Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Finally, a little actual play, with a new setting thrown in...

So, got together with a few of the old crowd, and played the introduction of what may be a new campaign.

Set in the Kingdom of Kendarthen Valley, or the Old Fairy Lands, which may be the setting I've done the most work on, but not posted anything about. Yet.

It's an isolated valley, and a bit of a sandbox, too. Mountains to the north, west and east, with only a long, dry pass through to the deserts further east. To the south is the one route linking the Southern Cities, but it passes through swamp, moor and wasteland.  It was first settled by humans 1022 years ago,when the first king, the warlord and explorer Kendarthen arrived, with his mercenary company. He assisted the already present Fey kingdom in their battle against the minions of the Skull King, and then, when the battle was won, turned on his allies and forced them into the Shadow Realms. His people, refugees and displaced humans, settled the lands.

He was lost on the third anniversary of the Fey withdrawal, when, while alone at his newly completed castle in the King's Forest, the surrounding vegetation sprouted huge toxic thorns and enveloped the building. None have entered the castle since, and although not confirmed dead, the name of the king is used as a warning to children of the risks of consorting with the Fey.

Since then, the Royal Line continued, despite enough accidents, disasters and misfortunes to cause whispers of a curse to surface. However, three generations ago the Royal Family were crossing the lake next to the Capital, Senaris, when an unseasonable gale blew up, capsizing the royal barge. The bodies of all the royal family except one were found over the next week. As the only body not discovered was that of a 6-month old baby, it was assumed that he could not have survived.

The Castellans, the hereditary keepers of the castle in Senaris, assumed the rulership as a temporary measure, but are still caretaker rulers to this day. In the Great Hall, the royal thrones stand empty on their dais, and the Regent presides from a simple chair placed on the lowest step, wearing no ornamentation, only black leather.

Away from Senaris, there are four Duchies - Darkstone, Moonstone, White Jade and Ghostwind, each with their own resources, risks and politics, as well as various Fey and magical effects and locations.

Our play took place in the north-eastern Duchy, White Jade, named after the river and the beautiful stone mined and quarried at its headwaters. The Duke is a dark, foreboding man, tall and lean, who leads a fractious and divided family in vicious political manoeuvring with the other factions and families of the Province. It makes Game of Thrones look homely and settled, as although there is little open violence, the plots and betrayals, coupled with the various mages and mystics that each would-be player employs, can kill as easily as a dagger.

White jade, as great stone blocks for building, or delicate intricate carvings for decoration or jewellery, copper and iron ingots, root vegetables and orchard fruits, and snake leather are the mainstay exports to the other Duchies.

The main points of interest are; to the west, the White Jade and Moonstone Rivers form the main boundary, flowing down through several lakes to Senaris; to the north, the Red Fox Mountains; to the east, a very long way to the isolated coastal cities of the Desert of Legions, across almost a months journey of goblin infested wasteland and semi-desert; and to the south, the low range of eroded canyons, badlands and pinnacles called the Snake Badlands, then the haunted ruins on the shores of the Shadow Lake.

But our three travellers are in the northern lands, east of the White Jade, in the series of villages and towns on the trade route south of the mines. We have Imaghan, nephew of the Duke, but very removed from Court or politics, a ranger/barbarian, and Fey-touched already; Tamailus, a Knight and past hereditary defender of a recently destroyed border tower, now following Imaghan on his mission; and Sarialin, an apprentice mage the two warriors assisted to escape from his master, or, more specifically, the depredations of his fellow apprentices.

They (well, Imaghan) has been guided and fed subtle ideas by Malrous, his uncle's (the Duke) chief ranger and (secretly) chief intelligence agent, concerning outside threats to the Realm - goblins, rogue sorcerers, witch covens, foreign spies, magical curses and prophecies, etc. As you can see, Ralph Finnes from Camelot cuts the right foreboding and ruthless figure for this subtle manipulation.

But, as first level characters, nothing too strenuous to start. Malrous suggested the party travel to the town of Nehem, an important copper and iron smelting centre. Two days short of their destination, travelling safely along the patrolled main road, they stopped at the village of Dhath (population ~90) for the night.

Talking to the surprisingly young and intelligent owner of the only general goods store, they found a mission worthy of a few days straying. Kereth, the owner and proprietor of the store since her grandfather passed away three years ago, is about the same age as the three youths (early twenties, I guess). Her ward, a brain addled boy named Sreth, has disappeared again. He is at none of his normal hides, and Kereth thinks he may have stayed into one of the three local ruins, that all locals avoid due to their fell reputations. Thinking of both finally testing their steel and wits, and impressing a young merchant, they agreed, setting out an hour after dawn the next morning.

Heading two hours walk east of the town, the boys soon found Ghar's Farrow, a strange name for a small series of crypts of the ancient pre-Fey humans that occupied the land millennia ago. Built into the wall of a red sandstone cliff, they soon descended the steps into the crypts.

They explored a partially flooded room, but found only destroyed, empty sarcophagi. They found a spear trap in the corridor. The first two passed over it, but the mage, going last, noticed the click of the pressure plate depressing. He stopped and called out, leading the other two to stop, so Tamailus was in the way. Forewarned, though, he managed to partially parry it, and only took one health point damage.

The tomb to the left, past the trap, contained a wrinkled and mummified body behind a glowing blue dome. There was also a ghoul on a ledge behind the door, but fire and steel slew it with no serious (or infected) wounds. As the ghoul died, the mummy rose and presented all three with a vision of ... well, something they can't remember now, but it involved things being opened and fire and ice...

Leaving the mummy undisturbed, they returned past the trap, remembering not to set it off again, and turned left again at the next intersection, found a room piled with rubble and junk, with a stone throne in a clearing. After dealing, with some difficulty, with the mass of giant rats that assaulted them upon entry, Sarialin was the only one to sit in the throne, and he found a secret catch that he immediately triggered. A low door opened in the back of the throne, and a skeleton rolled out. It stayed dead, thankfully, and Sarialin determined it was likely a woman's skeleton, and relieved it of two rings from its right hand.

Taking the other branch, they stumbled over a low step into a tidy room, with only a small coffer and an open sarcophagus present. They were not surprised when the tall, dessicated warrior rose, with ornate bronze mail and spear. The fight was rather epic, with the warriors being over-matched until they separated and started flanking the undead. Even the mage planted a mighty blow to the head with his wooden staff, but was then hit straight back for the loss of 2/3 of his total health. Finally Imaghan buried his hand axe in its head, shattering both in the process.

The coffer contained 20 strange, heavy silver coins, and Imaghan claimed the spear. The mail vest was too heavy and damaged to take, and they left it on the body when they burnt it.

So, one four-room dungeon cleared, damage taken and dished out by all, but boy not found. Two more ruins to check, and someone should check out the rings...

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