generally poking a hornet's nest is not the best idea, but if y'all think there's some kind of valuable outcome for us, I'm not one to oppose it." He then worked to convince himself that, despite his better judgement, pursuing these kinds of things has been to his material benefit so maybe it's worthwhile to go along with the idea.

They walked down the road a bit to talk to the local priest, Mother Lanega. Her house was poor, and ramshackle, but the outside was maintained and had a small garden on the side. On the side away from the graveyard there was a lectern with a number of stumps and a few benches arrayed before it.

Sidebar: I originally called her "Sister Lanega" out of habit but that wouldn't be the right title for a priest, even a young one, so I've changed it to "Mother" throughout.

Mother Lanega was thrilled to have someone arrive at her house with two exceptions: Jewel the dog with the crazy hat and Tenkos the médecin sans visage from Ghallia. Jewel just seemed strange and not like a normal dog to her while Tenkos' borderline heretical beliefs (assumed, based on his profession) were not welcome in a true believer's house. Karl smoothed things over with some pious words and they got to talking. Unfortunately the priest had not heard or seen anything out of the ordinary and the party didn't want to show their hand too much so they decided to try and investigate things themselves.

Karl distracted her by being interested in the sermon while the rest of the party circled back around to the graveyard. They didn't see anything out of the ordinary so Jewel just started digging! Claus was standing near the most recent grave (a casualty of that Cold Winter LINK from a few years back) so she got to work digging it up. After 20 minutes Jewel was maybe 4-5 ft down and hadn't found a body yet, which was strange, but she also didn't hear anything either. She hopped out (girl can jump!) and went to work on an older looking grave while Viggo, Claus, and Wiebke tried to discreetly kick the dirt back into the first hole. They had a similar result for the second grave and decided that something was definitely weird here and it bore investigation at a more discrete time. They cleaned up and went back to retrieve Karl from the sermon.

Karl entreated the priest to keep up the faith and they all headed back to the Crossed Candles to figure out their next steps.

Feedback & Improvements

I'm always asking my players for things that I could do better and I actually got some feedback this session, which is great! I'm thinking about asking everyone for a "best thing / worst thing" at the end of each session. I want to make this game boss for them and I need help!

Anyway, two things: first was that it took us a while to get started. I can help some of that by being a lot more decisive in terms of getting the action rolling and will try to work on that.

The second comment was about "why are we roleplaying out six days of travel." The impression they had is that most of the time travel is handwaved and you arrive at your destination. I wonder about this too sometimes, and have certainly played in games where that was the case. My internal rubric is to look at the travel time and run it based on the order of magnitude. A trip that lasts 5 days gets a check every day, one that lasts three weeks gets one every week, etc. I've done that in the past in this game but never explicitly stated it.

I generally like a little more detail than just assuming they get there easily; there have been several random encounters that have been a lot of fun but also have built into the campaign in ways that the players are already seeing, even though they probably haven't realized it. I do have a tendency to get caught up in enumerating every single detail (which comes out in these summaries a lot of the time) so I do need to be careful not to overdo it. Hopefully stating my guideline helps to make it more clear and can be a discussion point if folks feel like we are too much in the weeds. Ironically this particular piece of feedback was immediately followed by "but then we got this cool rumor that turned into a mystery and who knows what will happen!" so thanks again to Scrap (and everyone else) for the awesome rumor.


Decaying Lands 18: Ralf's Return

PCs Present & Played:

Boris "Iron Guts", Fighter 1 (Vegas)
Karl Gelt, Exiled Prince 1 (Helpful Waffle)
Tenkos, Cleric 2 [plague doctor kit] (Sugarplum)
Viggo Marklund, Specialist 2 [bounty hunter kit] (Peanut Butter)

Karl Gelt joined the party along with his brand new player!

Turned out that Karl was conveniently in the next cell down the hall from Ralf, he was just being super quiet when the party was talking to their rescuee last time. Karl is an Exiled Prince from the Principality of Altdorf in Ghallia-That-Fell. Ghallia-That-Fell is the southern half of Ghallia that was abandoned to a horrific plague during the last big war 50 years ago in a "human firebreak" type strategy. Karl would eventually like to get back to there and restore his kingdom but for right now he just wants to know what the heck is going on. The last thing he remembered was being close to the Ghallia / Teutonia border which is something like 100-150 miles from where the party encountered him.

With that retcon out of the way we jumped back to Boris opening the cage door for the large (100+ pounds, bigger than a great Dane) wolf that had been sitting there calmly regarding him.

Boris spoke to it and it nodded and responsed as though it understood him, even directly nodding its head when he asked if it understood talking. He elicited a sharp growl when he asked "Smart like my dog?", however, and the wolf responded with a shake when the bounty hunter asked if it wanted to go with them. He gave the creature a bit of meat from his pack and told the wolf it was free to go. The meat had barely hit the floor before the wolf scarfed it down, howled a quick thank you, and trotted past him out of the basement.

Karl wanted to go up and interview his captors but there was a bit of a hitch there. "Oh hey we killed everyone on the way down. Oh and we burned their house down too. Yeah." So instead he went looking for a bill of sale or something similar and took all the papers from their footlockers to evaluate later.

Dilemma: What do we do with the bodies and the money? Should we bring the bodies up and burn them? Discussion about how this fighting ring had guards and nobles involved. Could the party stay because the ring was on the down-low or should they get out quickly? They decided that they should just leave everything where it was, transfer the money from the chest to sacks, and try to get out of Bremmlecht as soon as possible.

On their way out of the underground complex they tried to get some more information about the cows from Ralf. The young man is incredibly simple, but he said good cows made him happy when he came back from Stilton. Then one day bad cows came so he had to stop them. Said that he didn't kill his own cows, just the bad cows. The party wasn't sure what to make of that but he was very convinced that he had only killed bad cows and not his own. 

They rolled up to Frau Esther Wegener, Ralf's aunt, and initially didn't want to tell her anything. Viggo tried to warn her not to talk about what happened to her "for her own good." This came off threatening, so he tried again saying that if she didn't then he couldn't guarantee her safety or similar. This only made her more upset so Viggo decided to spill the beans a bit and describe where Ralf was held. Wegener grasped the gravity of what they'd done quickly enough.

Frau Wegener's (older) kids came out, and the twins blanched at the realization that Ralf was back, bit of an awkward moment where the party questioned if they were involved in his capture by the fight organization. I think Wegener sort of shooed them away back into the house. Her main desire was that Ralf not cause the family name any more trouble and the PCs mostly succeeded at that, so she paid up. It's unclear what possible repercussions will visit themselves upon the Wegener dairy farm after the forest massacre is uncovered, if any, but the party will certainly not be staying around to find out.

It was around this time that Ralf's parents came running from their home, overjoyed at the safe return of their son. They presented a small vial, saying that it kept their grandfather safe during the war with Ghallia (spit!). He would tell stories of how the opposing soldiers couldn't tell which one of him was real to hit. The party was surprised, but grateful, and headed back to their inn.

Sidenote: It's a potion of mirror image, woo! This is the third potion that the party has received. They still haven't used their spider climb (ouch for Helga) or comprehend languages potions so I'm not expecting this one to get much use either. They've got a scroll of mending and continual light too that I'm thinking will never see the light of anything either. Probably all get lost in a river and ruined or smashed. At least Sugarplum / Tenkos is ALL about throwing those fire bombs.

Karl went through the letters, found
  • Names of people who participated in the fights voluntarily
  • Betting odds sheets
  • Letter to the people in the fighting pit talking about a proposition for them, new produce for their market
He burned everything except for the letter after transcribing it all into code. While looking through the letters Karl saw the current date on one of the letters and got real quiet. Karl also went to the post office to send a letter into Ghallia to a former retainer and ended up picking up some letters for Viggo and Tenkos (which I still need to write...)

Overall, between rumors of riches to be had in Ghallia-That-Fell, an uneasy stink of trouble from this fancy cheese place Stilton, and an honest to goodness exiled prince the group decided that there were enough hooks to head west to Ghallia! It's good to have something of a firm direction again.


Decaying Lands 17: Storming the Fight Club!

PCs Present & Played:

Boris "Iron Guts", Fighter 1 (Vegas)
Caleb, Fighter 2 [farmer kit] (Just Yolks)
  Suzie, a stubborn but loyal mule
Tenkos, Cleric 2 [plague doctor kit]
Viggo Marklund, Specialist 2 [bounty hunter kit]

The session started with a sad announcement: Just Yolks is going to be taking a break! This means that Caleb will be MIA for a few months while Just Yolks pursues some educational enrichment.

They revisited their plan to go in and murder everyone EXCEPT Viggo still wanted to give them a chance to surrender Ralf. After some more discussion they settled on an immediate nighttime raid to try and catch everyone unawares in their pajamas (yes they really did talk about the pajamas again).

Caleb decided to tie Suzie up at a bit of distance so that she didn't give away their position; they wanted to be really sneaky approaching. Viggo then headed off to do some solo recon of the situation.

Viggo sneakily approached under cover of darkness, found a snoring sentry in a tree and not much else after making a loop around the building. Debated trying to climb up and murder him but instead opted to cover the ground around the tree in caltrops. He wanted to avoid any possible risk of failure or alert as long as possible. Actually speaking of that:

"Tenkos since you're the fire bomber you should stay away," said the bounty hunter to the cleric.

Caleb took out his greatsword, put on his great horned stag helmet, and terrified all of his fellow party members. After recovering themselves, they got  ready to have Caleb sneak towards the front door around the edge of the forest with Viggo and have old Iron Guts and Tenkos hang back in reserve.

We used the group stealth rule from Beloch over at Papers & Pencils, meaning that Viggo got a -1 for trying to carry Caleb, net 3 in 6. Unfortunately, that one came up 6 (failure) and the sleepy guard woke up shouting curses.

Caleb charged the big door, Tenkos went for the little door. The big man failed to get through (on several attempts) but Tenkos made it in and started shouting for them to let Ralf go or they would burn the place down.

Meanwhile the guy in the tree was trading pot shots in the dark back and forth with Boris while Tenkos tried to get within range of the building. Neither archer connected much but Tenkos lobbed a blackfyre bomb straight up onto the thatch roof once it became clear that the occupants weren't going to play ball. The roof erupted in glorious purple flames while Caleb and Viggo beat feet back.

Now that the building was on fire it was much easier for Boris to see the archer in the tree and he nailed the poor sentry. Tree guy decided that discretion was the better part of valor and scrambled down the tree, dropping down the last couple of feet. That proved a mistake as he had no chance to avoid the caltrops and landed firmly on top of them. There was a lot of screaming.

There was even more screaming when Boris or Tenkos (can't remember which) rushed over to him so that they could stab him and make sure he was dead. He didn't die immediately, just collapsed a lung and slowly gurgled and choked before dying some minutes later.

Sidebar: My players thought that was just flavor but dude hit -3 HP and in LotFP that means you're dead in d10 minutes with no chance for saving. I like to apply the HP and dying rules on both sides of the screen.

While that guy was wheezing his last Viggo once again shouted out to try and get the occupants of the house out, saying that there wouldn't have to be any more killing if they gave up Ralf. All they heard in reply was the crackling of burning wood.

Sidebar: Just want to note that without Jewel confidently following the trail here they would have no evidence of Ralf even being here. They even debated that aspect for a while before fixing their recollection.

After several hours waiting for the fire to die down the party entered the remains of the still hot structure. They tried to look for any kind of hidden entrances or basement doors on the floor but there was too much burnt debris to find much without clearing things. They did see a large hole revealed where the rear of the structure had a bear skin on the wall that led down into the dirt mound.

The pathway curved and narrowed as it descended back around under the building. It was tight, forcing a single file approach with their big fake knight in the lead. They called out as they curled around but there was no response.

Caleb being in front potentially saved them all from a TPK because a pair of crossbow bolts came out of the darkness and four attackers rushed them. His platemail deflected a ton of blows, despite the crossbows ability to punch through. Their (Wetzel from earlier) hung back and kept up the ranged assault while two of his comrades tried to wrestle Caleb down with mancatchers and two hung back with whips.

Caleb was swinging mighty blows but couldn't connect with anything. Viggo snaked his bladed grappling hooks around the large farmer to strike at his enemies and Boris peppered the leader with arrows from his shortbow. Tenkos held back, hoping that his magic wouldn't be needed.

Even with the plate Caleb still almost went down and in serious trouble with Tenkos bottlenecked behind his comrades.

Once Caleb started connecting, however, he was hewing people in half left and right, pushing into the room. Viggo took the gap and went for the leader, using his 10' hooked chain and rolling a nasty critical. He sliced up his opponent but then went for the free grapple that he gets for his chain and lost the exchange! The leader coiled the chain around his arm and ripped it out of Viggo's grasp. His success was short-lived however as Boris punctured him with another arrow, dropping him.

As the party cut down a lot of the first wave a second group came running in behind them. Boris tried to draw aggro from Viggo (who was getting punished) by taunting the clever lady who had just run in with the rest of the folks. He was quite successful, meaning that Viggo's attempts at parley for Ralf without any more violence fell flat.

Sidebar: There were a bunch of morale rolls called for here with one of the leaders going down and number depleting. They just kept making all of them!

Boris ran up to stand with Viggo to try and take some of the aggression with some rough words about killing her husband, all the while going into a defensive stance. He took some serious hits, called out more bold words, but continued to parry since another shot probably would have killed him. Tenkos swiftly came up behind him to try to mend some of his wounds with magic, staving off defeat for the moment.

Sidebar: There were 9 opponents overall, four with crossbows. The crossbows were balanced out by the subpar weapons used by people more used to catching animals and vagrants and whipping them into a fighting frenzy for the entertainment of others. The party laughed a bit about the mancatchers and whips but I equipped the enemies before I thought about all the weapons that would have been lying around an arena. Still, without Caleb's platemail this could have very quickly turned into a TPK. It's worth noting that Viggo and Boris ended up being pretty defensive too, with a shield on the bounty hunter and life-saving Parry for the... other bounty hunter.

They offered no more quarter and pretty quickly finished off the rest of their opponents. Although the initial passage and combat area was all mud and supporting beams the next room signaled a rather stark change as mud gave way to well made stonework and tiled floors. The structure itself also opened up, showing much more complexity than the party first suspected.

Whole locale is based on this gorgeous map drawn by Guillaume Tavernier. Click for source.

The initial worked chamber was stocked with all manner of melee weapons, many stained with blood. The next was packed with bunk beds and footlockers. The third room was much larger, better kept, and had the furnishings of a well-appointed cocktail room. One set of stairs led up, presumably to the burned house above, and another led down.

They followed the stairs down into a very large space, still all in stone, centered around a pit with a railing, standing tables, and some bar height chairs. There was a counter offer to the side with a wooden plackard, odds still slotted in, and a very large, locked metal chest.

In the other corner there was a tight spiral staircase heading even further down. At the bottom it continued for a bit  before branching. Two side passages led towards the arena with a pair of gates on each one, like an airlock staging area for dangerous combatants.

Sidebar: All this description and exploration of the stone areas and rooms would normally have taken a bit of time but I rushed through it to try and give Caleb's player Just Yolks some closure on this particular adventure prior to taking leave of us. 

Past the arena entryways the stonework finally started to peter out, leading into a more natural, less refined passage. The tunnel continued straight into a large, barred cell before turning a corner. A very large, maybe man sized or a bit bigger, sat inside on its haunches, staring at them.

They ignored the creature for now and turned the corner, coming to a half dozen or so more normal cells at the end of the hallway. In the last one was a rather sticky man, covered in dried blood, blubbering quietly to himself. The blubbering increased dramatically in volume and intensity once he saw the party and it was difficult to communicate.

Viggo eventually got through to Ralf by saying he would bring him back to his mother and father. They tried to get him out of his cell, with Viggo attempting to pick the lock and Boris racing to find the keys. The adoring protege beat out Viggo, who couldn't pick the cell lock, and Boris unlocked Ralf's cell. Ralf continued blubbering and embraced Viggo, getting a lot of snot and slobber on the man in the process. They quickly moved to get Ralf out (sacking the place on their way), but Boris stayed behind, observing the wolf.

The wolf observed Boris right back, sitting calmly with a cocked head. Iron Guts held out a hand by the bars, offering a sniff, and the wolf rose and began to walk forward with a measured step. Perhaps getting impatient, Boris simply rose and unlocked the door.

Annnd end session. Thanks Vegas for giving us a great hook!