Decaying Lands 09: Return to the Wandering Isles

PCs Present & Played:

Barthelm Schade, Specialist 4 (James)
Caleb, Fighter 1 [farmer kit]
  Suzie, a stubborn but loyal mule
Claus Drexol, Magic-User 3 (Vegas)
Jewel, Really Good Dog 1 (Rudy)
Tenkos, Cleric 1 [plague doctor kit]
Viggo Marklund, Specialist 1 [bounty hunter kit]

This summary will contain some major SPOILERS for the The Trail of Stone and Sorrow if you're paying attention. Maybe giving a warning makes the spoiler stand out more, but I'd rather link to a great adventure than not.

The ratman Brian that helped Claus and Barthelm deal with the feathered swine fled west as soon as they were out of the cave, leaving the two friends to carry the gravely injured and useless wizard Felix Longworm back towards their seaside rendezvous. Luckily for them, they met up with Caleb, Tenkos, and Viggo who were on their way west from Bottenburg. And Jewel the dog! She's so fluffy! Dirty, but fluffy. Everyone decides to be friends because it's expedient for the ref and the new folks help Barthelm and Claus get Felix to Captain Skovgaard's ship in time.

Captain Skovgaard's job is to bring Claus, Barthelm, and their haul from the feathered swine back to the island of Wilhelm the Wily. They were also tasked with removing a gate key ring from the intestines of Brian the ratman. Barthelm lies and says that Brian died first because he was a useles rat thing guy. Skovgaard was skeptical that Brian died so easily but since they did have the ring she didn't press it. She did question bringing Suzie the donkey ("Mule!") on board. Caleb's immediate angry response provoked little more than a shrug from the captain and a request that Caleb take care of the poop.

Sidebar: The players of Barthelm, Claus, Heidi (dead) / Viggo, and Helga (dead) / Tenkos have been playing for this the entirety of the campaign so far. They started off with a one-shot of The Trail of Stone and Sorrow and decided, against all odds, to be heroes in a Lamentations of the Flame Princess game and save Polde the farmer. They've spent the whole campaign up to this point trying to track down the wizard Wilhelm the Wily because of a vague notion that he can help them.

Wilhelm the Wily lives in the Wandering Islands so it takes several weeks of game time to successfully arrive. During the downtime, I get to sit back as ref and let the players do some planning and learning about each other. It's magical. Of note:

- The bounty that Viggo is looking for Einrich Fassbinder, the father of the recently deceased Heidi! (and the player's former character). The party gave the details of her death and the fact that she had three brothers, cementing Viggo's choice to join up.
- Friendly farmer Caleb found that their new dog jJewel has a really fancy collar with some Cronov (pretend Russian) written on it that says "Jewel - ALPHA" and an old noble family's coat of arms. Claus, as played by the rest of the party since his player was late, discovered that Jewel is incredibly smart (for a dog) and delighted in testing her abilities, understanding, and generally fawned over her fancy collar and how great she is.
- Tenkos is a plague doctor from a neighboring country that was nearly annihilated by some kind of super plague. What's he doing in Teutonia (pretend Germany)? Don't know but he keeps a vial of blood that he says has the plague in it.
- Felix Longworm has recovered from near death but is now crapping his pants that Helmutt, one of the inhabitants of Wilhelm's island, will be pissed that Felix didn't recover his loaned spellbook from the cave the feathered swine was brooding in.
- Barthelm explained what happened with the feathered swine.

Barthelm also explained about the island: there's a formidable keep populated by a ton of burly folk who don't talk and seem to serve Wilhelm the Wily. They never met anyone named Wilhelm but there were three people they actually talked to: Lars ("call me Larry!"), William ("please don't call me Billy..."), and Helmutt.  Lars seemed to be the one calling the shots despite being friendly, deranged, and unstable. Their plan was to give the gate key ring to Caleb while the rest of the party delivered the spoils from the feathered swine and hope that Lars and company upheld their end of the bargain and helped Polde.

As a last minute addendum right in the nick of time, Barthelm tells Jewel not to exhibit any special smart dog stuff around Felix or especially anyone on Wilhelm the Wily's island.

Sidebar: I was equally disappointed and pleased that they thought of this. It probably would have been catastrophic but it definitely would have been interesting. I love when players do smart things though, so maybe pleased wins out.

The arrival at the island and entry into the keep was tense. As soon as the ship had docked some of the Voiceless servants came and aggressively removed Felix, taking him into the keep. He struggled, and the party could hear his screams and protests, but they chose not to intervene. Lars welcomed them into the entry floor of the central tower. They enter into a large mess hall with William sulking at a table but Helmutt nowhere to be seen. Lars was immediately taken with Jewel and motioned for her to come over. Playing up her "normal dog" angle she instead vomited up some hay on the floor. At this point Helmutt entered from a stairwell but was crawling around on all fours, panting with his tongue lolling out of the side of his mouth.

Sidebar: Polde is a farmer. His dog ended up in his body, turned to stone. Polde ended up in the body of a creature that turns you to stone and swaps souls with you if you make eye contact. Helmutt forced eye contact when the party was here last, to bring beast-Polde to Wilhelm the Wily.

At this point Rudy (Jewel's player) threw me a curveball. Really Good Dogs can speak canine, so Rudy has Jewel ask this man-dog Helmutt all sorts of good stuff. She revealed some of her story and learned (at a minimum) how to get a good belly rub.  I try to roll with things but I had not expected this angle at all and probably did not handle it well. I had been curious to see how a Really Good Dog worked out in play and this was the first time I got an inkling of some of the extra challenges. It is awesome and I love it.

Barthelm interrupted the doggy banter by handing over the bag of worm cysts from the feathered swine and demanding to know where Polde was. Claus was more nakedly curious about how Lars & co. got the dog into the body of Helmutt when the last time they saw Helmutt he was a statue. The rest of the party seemed on edge and confused, probably realizing that they were in a very dangerous situation.

Lars was overjoyed when he inspected the bag of awful worms and jokingly fake tossed one to Jewel to play catch. This is what I used to help describe the worms:

worm heart thing from The Strain
At this point Polde came down the stairs from above and ran over to embrace Barthelm and Claus, crying tears of joy. Lars and William had not only returned him to his proper body but they had been quite hospitable to him, especially after Polde helped Lars to train the man-dog Helmutt. Claus wasn't as concerned with Polde as he was with concerned with a need to understand the magical process that got Polde back to normal, which Lars explained with some handwaves about how easy it was. Maybe Claus would stay on the island to learn? Maybe everyone should stay for dinner!

Sidebar: Claus' player only showed up around now, but Claus had done plenty in the session before now. Vegas has done such a good job of giving Claus personality and motivations that everyone else was able to call out very "Claus-y" things for the magic-user to do.

Barthelm seemed like he wanted to get back on the boat as quickly as possible but Viggo interjected that they would love to stay. Afterwards the rationale was that they definitely not piss off such obviously powerful wizards by refusing their invitation. Dinner seemed normal until one of the Voiceless started choking and coughing before falling backwards off their bench. Lars jumped up with glee and ran over, calling out to the party to come and see. His experiment with one of the worm cysts was even more effective than he had imagined and he cavorted at how quickly the worms spread when ingested directly.

The party's night in the barn was not a restful one.

Session ended with everyone (including Polde!) back on Captain Skovgaard's ship to cross the sea back to the mainland and finally get Polde home.


  1. So the equivalent of Germany in your campaign setting is called Teutonia? Have you come up with fantasy names for any other nations? I ask because I might be starting a campaign taking place on an alternate history/timeline/dimension/reality/whatever Earth soon, and I could probably use some names like that.

    1. Yeah, basically. I started off with fake Europe notionally because I didn't want to have to think about maps and other stuff when I'm just scrambling as it is. I wanted other names too because I want to drive home the point that these places in the campaign are only very loosely based on real ones.

      Here's what I have so far:

      Germany: Teutonia
      France: Ghallia
      Spain / Portugal: Iberika
      Italy: Etruska
      Denmark: Tannemaark
      Norway: Nordmanna
      Sweden: mostly gone, what's left rolled into Nordmanna
      Russia: Cronon, vaguely east of Teutonia
      Netherlands & Belgium: rolled into one of Ghallia, Teutonia, or Tannemaark

      I haven't had a need to define anything else yet so nothing else has names. I'm sure if they ask I'll have to make up something dumb on the fly. I tried to name them to be familiar enough to echo the inspiration but still be not the original name.

      If you end up coming up with more lemme know!

    2. These are great! I might use these, too, if you don't mind. Thanks.

      I'm thinking Albion might work for Britain or England or something. Or Brittania, if I want some Ultima flavor. But I'm not sure. And Qelong could fit in somewhere in Southeast Asia - I think I've seen the adventure/setting referred to as "Fantasy Fucking Cambodia." I would be tempted to keep the Netherlands as its own nation, although I would need a fantasy name for it if all the other countries are renamed. Something playing on the literal translation of Netherlands, "lower countries," perhaps?

      I kind of want to see an campaign setting that takes the names and/or nicknames of various places extremely literally. The Netherlands are underground, the Black Sea is a giant pool of oil or Black Blood of the Earth or something, Ireland suffers regular attacks of the Rage Virus (or "Plague of Ire"), Finland is a Deep One colony or a Mermaid-owned "land" built on a giant coral reef or the home of the mysterious "Sea Peoples." The Mediterranean Sea is in the center of the planet. I'm sure you get the idea.

    3. Of course you can use them! Isn't that part of the point of all this? If I wasn't mercilessly stealing everything under the sun I wouldn't even have a campaign.

      I like Albion, myself. I can't share the fate if the place in my campaign just in case one of my players is paying attention...

      Qelong could fit over there but why make it so remote? Swap out Morocco or something! I want them to get there. I've already started regretting making my campaign so spread out.

      I love the literal name idea, would be awesome especially all smoothed together. I wonder if it would be even more effective if you obscure the origin a bit but reward the players for figuring it out. Like something like old Spain could be rules by wemics who are expert castle builders, known for being religious extremists and crusaders (Castilla y León). So then if they figure that out they can abuse some historical knowledge. Extrapolating, they could find their way to hidden places like the Netherlands or the Mediterranean.