Decaying Lands 37: A Princely Request

PCs Present & Played:

Barthelm Schade, Specialist (James)
Edmond Renault, Fighter (Skarne)
Tenkos, Cleric [plague doctor kit] (Sugarplum)
Viggo Pyreborn, ?? (Peanut Butter)

Last time the party made a new friend (Edmond!), traveled through Prince Fabian's domain a bit enjoying its particular culinary delights, and arrived at the prince's manor.

Barthelm was able to make this session so we retconned some travel chat of him inquiring more into Edmond's past. Edmond expanded on his tale, describing how he rescued Prince Florent's general from an overextended expedition into Ghallia-That-Fell. When pressed with more details he only offered up that "The Plaguelands are dangerous."

Sidebar: This session was mostly talking, especially a lot of talking from Prince Fabian. I felt weird to be talking so much (this is the party's show) but then Peanut Butter reminded me not to apologize so damn much. Also meeting with a major player NPC who is also one PC's patron and rival to another PC's former patron... probably worth having a lengthy conversation?

Description: A walled city cut into halves by a mostly east-west road. Farms ring the outside and a third leg breaks south.
City of Lenticot, capital city of Prince Fabian. Prince's manor circled at #1, Ribald Moose at #2.

Their escort took them straight to Prince Fabian's manor in the center of the city. Barthelm still had enough time to request a smithy recommendation from the guard captain riding with them. He was specifically looking to replenish their supply of bear traps after losing two in Viggo's melty burny after-death. Initially offended that Barthelm might be thinking of raiding the Prince's hunting lands, he gave an appreciative head nod when Barthelm clarified that their prey was typically two-legged rather than four-legged and promised to help after their meeting.

Description: Vertical rectangle with a dark blue background. Ropes run diagonally with knots where they cross.
Flag of the Unified Principalities of Ghallia. The blue is for the seas and rivers that Ghallians are famous for traversing and the ropes represent the bond between various princes. A single flag can be joined on any side with another of the same when princes muster their resources together for a common purpose.

Sidebar: My players asked first what Prince Fabian's flag was (and gave suggestions) and then what the flag of Ghallia would be. This is what I came up with. The tiling aspect of the flag is probably cheesy but I like it. They also asked for Fabian's sigil but my first attempt sucked so that's going to have to wait.

Prince Fabian's flag flew above the manor, with the Flag of the Unified Principalities of Ghallia on one side and their sigil on the reverse. The Prince was in residence, waiting.

The furnishings in the manor were luxurious without being ostentatious. Their wagon was secured and they were quickly ushered through a set of double doors, announced as "Tenkos, faceless doctor in the service of our prince and his companions." The room was a small side eating chamber, not the main dining hall, and Prince Fabian was seated with an assortment of supper options. They rose, greeted the party, and invited them all to sit and relax.

Tenkos opened up about their experience in Stilton. Prince Fabian confessed that they hadn't had a chance to fully examine the latest information but very much appreciated all of Tenkos' prior missives. They began to pick and pull snippets from the party's previous adventures, calling out the members present by name and exploit. Prince Fabian expressed their extreme appreciation for Tenkos and his continued loyalty, truly a faceless doctor dedicated to the cause of Ghallia.

The only one who the Prince did not recognize was Edmond, but they did recognize the tattooed insignia of Prince Florent on the soldier's wrist. They also noted the manacles on his wrist with an arched eyebrow. Edmond shared with Prince Fabian his recent stay in Prince Florent's jail after a highly unusual, and overextended, foray into Ghallia-That-Fell. The Prince's other eyebrow shot up and they looked from Edmond to Tenkos and back again.

Prince Fabian immediately summoned their majordomo, Antens, as well as Captains Brice Robineau and Pascal Lajoie. They quickly retasked the captains to reallocate appropriate assets into Prince Florent's lands to acquire further evidence of their cousin's activities during Edmond's reported forays into Ghallia-That-Fell.

The Prince then presented a problem of their own that involved the abandoned plaguelands across the river. Prince Fabian's niece, Noëlle, had fallen ill and none of the faceless can do anything to help her. She will die. She is not only the Prince's niece but also their heir. This cannot be.

Prince Fabian explained that though none of the faceless have been able to help they have been able to uncover some whispers and fragments of information referring to a wizard who lived in Ghallia prior to the Fall who had dabbled in rituals of resurrection. Prince Fabian's resources were not able to uncover an exact location but they believe the possible laboratory location to be deep into the plaguelands. Prince Fabian stressed that they sought only volunteers and were not in any way commanding Tenkos to undertake this journey.

Edmond got up and walked out, disgusted at the thought of another prince suggesting further forays deep into Ghallia-That-Fell. The doorman on the way out suggested that he wait for his friends at the Ribald Moose and enthusiastically recommended that he "ask for Frances."

Tenkos wanted a private audience, so Majordomo Antens took Barthelm and Viggo into the next room. Tenkos explained about how his magic brought Viggo back from the dead and, although Tenkos isn't exactly sure how yet, perhaps he could help Noëlle. The Prince again expressed their gratitude for their loyal servant, appreciative of any and all assistance. They also hoped that Tenkos would be able to convince his friends to help if he was indeed interested in volunteering.

After Tenkos rejoined Barthelm and Viggo they got some more information from Majordomo Antens. The majordomo was not thrilled with Prince Fabian's plan but explained that the prince would be be willing to offer aid of material and influential significance in preparation for an expedition and substantial monetary recompense if they returned with the ritual. If they returned with a ritual and it worked?... Even more so.

Tenkos, Barthelm, and Viggo departed Prince Fabian's manor after Barthelm found out where Edmond went (with the same elbowed recommendation for the "horny moose" and to "ask for Frances"). After they all echoed Edmond's disappointment that it was Frances' night off, they discussed the options before them. The party's latest addition gave an impassioned speech, paraphrased:

I spent my whole life dedicating myself to the leadership of this land and now in short order have seen two princes suggest lunacy. The concern isn't the motive, the concern is the repercussions. A leader's role is to make the call that is for the good of the nation, if that is to lose a loved one that is what must be done.  "If Fabian wants us to go into the Plaguelands, how do you know that won't be the root of the downfall of Ghallia?"

Barthelm told Edmond that there's no way to know whether there will be more trouble staying or going, but to know that if if did go with them they would have his back.

Sidebar: Yeah I made that joke in my head but didn't want to disrupt the flow. Then one of them made it out loud. Not my fault.

"Are you so hungry for coin you would risk an entire nation?" - Edmond
"It's not the coin, it's that I WOULD risk an entire nation to help my friends." - Barthelm

Edmond contemplated staying in the Ribald Moose as a bouncer but realized that he would regret not going with them, probably for the rest of his life. Barthelm felt somewhat guilty that Edmond acquiesced to his argument, but they downed their Meisterbrau as comrades and began to discuss preparations for the expedition.

Sidebar: Apparently Meisterbrau is a real, discontinued, beer that one of my player's fathers used to drink. It is also apparently TERRIBLE.

Sidesidebar: This has opened the door for potentially the second EVER intentional downtime of this campaign as they prepare for travel. First downtime was maybe two weeks? Maybe third downtime, Jewel advocated for a week off to train Buddy to level 1 in a class I suppose. 37 sessions over 2ish years...

Endbar: These summaries take me too long to write for how effective they probably are. Part of that is a predilection to distraction but part of that is that they may not serve much purpose. Even as a player / me reference they seem lacking. Not sure what to do though.


Decaying Lands 36: Gastrotourism

PCs Present & Played:

Claus Drexol, Magic-User (Vegas)
  Phillip Bachman, linklad
  Lucien Courtet, infantryman
Edmond Renault, Fighter (Skarne)
Tenkos, Cleric [plague doctor kit] (Sugarplum)

Last time the party took a huge chest of silver and half of the library from Cooper Thornhill's basement of horrors, told everyone about what happened, and finally made it back to Tenkos' patron's domain. Oh and Viggo is not dead but not the same, either. Edmond joined the party! They caught up to him when they rode their wagon into Meilleur, the first town within Prince Fabian's domain, after two days of breakneck travel. Fabian is Tenkos' patron prince so it was a mad dash to get from Stilton to somewhere a little friendlier. They arrived in town right after another traveler who looked even more haggard than they were. They went straight to the nicest inn they could see, The Maiden & Chariot, and invited their new friend along. The military insignia on Edmond's right hand as he shook Tenkos' indicated membership Prince Florent's military. He looked beaten and road-weary, with a thick cloak and heavy iron bracers around his wrists. He was certainly grateful for the hospitality.
Appearing as a fleur de lis with five petals instead of three.
Perhaps if I use gimp more I will not hate it so much and simple things like this will not take me FOREVER.

Claus noticed all this but was more focused on the part where Edmond addressed TENKOS before CLAUS. SO RUDE. This was only underscored when they actually entered the the inn and the host, Mara, directly addressed Tenkos and ignored everyone else. She showed him great deference as she guided them to a choice spot near the fire and explained what culinary delights awaited them in this fine establishment.
For breakfast, roasted pheasant stuffed with its own deviled eggs and hot spiced cider (Edmond detected a hint of cardamom and felt warm and whole for the first time in DAYS). Supper would be smoked lamb, fat charred on the outside but stuffed throughout with morsels of garlic. I was going to get into breakfast after they had woken up the next day but aaaaaah it was fresh crawdads from the river. With luxurious butter sauce, creamed up. Dammit. Sidebar: I was told at one point that I should consider starting a food description ASMR channel. Perhaps I have found my true motivation in RPGs! Through all this food description Tenkos and Claus shared their story about what had happened in Stilton. Edmond confessed that he had been imprisoned in Prince Florent's stronghold wrongfully and, although he had not seen the prince involved himself, suspected some kind of deviation or corruption in the chain of leadership. He thinks it may have been related to his revelation that Prince Florent's soldiers were making possibly unsanctioned forays into Ghallia-That-Fell for purposes other than keeping the riverbanks clear. He managed to escape but kept the manacles around his wrists and the heavy chain links around his chest as a reminder. Sharing is bonding and they spent the next day resting and cleaning up from their travels, making their way deeper into Prince Fabian's domain and arriving at the town of Pastow. Edmond wanted to give something back to his new friends after their generosity in Meilleur so went looking for some general labor he could perform to earn some scratch. He quickly assessed the other patrons at the Drunken Fool, calling out one patron who was on the edge belligerence and another who was concealing a knife. The bartender hired Edmond on the spot for the evening! Edmond got the drunk to excuse himself, passing along a flask of cider and some whispered advice that, "The secret is a bit of cardamom." The man hiding a knife turned out to be a coward, and overall Edmond was able to easily manage the room and prevented any trouble from breaking out. Ransa Refont, propriertor of the Drunken Fool, was so appreciative that he paid more than the general rate (10sp), gave a bonus on top of it (another 10sp), and told Edmond that he was welcome any time he was in town. Sidebar: Pastow was about to be an eyeblink. This whole sequence all came off a "Hey is there anything else you want to do here before you travel on?" prompt. Hell of an opening play from Edmond! An entertaining sidebar and a friendly contact to boot. Tenkos, inspired, went about searching for some cardamom to buy for his new friend. "Isn't Cardamom from India?!" Turns out in real life, yes, yes it is, which is good enough for our "use real world geography as a very loose model because games are hard" campaign world. Luckily Tenkos' prince encourages living well so he was able to scrounge some up (at a not insignificant cost) and gifted the spice to Edmond. Now well seasoned, the group finally traveled on to Lenticot, Fabian's manor town near their fortress. I asked the party to be on the same page with what they want to tell Prince Fabian, figured travel time was a opportunity. Claus asked if there was anything they wanted to get out of Prince Fabian and nope, not really. Tenkos just wanted to execute his duty to his sworn prince! Claus was down to tell them in detail about all the stuff they found out in Ghallia with an eye towards portraying themselves as the heroes! Probably close enough, this time. Edmond wanted to try and get a private audience to discuss his concerns about Prince Florent and potentially illicit forays into Ghallia-That-Fell. Tenkos just wanted to go home for a bit and fill in prince. They entered the city proper and the guards at the gate immediately recognized Tenkos, first as one of the faceless and then called out by name. They dispatched a runner to inform Prince Fabian while two other guards began to escort them through the city toward Fabian's manor. In the distance they could see the prince's stronghold on the banks of the River of Thorns.


Decaying Lands 35: Stilton Escape

PCs Present & Played:

Claus Drexol, Magic-User (Vegas)
  Phillip Bachman, linklad
  Lucien Courtet, infantryman
Tenkos, Cleric [plague doctor kit] (Sugarplum)
Viggo Pyreborn, ?? (Peanut Butter)

Last time the party reunited with Barthelm, killed all of the guards of Stilton, pulled down the cow cult arch, and lit Cooper Thornhill's cheese barn on fire.

Claus was lost in his books and fell asleep reading and missed all the craziness of the last session. Claus and Tenkos were discussing what to do in the basement library when they heard a horrific wrenching scream come from the central room of the basement. They tried to ignore it and keep talking but the sustained scream turned into ragged breathing. Finally Tenkos cautiously poked his head around the door and saw...

Viggo! Kind of. He was naked and charred and dazed and somehow still alive. The two awful cuts that ended his life were scarred over, sloppily, like a bad weld. His flesh was charred and had chunks of his chainmail melted into it. It was around this time that they noticed that the two bear traps Viggo usually carried had been melted and destroyed by the blackfire as well. It was a tough moment.

"Check to make sure he's not an undead monstrosity!" - Claus

"They got me and everything went black and then I felt fire in my soul, fire like I never felt before. Light, beautiful, burning light. And then you!" - Viggo

Claus hypothesized that Viggo could be some kind of human phoenix! Viggo didn't remember any of his family members dying and coming back. He remembered everything up until getting chopped down and standing back up again, somehow alive. Claus tested him with his iron-tipped cane (with no reaction) after Viggo began picking out the chainmail chunks and hurling them away with disgust.

Viggo was still naked which didn't bother him much but did seem to perturb his comrades. He acquiesced, grabbing a pair of trousers and boots from Thornhill's pile of discarded clothes and some leather armor from one of the dead guards. He considered taking a sword or shield but found that he no longer had any desire to use those kinds of weapons. His magic hunger boots survived the blackfire, so he fashioned a sack from old clothes and stuff them in along with his melted pile of silver.

Their friend somehow returned (though Claus was still suspicious), they turned their attention to the problem of getting out of the burning barn with all of Cooper's silver. Their first idea was to make more sacks from clothes, stuff them half full of silver pieces, and then pile body parts on top. They would then claim that they needed to study the parts for... plague science reasons? Then they thought they could just stuff a dead body full of silver! Then they mostly abandoned this line of thought.

Claus found a magic scroll in the library! He won't know what it's for until he takes the time to cast read magic on it but he tucked it safely away.

Discussion about what to do immediately, in Stilton, turned into a discussion about longer term goals. Tenkos wanted to go farther south into Ghallia and report in person to his prince, Fabian, with an eventual goal to head into Ghallia-That-Fell.

"If there was some way we could prove there were mutant cows down here... let's rebuild the arch!" - Claus

They could tell the fire upstairs was burning out. Claus dragged a bookshelf across the library entrance in an attempt to hide the rest of the books and they got ready to go up.

Tenkos went full on faceless (plague) doctor as soon as they got topside, mask and everything. He was trying to fake a minor outbreak and get everyone to go back to their homes. He had told the rest of the party to fashion makeshift facemasks (like bandanas) to help sell it, and it was kind of working, but there was also a building sense of panic. On top of the general fear of plague outbreak on this side of the river there was a sense of confusion and concern over the fact that Thornhill's daughter, who was supposed to be dead 9 months ago, looked very recently deceased.

Tenkos saw the local priest approaching in the crowd and called out to her. Auntie Mildred helped to corral everyone and send them back to their homes until the local prince's own faceless doctors could arrive. She also helped to emphasis that no one should bother the poor Thornhills and picked a messenger to dispatch to Prince Florent.

Sidebar: Since the priests are Father and Mother in stuffy oppressive Teutonia I threw out off the cuff that maybe priests in Ghallia are Auntie and Uncle. It was well received enough to keep it.

Mildred offered to take the party over to the church and house them while they waited for Florent's men since the inn was off limits. Claus' hirelings stayed behind at the barn, ostensibly to guard it but really to start loading as many books from the library as possible into the party's wagon. They had to dump almost all of their massive food stocks but it was a good trade in their eyes. (Mine too, they got a fair amount of XP and potential library value off those books).

Once they got to the church with Auntie Mildred they started laying it all out for her, what really happened. Tenkos was a little reticent at first until the Auntie started talking about her own research into the barn. She was the one who originally sold Thornhill the barn; for some reason the church owned the dilapidated building. Thornhill's sudden success and familial changes prompted her to investigate more and it seems like the church may have stamped out some kind of pagan cult 400-500 years ago. Claus asked if the church had many such seemingly abandoned properties on its books and Auntie Mildred got real quiet and just stared into the distance as the possibilities dawned on her. Horrifying realizations all done for the evening, everyone made to retire.

Except the party of course! Tenkos left a note with 100 sp explaining that he wasn't really here to investigate and that Prince Florent's people would be here soon enough. Claus' hirelings were done loading up the wagon by now and had swung it round to the church. They attempted to sneak their way out but woke up their host. Auntie Mildred sleepily caught them and tried to call after them but everyone just hopped into the wagon and sped off!

The passed near to Dourdain and felt the pull of longing and possibility from their dreams stronger than ever. "Hey let's stop and check it out JUST KIDDING."

They continue on through the night, not resting until the came to the very edge of Prince Florent's domain along the Great Cheeseway. They stopped in the town of Sortie just long enough to rest the horses and give everyone a chance to sleep. Tenkos did take the opportunity to send letters to the neighboring principalities describing what had gone on in Stilton under Prince Florent's nose as a way to shame the rival to Tenkos' own Prince Fabian. They also enjoyed the local Sortie specialties, spiced dried peas and fig pies!

Sidebar: donjon is the BEST.

They rode on as soon as they thought the horses could take it, finally crossing over into Prince Fabian's lands at the town of Mellur. End of session.

Sidebar: Given how Viggo's corpse got terribly melted by blackfire I approached Peanut Butter with an option to test out a class I've been marinating on for a very long time. He was very enthusiastic about the inspiration and possibilities and added that he'd like to play it close to the chest. A slow reveal sounds awesome to me, so it'll be cool to see how he shows his hand.

Sidebar: From an XP perspective the party killed it this session! 2k+ each, enough to immediately level Viggo Pyreborn to level 2. The pickings before that had been pretty slim, with only 3 out of the last TEN sessions netting more than 100 XP per PC. Then 11 sessions ago we had another 2k+ haul (11k total though, more PCs then), so it really seems like feast or famine. I wonder if this is typical for gold for XP games? Or is this partially because of my hands off approach towards refereeing and a generally slow pace?


Decaying Lands 34: What Is Happening In This Basement

PCs Present & Played:

Barthelm, Specialist (James)
Tenkos, Cleric [plague doctor kit] (Sugarplum)
Viggo Marklund, Specialist [bounty hunter kit] (Peanut Butter)

Last time Tenkos, Viggo, and Claus returned to the horrific basement of Cooper Thornhill's Stilton cheesemaking operation, slew (and dissected) the über muscle cow, and began investigating the library.

Barthelm rejoined the party! After getting his construction projects rolling back in Hommlet and making sure Polde was not in any danger after his return, Barthelm set out to catch up to his friends. 

During his time in Hommlet he learned that there has been far more traffic through the southern mountain pass due to an increase in disappearances along the northern roads. No bodies were found, just ransacked wagons. Even for folks who eventually needed to head back north there were still many opting to take the long way around through Hommlet and the southern pass.

On the way after them Barthelm passed through the Crossroads. His companions asked if he had seen any giant wandering armies of the undead but the only thing he noted was a number of folks who had fled without explanation, especially after being seen with the party. It was hard to tell if the rest of the group was relieved or disappointed about the lack of skeletons.

They talked about how they could delay discovery of the barn's basement while they tried to remove as much of the library as possible. Idea to have the faceless doctor (plague doctor) quarantine the building to give them time to clear things out. Debate about whether to notify the authorities or not.

"Are we concerned about the arch at all?"
"It does seem pretty powerful, but we do like to run away from incredibly powerful things and just leave them."

What if we just holed up in the basement for the day? Would we just have a ton of people looking for Cooper later? Let's have a rotation for anyone that comes down. If they come down into the basement, they are definitely guilty, so we can kill them with no remorse. What do we do with our wagon? What about your drug dealer friend? He would definitely betray us. Let's just go kill him and stay at his house!

Started to come up with a plan where Barthelm impersonates a plague / faceless doctor and all this stuff but then just decided for Barthelm to get a room at the inn with the party's cart. On the way out he encountered someone claiming to be the night watchman for the barn but was able to avoid confrontation.

The "night watchman" made their way down the stairs but fortunately Viggo was waiting for him. The bounty hunter immediately recognized Stephen Miller, the town's miller and pusher of various illicit and addictive substances. 

"See if he'll walk through the arch!"

Viggo got as much info as he could from Stephen Miller the drug dealer before showing him all of the horrible things in the basement. Miller threw up everywhere and begged to just go tell the captain of the guard about this place. Viggo dumped him in the corner with a threat to be quiet.

Barthelm met Cooper's wife, Mary, and procured some breakfast and a room after some incredibly difficult conversation. He was initially concerned but decided to sleep in case shit went down, propping a chair against the door for security.

Then Tenkos stabbed Stephen Miller! This was predicated by shouts and bangs from above as the sounds of a search party filtered down and it became clear that someone was going to be coming down into the basement. Tenkos' original plan was to setup Miller and Cooper like they had killed each other, so he started to drag him deeper into the basement but stopped when he started bleeding all over the place. Viggo took his manacles and they both retreated to the archway room, setting up some beartraps at the entrance just in case the guards were in on the whole operation.

Well and how! Captain Cuthill was calling out for Cooper the whole time but didn't get any response. His two lackeys seemed disturbed but the captain was not, and he rallied them. Cuthill began to call out for anyone else down here, saying that there didn't need to be bloodshed, until he got to the pens. Once he saw that all of the cow / human creatures were dead, especially Cooper's daughter Heather, he changed his tone. He sent one of his men ahead to check out the archway room and then 


Guard failed his saving throw and took the full force of fancy spikey bear trap and regular toothy beartrap. He died pretty quickly. Viggo leapt out to get the drop on Cuthill but wasn't able to connect. Tenkos tried the same to no effect (after realizing he didn't want to shoot into melee), and everyone spent a round swinging around and not hitting anything. Tenkos and Viggo backed off to give Tenkos room for a sticky fire bomb but Viggo hung back to put himself in between the faceless doctor and the attacking guards, shouting "Light 'em up!" back to his comrade.

It was unfortunately the last thing he would do. Cuthill and his remaining croney rushed up and BOTH hit crits on our poor bounty hunter. 20 damage later and Viggo was no more.

Sidebar: What are the fucking odds here!? Peanut Butter was surprisingly okay about it, opining that it was better than getting murdered by a murderous meat pyscho cow. We chatted after the session about some intriguing next PC ideas and both got pretty pumped about it.

Tenkos switched from sticky molotovs to one of his two remaining blackfyre bombs and blew them up with purple fire... and rolled TWO damage. Luckily he got it to burn for four rounds, so some potential for them to get burned up. Viggo's sliced up body was also engulfed in the burning purple flames.

Tenkos won initiative again (players opted for "roll every round" as opposed to roll once and alternate) and fled out. He ran up the stairs, got the drop on the hungover guard at the top (the one from the jail earlier that evening), and dispatched him in one blow. The remaining guard burned to a crisp before he could even give chase and Cuthill died horrifically from blackfire just steps away from Tenkos.

Barthelm meanwhile was awoken from his early morning sleep by a strong feeling of something being wrong. It broke him out of the dream he was having, full of a terrible sadness and longing to somehow bring his mother back from her early grave. He rushed out of the inn in the same moment that Tenkos came running out of the barn. Seeing Tenkos come out of the barn, Barthelm quickly started shouting about how there was a plague inside and how everyone needed to stay clear!

Tenkos' plague mask and their presence in Ghallia was enough to convince most of the crowd that at least something horrible was going on but Cooper's son James was not deterred. He ran up to Tenkos, cowbell still around his neck, and asked (in his stilted fashion) about his father and sister. Once he realized they were inside still, he bolted into the barn. Tenkos and Barthelm followed him, dashing through the now burning barn into the basement (taking some heat from the flames as they went).

Their primary goal was to destroy the arch. James was fully occupied in grieving over his dead sister, giving Tenkos and Barthelm the opportunity to pull down the arch with a rope they had set up earlier. The magic went out with a bright purple flash as all of the human/cow hybrids and the über cow reverted to their natural forms. Now, instead of disgusting mutants, each stall was occupied by a human woman chained to the wall, and James' cries reached a new height as his sister returned to how she used to be.

The duo took the opportunity to secure their second objective, the chest of silver, and retreat to the library with some bear traps for security. James ignored them both, dragging his sister's corpse back towards the stairs and throwing down the cowbell he had been so protective of previously.

Their position momentarily secure while the fire raged, Tenkos wrote up a letter to Prince Fabian detailing what had happened and Barthelm (I'm guessing) spent some time counting silver pieces in the chest. They also had the time for a couple of hours of proper planning. It was late, so we cut the session there.


Decaying Lands 33: Murder Cow Murder

PCs Present & Played:

Claus Drexol, Magic-User (Vegas)
  Phillip Bachman, linklad
  Lucien Courtet, infantryman
Tenkos, Cleric [plague doctor kit] (Sugarplum)
Viggo Marklund, Specialist [bounty hunter kit] (Peanut Butter)

Last time the party plumbed the depths of Cooper Thornhill's secret basement, discovered the incredibly old remnants of some cow related magic, killed Cooper, and narrowly escaped being gored by a horrific bovine beast.

We rejoined the crew at the top of the stairs huddled in Cooper's office. They tossed the office, looking for any kind of valuables to increase their paltry haul and trying to kill some time while the huge beast cow below raged against the stone doorway. They found some outdated financial tallies, noticeably poorer than the one they found below, instructions on how the various types of cheese were made, and little else. They hoped that the cheesemaking notes would be enough to satisfy the request of Cooper's sister-in-law for his secret but they weren't sure.

They hadn't lost anybody yet but they also didn't have much to show for all the trouble they'd gotten into this far. I fully expected them to book it before the town woke up but they surprised me with a decision to go back downstairs and find Thornhill's fortune.

Sidebar: Viggo's player, Peanut Butter, specifically said that he was really curious to find out more about what was going on as a player. The money was a good motivator too but there was a thought that maybe they had been too careful recently and needed to risk more for more reward.

They waited until they didn't hear as much banging from beast cow. They worked out their marching order, keeping Claus and Philip in the back, with Lucien volunteering to take point. "It's what I get paid for!" It's worth noting here that none of those three had yet been in the basement.

They crept down the stairs, stacked and ready to rumble. They were quiet enough that they saw the cowliest of cows down the hall lying on its side. It raged and writhed in pain in the middle of the mutant cow-human stalls, thus far unaware of the party. There was a brief consideration for calming it before the debate shifted to "lure it down the hall" or "approach directly and kill with fire."

Sidenote: While doing Phillip's lisp I think I slipped into a little bit of Butt-head, which Vegas called out. Now Lucien has a tinge of Beavis. All of these things are still Vegas' fault.

"We should not cook and eat this cow no matter how badly we want to." - Claus

[Counterpoint: But what if they did?!]

They were on the verge of firing the first shot when Tenkos remembered prime tactic number one in all situations: bear traps! They laid out the four they had in the doorway, two standard claw traps and two awful spike traps.

Viggo snuck out, grabbed all the papers on the ledge, and got back over the bear traps safe and sound. In the process he saw a very large chest (too heavy for him to move), and what looked like a family portrait of the Thornhills. Included in the painting were Cooper, his wife and son (neither yet stocky and simple), and another young woman who they hadn't seen.

Now fully prepared they taunted the cow and got it to charge them. We did a Save vs Breath to see how it fared against the bear traps and even making the save it got completely wrecked. At least one trap grabbed on and a crossbow from Viggo and fancy pistol shot from Claus dropped it. It crumpled to the ground and skidded to a halt in front of Viggo and Lucien.

Sidebar: Yes, that pistol all the way back from the Bremmlecht Tower, 21 sessions ago, finally got fired. So far 1/1 on kill shots.

Monster murder cow down, they went down the hall to check out the cow stalls again. The creatures (people?) seemed beyond help, so Viggo and Tenkos got to work putting them out of their misery. When Tenkos got to the last stall on his side he noticed that it was not covered in filth like the others and the straw was fresh. The poor soul in this stall was still screaming in fear from the events of the night before Tenkos did what he felt needed to be done. They all agreed that this woman was probably the one that got taken during the night and whose scream woke them up.

Viggo's last stall was the same one where he had fought Cooper during the large battle. The woman in this stall was not chained up and seemed more resigned to her fate than the others. Viggo tried to talk to her and realized that she did understand him. He began to ask about her father (which she confirmed) and what he had gotten into, before Tenkos came and killed her as well, saying that Viggo was only causing her to suffer more.

They brought Claus to the large arch room (he SO wanted to mess with it) and rummaged through Cooper's clothes, turning up a set of keys. One of the keys opened the large chest back in the other room and they were astonished at the incredible amount of silver contained within. Viggo locked the chest back up, pocketed the key, and they brought the chest closer to the stairs.

Sidebar: This was a direct follow on from the tomb they found previously where, after finding a bunch of valuable stuff, they preemptively moved it to their exit point before continuing to explore.

With a little more breathing room they went into the library and Claus' eyes nearly tripled in size. There were so many old books and scrolls! They estimated it would take at least two wagonloads to get it all out (even with the understanding that some value would most likely be lost in the process). Claus looked around for anything obvious and found a lectern with a drawing of some happy farmers wearing James Thornhill's cowbell and conversing with perfect little cows.

While Claus was browsing and everyone else was idly looking about they heard a hacked, strangely moist sounding, moo/squeak coming from the corners. Lapdog-sized rats with sloughing cow features and weird hooves ran out on the attack. The rat/cows were largely ineffective, nibbling a bit on Claus before they were put down.

They didn't have too many moments before they heard a rumble and a roar and swiftly rushed into action, as they realized the berserker cow was trundling back to life. Viggo wanted to rush out and try to slit its throat before it could get going but was too slow and got beat out by Tenkos, who quickly laid another bear trap. The massive beast charged towards him with what would surely have been a near fatal blow against the plague doctor but, fortunately, his bear trap was enough to drop the creature to the ground again.

This time they took no chances and Tenkos butchered it, "autopsy-style", to make sure it would not rise again. They had previously theorized that the milk from this cow may have been the root of what was going on with the cheese and hybrid creatures but curiously they found only muscle and sinew under its flesh. Even the udders were packed with flesh and power, completely dry of milk.

At this point Viggo and Tenkos abandoned Claus in the library (with his hirelings) to explore the one room they hadn't seen yet. Before they even entered they could smell the meat and it was even colder on that side of the basement. Two human-cow hybrids hung from the ceiling with a pile of meat and skins neatly arranged on a table in the corner. They approached the first creature cautiously and so were not caught completely by surprised when she started thrashing about despite her skin having been completely flayed off. They quickly put her down but not before noticing that the meat and hide had begun to regrow. Thoroughly unsettled, they made sure that both of the creatures in the room would not come back to life.

Meanwhile Claus was scanning the large research table in the library trying glean whatever he could about what happened here as quickly as possible. He uncovered a few pages of collected notes, written much more recently than the rest of the papers, that seemed to be puzzling out how to activate the arch. The instructions looked rough and filled with guesswork but the aim seemed to be to activate the arch to create a better cow.

Ended out trying to figure out how they could get this library safely out of here or, alternately, how they could take control of the business without having the whole town (and larger authorities) trying to arrest / hang them.


Decaying Lands 32: Plan C

PCs Present & Played:

Caleb, Fighter [farmer kit] (Just Yolks)
  Suzie, a stubborn but loyal mule
Jehan, Woodsman [reskinned Halfling] (Helpful Waffle)
  Walter, poacher
Tenkos, Cleric [plague doctor kit] (Sugarplum)
Viggo Marklund, Specialist [bounty hunter kit] (Peanut Butter)

Last time the party tried to figure out what they wanted to do in Stilton, met a drug dealer, shared (too much) cheese with another tourist, found out Captain Cuthill gets the milk shits, and Caleb got locked up in jail and made a friend.

So they went to bed, lulled to sleep by the steady rain. Everyone (except Walter) again had horrible nightmares filled with sadness, loss, and longing, but this time they all were able to remember the dreams. Each one dreamt of someone dear to them that they had lost. The dreams ended with a note of hopeful reunion before cutting out to black sleep once more.

Tenkos and Jehan must be lighter sleepers than everyone else because they were both woken up by a muffled scream on the edge of their unconscious awareness. Jehan quickly went to the window, listening again. He didn't hear another scream but he thought he heard a door slam off in the direction of the barn. He unfortunately couldn't see anything through the rain and the darkness of what felt like late night / early morning.

Tenkos meanwhile had already started rousing everyone else and collecting their gear. They reasoned that if anything went down tonight they might need to leave town as quickly as possible. They gathered themselves up and headed out into the rain, towards the jail.

They moved as quietly as they could through the rain and muck. Everything was soggy with the clinging cold of early fall.

The guard at the jail from before was still there, asleep with his head on the desk surrounded by several more empty pints. A single candle burned low on the corner of the desk.

Viggo quietly opened the door, heard the guard snuffling and snoring, and surveyed the shadowy jail. Caleb was whimpering like a dog in the cell, saying "Mason."

Viggo went in, stood over the guard with axe ready, while Jehan picked up the keys and opened the doors for the prisoners. Caleb shouted out "Where's Mason?!" but Jehan quickly capped his mouth and explained the situation. They broke out the other guy, too, and headed straight for the barn.

It was dark and cold and wet and muddy. The Prisoner (they never asked his name) was chomping at the bit to run straight into the barn and "get Cooper Thornhill." They managed to call him down and exercise some restraint as they approached the small side door into the barn.

Viggo went up and cased the door. No obvious trap mechanisms or locks. A quick twist and they were into the pitch black barn. Once everyone was in and the door was closed again they lit up a torch.

Viggo was worried about how easy it was to get inside. They followed a set of muddy footprints and muddy drag marks to the locked office door.

Viggo went to work, doing his thing on the lock, while Prisoner went to the storage room in the back. He began to dig through the cheese  wheels, weeping softly and looking for some evidence of his wife, curdled into the cheese wheels.

Tenkos corraled Prisoner out of the cheese storage and back to the office door just as Viggo deftly unlocked it. Feeling like shit was about to go down, they grabbed a pitchfork from the wall and gave both that and their torch to Prisoner.

Iconic! From: canuckotter on reaper forums

The party decided to send Prisoner into the office first, following their general "NPCs are meatshields" policy, and that's when shit hit the fan. They saw a generally messy office with a desk covered in papers and a crates all about. That was all they could take in before Prisoner saw the open trapdoor in the corner and went running straight for it! Jehan tried to grab him but ended up pushing the guy down the stairs and he went tumbling. Almost at the bottom they heard the ringing of a cowbell and then Prisoner shouting out.

They were cautious going down the steps, coming to a square room dominated in the center by a large stone statue of the most perfectly bovine cow you could ever have imagined. The cow was reclined on its side, surrounded by wheels of cheese and flagons of milk, also stone. Worshipful people genuflected in adoration and "partook of its udders" (as Peanut Butter later described it, aka milked it). There was also a body off to the side which the players recognized from a description Cooper's sister in law had given them of a prior agent she had hired to steal the cheese's recipe. They quickly ransacked his clothing and continued on.

Down the end of the hall, in between a number of wooden stalls, they saw Cooper and the Prisoner. Prisoner looked confused and Cooper looked convincing as he spoke to the man. It was hard to make out their words until they saw Cooper hold out a metal flask and exclaim:

"If you drink this you'll get to see your wife again!"

Prisoner looked hesitant, but tipped back the metal flask and drank. He wiped his mouth, gave the flask back to Cooper, and almost immediately after double over in agony and began screaming. His skin rippled and swam as his flesh rearranged itself, muscles flexing and doubling in size. When the transformation was over the prisoner stood, meaty and stopped, like the brutish brigand and Ralph the farmboy before him.

Sidebar: I ran side-based initiative with re-rolls every round for this. I thought the chaos of not knowing who would go next might add some excitement. It also made me think of Troika!, which is always a lovely thing. The Kickstarter may be over now but it will always kickstart my heart <3. Keep an eye out for the Numinous edition when it drops.

The party opened up without hesitation. Now is not the time for talking! When they rushed forward, however, they were greeted with the pitiful occupants of the wooden stalls. Each had a misshapen hump of flesh chained to the wall inside. Their initial revulsion was only increased when they began to recognize human body shapes in the flesh: eyes with too loose flesh drooping out of the skull, a cloven hoof bursting at the wrong angle from a forearm, udders bursting from the skin regardless of human or leathery appearance, and other sights that they did their best to forget.

There were some whiffs all around, possibly due to the disturbing sights surrounding them, but the party also had an emphasis on trying to disable Cooper and Prisoner. A crossbow bolt went through Cooper's leg eventually but then he drank the milk! He also fell back towards one of the last pens. The creature in this one was not changed to the wall and it bleated with more anguish than fear or pain.

Viggo would not relent in pursuing Cooper but the cheesemaker, now surging with strength, changed tactics and tried to pin Viggo down. Fortunately for our bounty hunter Cooper was not able to execute his end plan because Caleb came over and ripped Thornhill off of his friend. Meanwhile Jehan, after trying many times to connect in the dark and chaotic melee, finally slashed the tiniest little cut in Prisoner's throat, dropping him.

Cooper seemed like he was getting desperate as he ran deeper into the back of the basement. A raw and ragged moo roared out from the darkness as he ran into a large room. The party followed him in as quickly as they could and quickly beheld a monstrous bovine chained against the far wall. If the cow statue at the entrance was the ideal of everything a cow could be this creature was the stolidly thick aspect of a cow multiplied a hundredfold and condensed into pure muscle and hurt. Every time a new person entered the room it struggled and pulled against the chains.

The beast-cow was so impressive it was a few moments before anyone even noticed the large, stone arch on the raised platform in the center of the room. There were unknown runes all over the side pillars and, on the top, a sunburst motif surrounding a simplified drawing of a cow. Purple jolts of energy shot between the three stone blocks that made up the squared archway.

Cooper ignored the archway and ran straight towards the cow. Jehan tried to take out Cooper with his heavy crossbow before he could get to the cow (after Viggo tackled him) BUT Jehan he rolled a 1. One of the players (maybe Jehan's, can't recall) suggested "Oh I bet it hits the cow!" 


It sure had a chance to now! Annnnnnd BOOM, that is one pissed off cow. It thrashed, it howled, and it broke free.


Caleb chopped up Cooper (in HALF) and everyone ran to get out. There were some tense moments on the initiative rolls but eventually everyone got to the stairs and up and out without anyone dying. Walter was probably the only one in immediate danger of getting one-shot by the humongous raging cow but Jehan had wisely told him to stay in the back and immediately run if shit hit the fan. Walter listened very well. Jehan had also thought to grab some prominently displayed papers on a stone shelf on the way out, hoping for some tidbit of valuable information.

We ended the session with everyone up in the office, middle of the night (best they can tell), berserk monster cow below, and no idea where Caleb, Jehan, or Walter got off to. They could hear the cow's raging moos and feel it bash against the stone of the narrow stairwell, unable to follow.

Sidebar: Uncertainty in game life because Caleb and Jehan's players both have to take a break from the game. Jewel's player also has to take a break but there should be an increase to the party soon!

Side sidebar: Caleb's player later said that Caleb "executed Plan C just no one else was in on it." Don't eat the cheese in Stilton, folks.


Decaying Lands 31: Six Plates?!

PCs Present & Played:

Caleb, Fighter [farmer kit] (Just Yolks)
  Suzie, a stubborn but loyal mule
Jehan, Woodsman [reskinned Halfling] (Helpful Waffle)
  Walter, poacher
Tenkos, Cleric [plague doctor kit] (Sugarplum)
Viggo Marklund, Specialist [bounty hunter kit] (Peanut Butter)

Last time the party arrived in Stilton, got a short tour of the cheese-making facilities, met a bunch of folks in town, and ate a whole lot of cheese.

We picked back up in the Bell Inn their first evening in town.

Viggo went over to thank Cooper for his hospitality but begged off eating some cheese by talking about how it wrecks his stomach. Captain Cuthill commiserated, saying that he too suffers greatly from "the milk shits" but not enough to stop him from eating this amazing cheese. Viggo quickly changed the subject and found out that Cooper Thornhill and his family do indeed all live inside the Bell Inn itself.

Meanwhile Tenkos tried to get Caleb to stop eating the cheese by explaining how the stick figures that the boy are drawing on the window slowly morph into cows. Caleb was undeterred, but wanted to talk to the young man so they went over. After some basic pleasantries Caleb asked about the cowbell and James' demeanor went from blank to incredibly angry. They disengaged after Caleb needled him some more with a "Cowbell looks real good, like it belongs around my neck."

Tenkos: "We'll also make a plan to steal this kid's cowbell."

A woman came in drenched, only Jehan stayed downstairs so he went to talk to her. Jehan shared some of his cheese and they started talking. She became ravenous, ate four plates of cheese, even picking the thrown scraps off of Jehan's face. He learned that she was from near the river and came to Stilton to get some cheese for her father. She was planning to stay two nights and then head back down south. Jehan excused himself once it became clear that she was too focused on the cheese for further conversation.

Sidebar: Oops, thought this was last session. That's what happens when you wait too long to write things up. Her name was Samantha. Also if Rudy was going to miss a session this was ABSOLUTELY the best one for him to miss, I think he would have vomited / killed me with all the cheesy lip smacking and mouth sounds on this one.

Jehan rejoined everyone else and they spent some time spinning on various possible plans.

- We'll just burn the whole place down, steal the last of the cheese, then we'll be super rich.
- No no, let's steal the recipe, make a secret dairy farm in Altdorf in Ghallia-That-Fell, then export our amazing Stilton cheese.
- Okay so then what's the best way to sneak out of our rooms?
- Caleb: "I have a distraction plan!"

Everyone mostly ignored Caleb's (repeated) suggestion, but while discussing their plans they heard shouting outside, Cooper and another man. The argument ended with Cooper shouting that he would turn him over to the guard and the man laughing before walking away.

Viggo hooked his chain over the windowsill and dropped down to follow the man and catch up with him. Some quick small talk and then straight to the chase! Viggo went back and forth, got the idea that this guy is maybe a drug dealer, got a sample of something in a waxy paper packet, and headed off. He also learned that his name is Stephen Miller and can be found back at the mill if Viggo wants to get some more.

Lot of planning. So many plans. What if one of us steals a cowbell and doesn't give it back, then we can talk to the guy in the jail! That's what they went with, Caleb went straight downstairs to look for the boy with the cowbell. Started yelling and screaming, tried to take the cowbell! Guards' swords came out, Caleb shoved Cooper, chaos ensued, and Caleb got punched by Captain Cuthill and arrested.

Caleb calmed down the man in the jail cell, he explained about how he knows that Cooper took his wife. He attacked him in the barn, guards beat him up, and now he was stuck in there, ranting and raving about his wife and not letting the guard sleep. Caleb promised him that they would help get him out and save his wife.

Jehan got a plate of cheese and some ale and Tenkos, Jehan, Walter, and Viggo all made their way over to the jail. Parleyed with the guard with food and drink, other prisoner tried to pretend sick like Caleb said but guard wasn't impressed, left him to throw up in the corner. Viggo questioned the guard about the prisoner a bit who said that he probably visited the miller a bit too much and imagined having himself a wife.

They left Caleb to sleep it (whatever it was) off in the jail. Everyone else planned to sleep at the inn, collect him in the morning, head out of town, and then circle back around at night and head into the barn.

Jehan made a quick detour to visit Samantha Drake in the first floor room and she was not having a good evening. She could barely stand up at the door and told the woodsman that she had eaten "six or seven" plates full. She excused herself, covering her mouth, and Jehan went upstairs to his room like everyone else.

Player Theories:

• Does the drug dealer have anything to do with the cheese? Does the drug counteract the cheese?
• The reason the milk / cheese is so good is because the milk is human, and that's why people are disappearing.
• Some kind of horrible horrible cow hybrids.
• Ralph definitely came back 'roided up, "really into the cows". Kind of similar to Caleb.


Decaying Lands 30: Milkin' It

PCs Present & Played:

Caleb, Fighter [farmer kit] (Just Yolks)
  Suzie, a stubborn but loyal mule
Claus Drexol, Magic-User (Vegas)
  Phillip Bachman, linklad
  Lucien Courtet, infantryman
Jehan, Woodsman [reskinned Halfling] (Helpful Waffle)
  Walter, poacher
Jewel, Really Good Dog (Rudy)
  Buddy, ratter dog [Specialist]
Tenkos, Cleric [plague doctor kit] (Sugarplum)
Viggo Marklund, Specialist [bounty hunter kit] (Peanut Butter)

Last time the group got a couple hirelings, departed the partially burned down, dilapidated port of Frissen to arrive at Port Fromagerie, decided to investigate Stilton after all because of an offer of 300 silver each, and killed some bandits outside the town of Dourdain.

After having spent the night in Dourdain everyone in the group (except Walter) woke up with a profound sense of overwhelming loss and sadness. Tenkos noted that this is basically how he wakes up every day but none of them could remember the exact content of their dreams.

They debated a bit about whether they should salvage the bandits' broken wagon before remembering that they burned it along with all the bodies in a giant pyre.

They took the morning to get over to Stilton with the rain still pouring down. There weren't a ton of folks outside so they headed to the Bell Inn. Inside they encountered a large heavyset women who didn't talk much apart from showing them a plate of cheese and saying "Cheese?" Jewel readily ate some of the cheese and so did Caleb. They both greedily scarfed their plates down and seemed to thoroughly enjoy the Stilton specialty. Caleb was especially enthusiastic about the cheese and meeting the cows that it came from! The rest of the party declined.

The party tried to talk to the woman (later identified as Mary Thornhill) but all she would do is point to the wall and say "Cooper." They got the hint and headed over to the cheesery barn.

The got into the barn and saw a number of cows being milked, a bunch of cheese making equipment, and a storage chamber in the back. They could even see the special maggot cheese in the darkest parts of the storage shelves!

The workers weren't especially talkative but they indicated the office door and in short order Cooper Thornhill himself emerged to greet the party. Tenkos took point with the discussion trying to get Cooper to talk about what makes his cows so amazing. Cooper jokingly pushed to see if they were from the Cheesemonger's Guild before slyly admitting that the secret was "good, honest cows." Tenkos faked eating some of the cheese while Jewel and Caleb did not fake eating it at all. Caleb was mostly distracted during this discussion by the cows being milked off to the side.

That evening at the Bell Inn they were discussing what their next steps should be. Caleb again volunteered a distraction involving the cows in the field somehow but the rest of the group declined.

The rain was still pouring down and the inn was bustling with customers. Jehan went to work gambling with a few of the guards that were there, won some money, and learned that they locked up a crazy man for attacking Cooper and claiming that the cheesemaker had kidnapped his wife. One of the other guard's was off at the jail minding the ranting lunatic while these guards and their captain spent the evening at the Bell Inn.

Viggo spent some time ruminating on how he could talk to the inmate after discounting a possible plan of B&E on the barn by himself. They caught some friendly conversation between Cooper and the leader of the guards, Captain Cuthill, without picking up the details.

Tenkos noticed a thick young man with a cowbell around his neck idling drawing shapes in condensation on the window he was sitting next to. He watched the boy draw a person outline that slowly changed into a more bovine shape before rubbing the picture out and waiting for the condensation to reform and repeat the process.

Somebody else (can't remember who) struck up a conversation with a very soaked young woman named Samantha who had just gotten into town. She hadn't wanted to stay in Dourdain so she pushed on through the rain to Stilton, target of her tourism. It wasn't long before she ended up eating some of the cheese and going WILD on it. The party left her to her eating...

Caleb and Jewel mostly spent the evening stuffing their faces with delicious cheese. Some things overheard from Caleb during the session:

"I miss those udders."
"I'm going towards those cows."
"We could make a distraction... I could go into into the field with the cows and make a distraction. A loud distraction."

They ended the session with potentially even more questions than they started with. I think the dominant theory in that particular moment was that Cooper had minotaurs somewhere and that he was milking them.

Description: Armored swordsmen shouting "They let me milk a minotaur!"
From "Delicious in Dungeon" manga. Seemed appropriate.


Decaying Lands 29: Down Stilton Way

PCs Present & Played:

Caleb, Fighter [farmer kit] (Just Yolks)
  Suzie, a stubborn but loyal mule
Claus Drexol, Magic-User (Vegas)
  Phillip Bachman, linklad
  Lucien Courtet, infantryman
Jehan, Woodsman [reskinned Halfling] (Helpful Waffle)
  Walter, poacher
Jewel, Really Good Dog (Rudy)
  Buddy, ratter dog [Specialist]
Tenkos, Cleric [plague doctor kit] (Sugarplum)
Viggo Marklund, Specialist [bounty hunter kit] (Peanut Butter)

Last time the party spent a week in Frissen teaching Buddy how to be a specialist, got some rumors, and burned down a not-insignificant portion of the city to kill some cats that may or may not have been plotting to kill all of the humans.

Original plan was to depart Frissen with a Ghallian ship captain that they had met. Captain Lalande normally runs the cheese route for the Cheesemonger's Guild from Porte Fromagerie (yeah that's MY dumb name) to Frissen. Tenkos managed to convince him that, as a faceless doctor (sounds cooler in French), he was on a special mission from his Prince into the Plaguelands of Ghallia-That-Fell. The captain had agreed to transport them out and around the patrols and into the forbidden zone as a proud service to the Prince.

Sidebar: The faceless doctors are the special agents for the various Princes along the riverine border with Ghallia-That-Fell. The plague doctor mask is a badge of their service and makes them instantly recognizable.

Instead of heading out to sea right away, however, the group decided they wanted to do some preparations for their expedition.

Jehan bought some gear for Walter and continued his efforts in teaching the young man how to read.

Claus went about looking for any adventurous sorts who would like to accompany them and boy did he find a pair! He wanted at least a torchbearer (RIP Wiebke T_T) and some kind of bodyguard. He managed to scrounge up a linklad from Teutonia named Philip Bachman and a mercenary from Ghallia named Lucien Courtet.

Sidebar: I asked Vegas what was unique about Philip. He said that he's got a terrible scar on his face (a burn, I assume) and a severe lisp. After a couple minutes of talking at least one person very strongly regretted both hiring the linklad and allowing Vegas to give him a quirk. Made it much easier for me though! Lucien just got a pronounced widow's peak.

They finally left Frissen and sailed over to Porte Fromagerie (for free!) based on Captain Lalande's sense of duty to Tenkos and the faceless. Claus, on a boat once more, again wore his baby Huey costume. We still don't quite understand why.

Description: Baby Huey. It's a giant goose in a diaper, midriff shirt, and baby bonnet.

They made it to Porte Fromagerie and observed the Cheesemonger's Guildsmen unloading the trade goods from the ship. Captain Lalande said he'd need some time for business in town and then he could take them into Ghallia-That-Fell or they could wait for him to do another run for the Guild to Frissen.

They spent almost all their time trying to get information on Stilton to decide if they wanted to swing down and investigate this cheese.

  • The owner of Belle Inn Fromagerie, maker of Stilton Cheese, Cooper Thornhelm, has a shed in that he doesn’t let anyone into. That’s probably where he keeps his gold.
  • Cooper Thornhelm is richer than a prince by now. He’s making money hand over fist.
  • Several people have gone missing without a trace on the Great Cheese Way.

It seemed like they were leaning towards ignoring it until they ran into Frances, brother of the cheesemaker down in Stilton! The poor guy has been having a hard time with his wife who is upset that Cooper Thornhill will not share his wealth or secrets with them. They eventually decided to go and speak with Jane. They learned a ton of stuff:
  • Cooper was an okay dairy farmer and innkeeper in out of the way Stilton who decided to try making cheese nine months ago and has been raking it in ever since.
  • Cooper is not a member of the Cheesemonger's Guild and has thus far spurned their advances. The Guild is not pleased in the slightest at this development.
  • Jane contracted a man named William O'Leary to go and get Cooper's secret but he never returned. Probably Cooper paid him off.

She also hates him! She offered to pay the party 200 sp each to find out what his secret for cheesemaking is and bring it back to her, but didn't want any harm to befall him.

"No, no, we're not the murdering type people." - Viggo

They haggled her to 300 sp each (1800 sp total) and Tenkos and Jewel enjoyed some of her tasty milk and local cheese. Everyone else refused! They also immediately started scheming as soon as they left about how they could sell the recipe to her then take it 100 miles away and setup their own operation. Love them.

They headed on down south towards Stilton by way of a town called Dourdain, as Stilton was too far for a single day of travel. They encountered a man asking for help with a broken cart, immediately suspected a trap, and were not surprised at all when the bandits appeared and tried to rob them. There was ZERO mercy, including Claus lighting up a hulking, beefy bandit with a bunch of magic missiles. They took what they could from the bodies, including an empty metal flask that smelt of sour spoilage from the large one, and piled them all up on the broken wagon before lighting it all on fire.

Sidebar: Claus has been incredibly diligent about covering up any evidence of his use of magic. #golfclap

They noted that the large bandit had a similar build to good old Ralf Wegener, cow murdering farmboy from back in Bremmlecht and the first person that they heard about Stilton cheese from. They made it the last little bit down the road as night descended and rain began to fall and shacked up at the Merry Toad in Dourdain.

Decaying Lands 28: Meee-OW

PCs Present & Played:

Claus, Magic-User (Vegas)
Jewel, Really Good Dog (Rudy)
  Buddy, ratter dog
Tenkos, Cleric [plague doctor kit] (Sugarplum)
Viggo Marklund, Specialist [bounty hunter kit] (Peanut Butter)

Last time the party, against all odds and expectations, did NOT murder any of the poachers who stole their food and their pack animals, got everything back, and even recruited a new friend!

Jehan was MIA this session (probably out sleeping in the woods) so we didn't get to see any more of his new henchman Walter. What we did see was a whole lot of messing around in Frissen, dilapidated city that it has become.

Jewel took advantage of nifty hireling / henchman rules (inspired by Beloch Shrike and very similar to Brendan's here) to train her ratting comrade Buddy into a Specialist 1. Now he's all sorts of sneaky and vicious and Jewel has something that she wants to spend money on.

Viggo got an extra rumor on top of the ones they got for being in town because he was specifically hanging out in bars and scrounging for info.

Rumors heard:

  • There have been a number of bandit attacks on less popular roads. That's not too strange, especially out east, but they say there are never any bodies left behind. Carts and goods are left behind, but no bodies.
  • Stilton wasn’t even on the map until recently but they make the best god damn cheese in the world. It’s helping to keep Frissen afloat.
  • Did you know the elves felt sorry for the dwarves during the Cleansing so they turned the ones that were left into trees?
  • The Order of Sebastian’s Cross really wiped the dwarves out because the famed smiths could enslave any that used dwarf-forged creations.
  • The cats of the city plan to kill all humans.

That last one about cats came form Jewel's doggy rumor table and they all immediately latched onto it as 100% true.

Sidebar: Worth noting that Jewel had the option of getting a human rumor but chose not to. I am always happy when I get to distribute doggy rumors.

They followed a bunch of cats around the city, Buddy specifically making use of his newfound sneakiness. They were able to track a number of different groups of felines all back to the same place: an empty warehouse. The warehouse was in the most abandoned corner of town, a whole quarter of dilapidated buildings surrounding the rubble of a wizard's tower.

There were cats everywhere in this place. Grooming, meowing, taking care of baby cats, making baby cats, spewing up hairballs... Just everywhere. They observed through an upper window for a bit before Claus decided to get a closer look.

Claus went in, they all turned and hissed at him, he backed away, "Yup these cats are not normal let's lock all the doors and burn the building down."

Jewel was ecstatic at the plan, Tenkos loves to burn things, and Claus... Well it's Claus, he's always eager to push the button.

What was the actual plan? First take was just get a barrel of oil, open it, throw in a window, with a torch right after, and burn it all down.

But wait! We have to set one side on fire and then do the barrel on the other side!

No no wait we dribble the barrel all around the building and light it all up so everything burns at once! Oh and we'll block all the doors and and hang out near likely exits for a little bit to make sure none escape.

Sidebar: This took at least thirty minutes of real world, detailed planning to accomplish. This was probably the most detailed plan they have ever made.

Tenkos went to buy the oil but made sure to strip himself of his regular gear and "combed his hair."  They waited for the dead of night and picked their way through the sparsely populated city towards the warehouse.

Their plan was executed with precision and efficiency. The warehouse lit up in a great conflagration and the meowrls of alarm and anger swiftly turned to squeals of desperation.
Their pyromaniacal plan was a bit too effective, however, as the fire quickly started to spread to the other abandoned buildings in the wizard quarter. Alarm bells rung out from the harbor and echoed towards the center of town.

Jewel and Buddy disappeared into the streets (yay dogs!) but Claus, Tenkos, and Viggo still needed to make it back to their inn without attracting any unwanted attention.

Unfortunately for them, they encountered some guards rushing to fight the fire! The guards were immediately suspicious, asking what they were doing out so late, especially coming from the direction where the fire was raging. Tenkos thought quickly and gave Claus a big fat sloppy kiss, saying that they were just out spending some quality time together. 💓

The guards were almost convinced and then they remembered Viggo. "Eh and what about you?" Viggo just leaned in and put his arms around the other too. There may have been a wink involved. Either way they were all quite charming, leaving the guards bashful and embarrassed to have been prying. The soldiers let the trio on their way as they rushed off to combat the blaze.

A whole section of the city burned down and the constabulary had to hastily knock down even more buildings to prevent further spread but at least they got those plotting cats!


Decaying Lands 27: Zero Murder Somehow

PCs Present & Played:

Jehan, Woodsman 1 [reskinned Halfling] (Helpful Waffle)
Tenkos, Cleric 3 [plague doctor kit] (Sugarplum)
Viggo Marklund, Specialist 4 [bounty hunter kit] (Peanut Butter)

Last time the party met some giant intelligent wolves and found their camp ransacked, horses and Suzie missing, buddy beaten, and two people caught in their bear traps.

One of the supposed ransackers was already dead but the other was still living and she was terrified of Caleb (from last session). Since the three most bloodthirsty PCs were not present (Caleb because of Suzie, Jewel because of Buddy, and Claus because... ?) she was not immediately killed! They got her to share the route to the cabin then tied her up in their wagon with threats of retribution if they couldn't get their animals and food back unharmed.

They followed the stream deeper into the woods on the described route and arrived at the cabin. It was right where she said it would be, nestled in between some small hills with a bilco / root cellar door to the side.

The saw Suzie tied up outside, as unaffected as ever, along with their horses for the wagon. There was some debate about just taking the animals and leaving but they wanted to find out what was going on first. They snuck up and circled the place, pressing ears to doors and shutters.

There was some conflict inside. One of them was sobbing and crying about their dead friend, another was saying they needed to go back for the girl who survived the trap, and the last two voices were arguing that they needed to take what they had and leave immediately because obviously anyone whoever set out a bunch of bear traps was insane and probably murderous.

Around this point Jahan busted in the front door, heavy crossbow drawn, Viggo behind him, and Tenkos opened the shutters holding his crossbow (or fire bombs, little fuzzy). The place was a bit shabby, lots of simple wooden furniture and animal trapping equipment in various stages of assembly scattered about.

There was a lot of cursing and some yelling and definitely a lot of frantic "please please don't kill us" type requests. Tenkos countered by offering to take them on as hirelings! The response was less than enthusiastic.

Jehan took a different tact, picking out the crying one, Walter, as the most likely to be swayed. Jehan picked him as the one to go into the root cellar and give back the stolen rations.

Sidebar: I think the player facing rationale here is "holy shit we lost a PC and a henchwoman last time we need more meat shields." It's not a bad goal, just not an ideal audience.

In the root cellar there was all of the purloined rations from the party's wagon as well as a host of furs taken from the Kingswood. After some debate the party opted not to take the furs for fear of not having a contact that they could fence it through. Punishment for poaching from the Kingswood can be quite severe!

As a final token they made the four in the cabin load up all the stolen rations and carry it the few hours back to camp. It was tense travel but the party kept to their word and didn't murder any of the thieves.

Things became more tense, this time amongst the thieves, when they got to camp and saw their messed up living friend and also messed up dead friend. Walter, the crier, wanted to burn their dead friend properly but the rest of their group wanted to just get out with their lives while they still had them (especially after viewing all the bear traps that they DIDN'T trip).

I think it was then that Jehan seized the initiative and offered to help put the man to rest. Helpful Waffle was still deadset on trying it recruit this guy so I gave him a shot, let the dice decide after all of his trying and help caring for the dead. Despite the challenge, he did it! So Walter got his dead friend's skinning knife from Jehan, two melted silvers from where the eyes were in the funeral bier, and became a part of the crew!

Sidebar: At some point Sugarplum said, "Tenkos wasn't here, everyone messed it up, and now Tenkos came back and fixed everything." I am sure that everyone in the group was 100% in agreement

Side-Sidebar: Mid session we got an email from Vegas asking something like "did we kill everyone yet?!" Rudy was similarly disappointed at the lack of murder.


Decaying Lands 26: Wolf Howls

PCs Present & Played:

Caleb, Fighter 3 (Just Yolks)

Claus, Magic-User 4 (Vegas)
Jehan, Woodsman 1 [reskinned Halfling] (Helpful Waffle)
Jewel, Really Good Dog 2 (Rudy)
  Buddy, ratter dog
Tenkos, Cleric 3 [plague doctor kit] (Sugarplum)
Viggo Marklund, Specialist 4 [bounty hunter kit] (Peanut Butter)

Last time the party met an unexpected skeleton named Sarah (and her "buddy Hoot-Hoot"), gave a warning of impending doom to Lady Margaret of the Sapphire Rose inn, and collected their things so they could get while the getting was good.

They continued with their plan to push west towards the dilapidated fishing town of Frissen with the end goal of taking a boat along the coast deeper into Ghallia, the country that abandoned half their land behind a river due to murder plague. Karl (RIP) was an exiled prince from the murder place, Jehan was also from there, and they'd seen things that made them want to investigate Stilton on the way. Rumors of entire country abandoned with everything left behind and ripe for the taking played into it too, probably.

Description: Poorly drawn hex map, big arrow pointing west towards "Frissen", dog picture 2/3 the way there.

The town was nine hexes distant, six mile hexes, 18 miles a day (because wagon), so three travel days to get there. First day not much traffic, just a rider in the garb of the courier's guild racing past on the road. The first night they pulled off the road, setup camp, and arrayed their bear traps in strategic locations. Claus noted that it finally seemed like the woods had returned to their normal nighttime sounds but otherwise didn't notice anything out of the ordinary.

Sidebar: At this point bear traps at night is their standard setup and they will have to tell me explicitly if they do not want to put any bear traps out. James would be proud.

Day two passed with no other travelers on the road. Setup camp again, every started settling in to sleep (Jehan sort of in the underbrush but still within the bear trap permieter), and then Jewel bolted off to the south across the road. She ran for a while with Buddy, heard some stuff, then came back and started scratching into the dirt.

Description: Freehand written words "wolf south sad far" and a frown face.

Sidebar: Rudy (Jewel's player) volunteered to use his offhand on the mouse to scratch out the words that Jewel was trying to convey but then immediately after said it was way too easy. I agreed but didn't have a good suggestion but then he said he'd close his eyes next time. That should be much harder, can't wait to see how it turns out.

Even though it was far and getting to be nighttime everyone went with Jewel to investigate. They left Suzie tied to a tree and Buddy guarding the camp supplemented by the bear traps. Jehan was going to hunt game but, while thematically appropriate, after realizing he could use up all his crossbow bolts and miss out on wild stuff he went along too.

They trudged south through the woods with only the light of the full moon. Jewel called out after a mile or so with no response, so they kept going. The second time she called out there was an answer from directly in front of them. She kept talking back and forth but the response howls came from different directions each time. The party vacillated between wanting to leave and getting ready for war before settling on a cautious but not too threatening state of readiness.

The conversation ended with three very large wolves appearing out of the darkness around them. Jewel knew they were coming but the humans were all quite surprised. At this point Jewel gave Claus the signal to use his scroll of comprehend languages (Canine counts because of Jewel now) and everyone got to hear what was up.

Description: A wolf with a too large jaw, open too wide. I envisioned Moro from Mononoke, hopefully that came through.

There was a bit of menace and uncertainty with these three larger than normal wolves but overall the party learned a lot from them. The father of the true king ("the False One"), with the help of a wizard, laid a curse upon said king and these wolves that were once men. The wolves' minds cloud when they try to remember more than that, and one coughed and spit blood even to say that the False One was the father of the king.  They called themselves the "Sons of Stanislaus" and the other large wolf that Boris "Iron Guts" freed was one of their number. They were grateful for the help for their brother.

The wolves also told the party about how their king bore an even stronger, more awful curse than they did. They now knew him only as "The Mad King" and warned the group that he was large enough to swallow them whole and then spit them up again, turning them into mindless beasts. They left with a warning to "Run, run if you ever see the Mad King or you won't survive to tell!"

Somewhat shaken, our motley crew trudged back through the woods to their camp. They had been gone for four hours and in the intervening time someone had raided their wagon for food. Buddy lay unconscious, badly hurt, and Suzie and the horses were GONE!

Sidebar: Random encounters can happen when you're not there too!

Initial shock turned to rage and then they noticed that their customary bear traps had been at least partially effective. One had a still warm corpse, which Jehan looted (snares, skinning knife, sling, few silvers) but the occupant of the other was still (barely) alive. Caleb was on the border of killing his captive straight out but he was able to get some information out of her while keeping his rage at bay.