The Devil’s Riddle: Session 65

Posted in The Devil's Riddle on October 20, 2018 by Carl

“This’ll be the place” announces Idril, gesturing up at a shop sign that reads “Tumbleswitch’s Bibliagora” with her walking cane. Heaps of books are stacked up in neat piles behind lead pane windows, and a wooden sign by the door is inscribed “Grethelbert Pogo Tumbleswitch, Scrivener, Cartographer, Bookbinder, Bookseller. No time-wasters.” in meticulous copperplate script.   

A tiny bell tinkles as Rufus pushes the door open, and a bald head appears over the top of a small mountain of books and scrolls. “Yes? Can I help you?” frowns the shopkeeper, a small golden-skinned gnome with half moon spectacles on his nose and ink stains on his fingers. He puffs absentmindedly on his pipe, which seems to have gone out. Noticing, he attempts to relight it without success.

Tumbleswitch’s Bibliagora

“I hope so.” smiles Lisandra. “We seek a young lady who may have have visited your shop very recently, or more specifically we seek the book she had with her. A half-elf, probably somewhat worse for wear. Can you help us?”

“I’ve seen no-one matching that description” the gnome sniffs, still attempting to relight his pipe. “If that is all I’ll bid you good day.”

Lisandra sighs and turns to Rufus. “Let us hope the others had more luck.” The taciturn warrior grunts in response. “Let us hope the others don’t get themselves killed. Blast that girl! Where could she be? Where would she go, with stolen goods?”

Lisandra shakes her head. “Perhaps Tomas was right. If she didn’t come here then maybe he she did seek out a fence. Unless Mr Tumbleswitch here can think of another possibility?”

The gnome, who still hasn’t got his pipe lit, glowers at them from over his stack of books. “Perhaps I didn’t make myself sufficiently clear. If you are not here to do business then I really must ask you to leave. Some of us have jobs to do. Good day to you!”

Rufus bridles at the shop keeper’s rudeness, but Luanda puts a hand on his arm. “Come my friend. There is nothing more to be learned here. Let us go.”

The three adventures depart. Alone once more Pogo Tumbleswitch relaxes back into his chair, puts his feet up  and finally succeeds in lighting his pipe. It erupts in a roaring tower of flame, burning off both his eyebrows and leaving a black scorch mark on the ceiling. After a moment of stunned surprise he leaps to his feet, shrieking in fury and shaking his little gnome fists. From somewhere overhead a high pitched giggle can be heard.


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The Devil’s Riddle: Session 64

Posted in The Devil's Riddle on October 6, 2018 by Carl

“Aromak’s gilded beard, but this place reeks!” Fyn complains. The travelers have passed through Tremane’s south gate, a ramshackle affair of half-rotten timber, and at Tomas’ suggestion he, Fyn and Cayleb have headed to a small inn nestled between a burned-out ruin and a fly-infested pen populated by several forlorn-looking oxen. It looks like no-one has mucked them out for quite some time. “You can’t be serious, Tomas! This hovel? It looks more like an outhouse than an inn!”

The big warrior shrugs. “You are not wrong Fyn, it is a pitiful dive. But if anyone in Tremane knows anything about the movements of wastrel girl with stolen goods to fence, I’d wager the King’s Tankard is the place we’ll find them. Just watch your purses and your backs.” He opens the door, strides inside and bangs his head on a low beam, “And your heads.”

The King’s Tankard

The smell inside is not much better, and neither is the clientele. Hunched in semi-darkness over mugs of soapy-looking ale they look variously disreputable, dangerous or desperate. There is no sign of the girl they seek. A huge woman sat behind a makeshift bar levers herself grumpily to her feet. “What’ll it be?”

Fyn flashes her a dazzling smile and launches into a flattering, flirtatious diatribe that by the end has the dour-faced old half-elf giggling and blushing. It also unfortunately reveals that there has been no sign of Ranji.

“A dead end.” Tomas sighs as the group huddle around a candle-lit table and try not to think about what might be living in their beer. “I was sure if she’d come anywhere it would be here. I only hope the others have better luck.”

“Oh, it hasn’t been a total waste of time.” Cayleb grins wickedly, nodding at the innkeeper, who is gazing over at Fyn with gap-toothed lasciviousness. “It looks like Fyn at least has got lucky!”

The Devil’s Riddle: Interlude: Building Tremane

Posted in The Devil's Riddle on October 4, 2018 by Carl

Now my party have reached a decent sized town it’s time to flesh it out a bit with the aid of some amazing online tools. First up is a randomly created town map courtesy of Watabou’s astonishing Fantasy City Generator. The fantasy world map generator is perhaps even more awesome, but be prepared to lose hours of your life to it!

Tremane

Next I decide my party are going to seek out an inn as they hunt for Ranji, so I randomly generate that on the Donjon site and add some annotation to my map with Photoshop. If I explore other areas of the town I’ll update the annotation as I go. Looks like there are some fascinating folk slumming it in the King’s Tankard! Who knows what, if any of this lovely background detail will find its way into my narrative. 


Inn: The King’s Tankard
Location: On Muck Close, near the town wall. Its neighbors include a sprawling oxen pen and the crumbling ruins of a building.
Description: The inn is a simple wooden shack, with unusually low ceilings. Accomodations consist of several wooden cots in the cellar and several hammocks in the common room.
Innkeeper: The innkeeper is an overweight female half-elf named Ausan.
Menu
Vegetable Stew, Mug of Bitter (3 cp)
Roasted Duck and Rye Bread, Tankard of Cider (10 cp)
Millet Porridge, Mug of Ale (5 cp)
Pottage, Mug of Cider (4 cp)
Vegetable Stew, Mug of Bitter (5 cp)
Patrons
Rici: Male Gnome Aristocrat, NG. Str 10, Dex 11, Con 12, Int 8, Wis 7, Cha 17. Rici has a square face, with matted copper hair and narrow gray eyes. He wears fine raiment and a feathered hat. Rici seeks to save his family from financial ruin.
Anthol Holte: Male Halfling Warrior (mercenary), LN. Str 15, Dex 7, Con 10, Int 10, Wis 5, Cha 8. Anthol has straight brown hair and bright green eyes. He wears hide armor and wields a warhammer and short sword. Anthol suffers a traumatic fear of open spaces.
Hamund: Male Human Commoner (craftsman), NE. Str 12, Dex 12, Con 15, Int 10, Wis 6, Cha 10. Hamund has a narrow face, with cropped red hair and dark blue eyes. He wears sturdy clothing and a wide-brimmed hat. Hamund is searching for his missing son.
Drana: Female Half-orc Adept (hedge wizard), NG. Str 14, Dex 8, Con 11, Int 8, Wis 12, Cha 9. Drana is overweight, with uneven auburn hair and light blue eyes. She wears modest garments and a sling of vials and potions. Drana is searching for her missing daughter.
Anedhen: Female Elf Expert (artist), LN. Str 10, Dex 6, Con 12, Int 13, Wis 5, Cha 8. Anedhen has short silver hair and sharp amber eyes, and a round nose. She wears modest garments and a copper amulet. Anedhen is searching for the lost dominion of Exile.
Gyda: Female Dwarf Aristocrat, CG. Str 8, Dex 11, Con 13, Int 11, Wis 10, Cha 12. Gyda has uneven brown hair and green eyes, and prominent ears. She wears fine raiment and silk gloves. Gyda seeks to free herself from an ancient curse.
Exam Brydaye: Male Human Expert (scholar), NE. Str 9, Dex 9, Con 13, Int 10, Wis 9, Cha 5. Exam has a long face, with thin blonde hair and light blue eyes. He wears tailored clothing and carries a fine stiletto. Exam seeks a company of adventurers to protect him from the assassins of the Devil of Fellmarsh.
Rumors
1. Something has been delving a series of chambers beneath the town.
2. Agents of the Wraith Warlord have captured the king and replaced him with a doppelganger.
3. Scores of dragons have been gathering off the western edge of Conflict..
4. There’s a magical portal in the highest tower of the Bastion of the Goblin King.
5. Rancent’s Council are held imprisoned within the Gauntlet of Dismal Chaos, charmed by a seductive devil.

The Devil’s Riddle: Session 63

Posted in The Devil's Riddle on October 3, 2018 by Carl

Rufus struggles to master himself, but cannot overcome his terror of the creatures. Instead he backs away, dropping his sword. Shaking fingers fumble for arrows and he fires twice in rapid succession, but the uncontrollable trembling sends both shots wide.

“Recall yourself, my friend!” Lisandra calls to him. “Find your centre!” The light that suffuses her burns brighter, causing both harpies to snarl with pain.

Fyn darts in, stabbing wildly with both rapiers, then dives to one side as Cayleb’s crossbow twangs again. The elder monk intones “Leaves on the wind” and all four of the Brethren spread out, weaving and dancing away from attacks with impossible grace.

Tomas continues to hack away, his own divine aura burning translucent flesh from the undead creatures, driving them back.

Rufus takes a deep breath; all fear is gone. “My thanks” he mutters to Lissandra. Then he charges, catching up his blade in mid-stride. He slices twice, and an unquiet spirit bursts apart with one final, terrible shriek.

The group turn on their final foe. Seeing her best attacks rebuffed and her sisters cut down the harpy hisses a string of elven invective before fleeing into the night sky.

“Come back! Come back and taste my axe, night soil!” Tomas roars after her. Lisandra places a soothing hand on his arm. “Calm yourself my brother. The battle is over, and against the odds we still stand, Source be praised.”

“In our hour of need the Light of the Seven shall provide” smiles the eldest of the monks, stepping forward and bowing low to Lisandra and the others. “You have the profound thanks of the Most Tranquil Brethren of Thrice-Blessed Ankhra. We are in your debt.”

Lisandra bows back as Fyn and Rufus join her. The blademaster sheaths his sword and replies “You may be able to repay that debt. We seek a half-elven girl, perhaps 15, and believe she has traveled this way. Wild-haired and surly she was. Have you seen anyone matching that description?”

“Oh yes” the monk replies at once with a sad smile. “No mistaking her. We saw the young lady you speak of entering town as we left Tremane. It struck me when I saw her that in times such as these only the truly foolhardy or desperate travel alone.”

The Devil’s Riddle: Session 62

Posted in The Devil's Riddle on October 2, 2018 by Carl

“You Brethren are going to have to fight if you want to live!” Fyn yells, racing back into the fray and standing over his fallen comrades. With the banshees out of reach he drops his rapiers, draws his bow and fires.

“We do not sully our spirits with violence-” one of the monks begins.

“Oh no, of course not, why would you want to do a crazy thing like fighting for your lives? Or ours, for that matter?” Cayleb groans, firing from a distance and missing.

“-but we can assist in other ways.” the monk finishes calmly. Each kneels and places a hand on the forehead of a fallen party member. The light flares once more and four sets of eyes flutter open.

 

monk

The respite is short-lived. Overhead the faces of the banshees grow breathtakingly beautiful, almost spellbinding. Then in a moment of untrammeled horror the spectral flesh sloughs from their rotting bones, revealing the putrefaction and decay that boils beneath. Maggots and flies burst from their mouths, nostrils and eyes.

Rufus and Lisandra scramble away, eyes wild with terror. Two of the monks are similarly unmanned and turn to flee.

Idril begins to raise her hands to cast a spell but with a shriek a banshee swoops down and grips her face between spectral hands. The gnome’s eyes roll back in her skull and she falls limply to the earth. Another of the howling harries one of the fleeing monks, but he nimbly manages to remain just out reach.

Lisandra, still trembling, closes her eyes and tries to steady her breathing. The light of the Source erupts from her, bathing all nearby in its healing aura. At her connection with the Source her fear subsides.

Beside her Idril’s eyes flick back open and harden. “Now that was just rude!” she snaps at the undead thing hovering in front of her. Then she vanishes from sight.

Tomas rises to his feet, his face black with fury. “Foul grave-spawn!” he roars, “Let the Light of the Seven send you back to Hell!” Blue-white light corruscates from him as he swings his axe, and even before it connects one approaching banshee is blasted to ash. The second recoils in pain, but not swiftly enough to avoid Tomas’ axe as it slashes through her. She shrieks an ancient elvish curse at the hulking warrior, her hands raised before her face to ward off the light.

The Devil’s Riddle: Session 61

Posted in The Devil's Riddle on October 2, 2018 by Carl

“Get behind me! Don’t let them touch you!”

Rufus interposes himself between the terrified group of young monks and their attackers, a trio of hideous spectral forms that swoop above them, their ruined faces distorted in fury. The blademaster lashes out twice and the lead creature shrieks, translucent white hair whipping about her once-beautiful features. banshee

“Rufus, what have you got us into this time?” Cries Fyn as he darts around his companion. Though his weapons connect they seem to do have little actual effect. He backs hurriedly away.

“D’you have to ask? More damned trouble, same as always!” Cayleb grunts, putting a crossbow bolt neatly between the vile apparition’s eyes. The hole vanishes almost at once. He too backs away down the Tremane Trail, grumbling to himself as he half vanishes into the twilight. “I thought we were supposed to be out here hunting for a book, not rescuin’ every hapless passerby we stumble across…”

“And leave these poor travelers to their fate? I think not!” Lisandra smiles grimly, helping one of the monks to stand. “Wherever Ranji is, she will have to wait!” The orange-clad Brethren of Ankhra are battered and shaken but they do not break. Instead they find their feet and, joining hands, begin to chant. The four of them are suffused in a beatific white glow of healing power.

As if in response the banshees begin to shriek at those nearby as they rise into the air. Whilst the monks seem immune the combined cacophony is unbearable to the party; first Lisandra, then Idril and Tomas, and finally even Rufus succumb to the unrelenting waves of sound, collapsing senseless to the ground.

“Oh, well that’s just great!” comes Cayleb’s voice from somewhere in the gloom.

The Devil’s Riddle: Interlude

Posted in The Devil's Riddle on September 30, 2018 by Carl

After more than a year away I think it’s high time I restarted the Devil’s Riddle campaign. Before we get back into it I need to take stock.

The party have determined that the young half-elven girl Ranji, who they encountered at the Devil’s Riddle Inn back in session 28, is the most likely suspect in the case of the missing summoning book. And they need stop that book falling into the enemy’s hands if they are to prevent the incursion of the arch-enemy, the Fury. However they have also learned that the Jesters captured Jeden the innkeeper in an attempt to learn of the book’s whereabouts.

I feel this is a suitable narrative break point, and I’m inclined to fast-forward things along a bit. So I decide to ask a the GM Emulator a series of questions and let those help me determine where we restart the campaign.

Q. Do the party find Jeden? YES
Q: Is he alive? YES

That’s a relief! Tortured and traumatised, but still breathing. I rule the party return him to the Inn and bind his wounds.

Q: Is he in a fit state to be left alone? YES

Great. So the party head out in pursuit of Ranji.

Q: Are there any clues as to where she went? YES
Q: What clue? The Answer involves The Exact Opposite of Spirituality.

Materialism. She’s stolen a bunch more things, so we can only assume she’s a thief and intends to sell them. And the best place to sell them is probably the nearest town, where the villagers went, Temane. That’s a day a and a half down the Tremane Trail according to Session 29. I decide to send my party in pursuit.

I also decide, given that his sword is now sentient and able to glow, and because the party have had pretty much no other loot so far, that Rufus’ blade is now a +1 magical weapon. Fyn has also replaced his powdered rapiers and the others have restocked all missing supplies.

Q: Any encounters on the trail? YES
Q: How far along the trail? R: #4: 78/100. Three quarters of the way to Tremane.
Q: What is the nature of the encounter? Utterly Beautiful Violence, Mother Telerassi

Wow, that’s going to take some unpicking, even before we get to the Utterly Beautiful Violence thing. Mother Telerassi was the Tower Mother of the Sky Temple who introduced Jeden to his mentor Olimar. As a Tower Mother she is very likely to be a priestess of the Source, like Lisandra.

Q: Is she a priestess? NO

OK, so perhaps another sort of senior figure in the Sky Temple then.

Q: a monk? YES

But here’s the rub; that temple is in another world! A world that has fallen to darkness. And years before that happened the temple was attacked by the Fey Queen Andromeda. How can Mother Telerassi possibly be involved with an encounter on the Tremane Trail? I guess we’ll find out in the next session!