Archive for May, 2017

The Devil’s Riddle, Interlude: The Blademaster’s Secret Part I

Posted in The Devil's Riddle on May 31, 2017 by Carl

 

Last session left me with an unanswered question; what the hell is up with Rufus?  

To answer that and to flesh out the details necessary for a good flashback I’ve decided I need to ask the GM Emulator six questions: who, when, where, why, what and how? This is an opportunity to work with the Detail question side of the Emulator rather than the normal Yes/ No part, and to indulge in some fairly freeform word association. Here we go…

Q: Who is involved in the flashback? The Answer involves an Incredible Display of Oldness.

Well that’s obviously the last (Donjon name generator to the rescue) Chamarand of Valonde. I’m thinking the last surviving member of a legendary order of weapon masters, that seems to fit with Rufus. 

Q: When is the flashback set? The Answer involves A Small, Notable Example of Humility, and might also involve Jeden.

I’ve decided that these events are set in the world Rufus and Lisandra came from, so the new companions they have met since the start of the campaign will not feature. But I can still use them as sources of inspiration. This answer suggests to me that the events take place at a time when Rufus has experienced a moment of lucidity or clarity following hubris; he has been prideful or arrogant and now recognises his error. Perhaps this is a time in his life when is seeking atonement, and has stripped himself, or been stripped, of his previous status. Maybe he has gone from being a noble to a common man, like Jeden.

Q: Where is the flashback set? The answer involves Fascinating Love, which might affect Tomas

We’ve established Tomas is from a mountain tribe. And fascinating love suggests worship; this flashback is set in a temple dedicated to the Source, perched atop a high mountain peak.

Q: Why is Rufus here? The Answer involves A Complete Lack of Masculinity.

Chercher la femme! A woman is involved, and a very feminine one at that. Sounds to me like Rufus is in love. Or was, perhaps.

Q: How does does this moment change things for him? The Answer involves Genuinely Good Authority.

Well that feels like it takes us back to our ancient weapon master from Question 1. Rufus comes to the temple, humbled, suffering from a lost love, or a love gone bad, and is redeemed by the last Charamand.

Clearly there was peril inherent in Rufus’ predicament, or Lisandra wouldn’t have been so concerned. So we need to introduce more of a challenge or threat to this setup. The most obvious variable seems to be this lost love. Let’s see who she is, using the NPC Generator.

Andromeda

Andromeda, eh? Interesting. This says fey to me; Rufus has fallen in love a fairy power, perhaps. Or more likely she has fallen in love with him. Let’s pick out some key aspects from this NPC:

  • Goal: Something Lost: Her immortality.
  • Motivation: Vow: She has sworn she will recover her position.
  • Conflict: Conflict of interest: her love for Rufus is at odds with her motivation.
  • Vice: Obsession: her love for this foolish mortal.

So, a queen of the Fey courts fell for an arrogant young noble, and that love stripped her of her immortality, allowing her rivals to claim her dominion. Despite her obsessive love for him, she vowed to slay her human lover and reclaim her birthright.  

The irony? The man she fell in love with was weak and unworthy. The man who fled her wrath found himself and was reborn in the Sky Temple, a far purer and stronger man, and far more worthy of her love.  

Next it’s time to find out how this setup plays out.

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The Devil’s Riddle: Session 39

Posted in The Devil's Riddle on May 30, 2017 by Carl

Rufus draws his blade and strikes in a single fluid motion, the blade sinking deep into the desiccated flesh of the thing that had once been the bearded bandit chief. He then feints, wheels to the left and strikes again. This time the sword tip flashes across the creature’s neck, two inches deep. Black blood comes gushing out and the unholy thing topples backwards.

Lisandra steps from the shadows. “Luminarus Acribus” she gently intones. Closing her eyes she raises a hand and bright light bursts forth, causing her allies to shield their eyes. The effect on the two remaining ghouls is far worse;  grey skin blisters and blackens; the vile creatures shrink back from the radiance, Shivers shrieking in pain. Fat Rollo is quieter, no doubt on account of not having a head.   

As the light fades they stalk forward again; both close in on Fyn. Shivers attempts to sink his fangs in, Rollo lashes out with claws. “Oh no you don’t, you blasted freaks!” Fyn growls, dodging each blow with ease. But without weapons to strike back he instead flings himself into a roll and snatches up the fallen handaxe as he passes.     

Tomas steps swiftly past Fyn roaring a challenge, his axe coming down in a wild swing that almost chops the thing that once had been Shivers in half. Sickeningly though the creature staggers on, the dark power that animates it refusing to let it fall.

Rufus closes with the headless Rollo, his precise swordmanship opening up another line of black blood across his chest. Then Cayleb dashes in close, no small amount of terror in his battlecry. He blindsides Shivers, plunging his sword in deep under the creature’s ribs,before sending a wild crossbow bolt towards Rollo. Though the bolt misses Shivers collapses twitching to the ground.

Then Lisandra steps forward and points at at the headless ghoul. “Fall, darkling! Back to the pit that spawned you!” A blast of pure white light streaks towards it punching a hole through its chest that grows until the creature bursts apart, blackened flakes of charred flesh falling like dark snow.

“Sweet Source, what in Lothlonde were those things!” cries Cayleb, his face white with shock. “That was my crew, Shivers and Rollo and the Chief! We killed them, how did they come back? How in the name of all that’s Light did they come back?”

“The desecration of this ground is profound.” Lisandra replies. “The natural flow of life energy is perverted here, utterly corrupted. I hadn’t realised just how powerful it had grown. The darkness in this place  is being channeled.  These poor souls were victims of that darkness, their recent deaths served as foci for its power.” She looks pensive. “We didn’t see a similar effect on the bodies further back in the tunnels. They had lain for some time, undisturbed. Perhaps that means that as we grow nearer to the source of the darkness its power is intensifying. A worrying thought.”

“Maybe more worrying than you know.” Grunts Rufus, and meets the Channeler’s eyes. The hand that grips his sword hilt is white-knuckled and ever so slightly trembling.

For a moment Lisandra regards her bodyguard with puzzlement. Then her eyes widen in shock as realisation dawns. “You don’t mean…”

Rufus nods once in reply, a curt, almost jerky motion quite at odds with the Blademaster’s usual grace. “Sacred Source!” Lisandra gasps, one hand flying reflexively to her mouth.

The Devil’s Riddle: Session 38

Posted in The Devil's Riddle on May 29, 2017 by Carl

Rufus is first to speak. “No-one sets up such potent protective measures unless they have something to hide, or something of value. I suggest we work out a way to get past.”

“A fair point, and potentially not so difficult to achieve” Idril replies. “These creatures seem to be attracted to metal, to feed on it, is that right?”

Tomas nods. “That’s right. They can sense metal from a great distance, and are drawn to it. Their antennae turn any metal they touch to dust, which they then consume. But how does that help us?”

Idril smiles and says “Fyn, would you pass me that pouch of yours?” The rogue blinks at her in surprise but does as she asks, comprehension dawning on him as he does so. The elderly gnome jiggles the bag and the sound of clinking metal can be heard. “I suggest we feed the guard dogs.”

Lisandra nods, smiling. “I see what you mean. We still need to bypass this area of heated metal, though we could perhaps achieve that by wrapping and carrying, or dragging, our arms and armour.”

Rufus nods. “Makes sense. Sounds workable. Though I suggest we head back to the guard post first; Fyn requires replacement weapons, and there may be a shield I can use.”

Their plan of action agreed the party retrace their steps, Rufus taking point. They soon find themselves back at the guard post, the bodies of the three fallen thugs lying in congealing pools of blood. Already flies have begun to buzz around the stiffening corpses. Spying a fallen handaxe near to the brutalised body of the bandit chief Fyn reaches down; it is only Rufus’ keen eye and swift reflexes that save the rogue from having his throat torn out.  

“Back!” the blademaster cries, and gripping the back of Fyn’s tunic he tugs the young man out of the path of a death blow. Astonished, Fyn gazes down. In a moment of stomach-clenching horror he sees what Rufus has seen, and understands. All three corpses have turned a putrid grey, thick black veins visibly writhing beneath translucent skin. Hands have extended into long, wicked claws. With a popping of sinew and bone arms and legs begin to lengthen. The dead faces of Shivers and the Chief elongate, slender yellow fangs extending from slack jaws. Dead glassy eyes flood with scarlet blood and come into focus, suddenly hungrily aware. Each of the fallen bandits begin to twitch and stir, and then all three, even the headless corpse of Fat Rollo, begin to rise.

“Blessed Light!” mutters Rufus. “What fresh devilry is this?” Then in a ringing voice he calls out; “To arms!” 

The Devil’s Riddle: Session 37

Posted in The Devil's Riddle on May 28, 2017 by Carl

Using the big man’s imposing frame as cover Fyn darts around him and dashes back down the corridor, but is unable to hold on to his remaining rapier. It drops from charred, smoking fingers. In a flash one of the rust monsters is on it and has reduced it to dust. Fyn lets out a frustrated wail.

Tomas now holds the archway, blocking it with his bulk as his companions race to comparative safety.

“Everyone’s clear! Lead them back into the corridor, Tomas!” Idril calls, retreating until she stands beside Cayleb. “We have bows and spells readied!” The rust monster, driven to aggression by the scent of supper ahead, decides to encourage Tomas to get out of the way, nipping at the big man with a clack of mandibles.  

Tomas backs slowly away, two of the creatures trotting along behind him, and as they round the corner they walk into a hail of missiles. The lead creature give a plaintive shriek as it is narrowly missed by Lisandra’s blast of light, only for three arrows to punch through its armoured hide. Readying himself for battle Tomas bellows “For the Light!” and as his muscles flex he actually seems to glow from within. All three rust monsters surrounding him flinch back, the light searing them. As one they turn and scuttle back the way they came, retreating out of sight into the darkness of their chamber.

Tomas lets out a deep breath and the inner glow fades. He staggers slightly, steadying himself  with one hand against the cold stone wall, then backs away to rejoin his companions.

“Is everyone all right?” Rufus asks, checking on his shaken allies.

“All right?” splutters Fyn. “Those damnable beasts ate my swords!” He continues, oblivious to the growing look of ill-concealed anger on Rufus’ face. “What sort of monster eats a man’s swords? And my hands! My lovely hands! All blistered and…”

“Not. Another. Word.” Rufus’ voice is low and tight, his words furious. Even Fyn can’t mistake the venom that drips from them. “Your ill-discipline and foolishness almost cost us dear. From hereon out I will take lead, and you will follow my orders to the letter. Do we understand one another, Fyn Smallwood?”

Fyn gulps, opens his mouth to reply, closes it again and then nods. Rufus turns away, scowling.     

“I am glad.” Idril smiles to Cayleb, leaning on her cane. “It gave me no satisfaction to inflict harm upon those poor creatures. It would have weighed heavy on me had we been forced to kill them.” Cayleb looks at her blankly. “Whatever you say, mother, whatever you say.” He doesn’t look convinced.

Lisandra approaches Tomas a places a hand lightly on the big man’s arm. “Tomas, are you aware of what just happened?” She says quietly. The big man shakes his head, his breathing still deep and ragged.

“You touched the Source, Tomas. You channeled its power, though in a way very different to my own. I am able to channel by calming my spirit, by sinking into that eternal ocean of quiet and peace. You, my friend, seemed to adopt entirely the opposite approach; the heat of battle was your conduit. Fascinating, but perhaps a topic to consider at a more apposite time.” She raises her voice, speaking to the whole group.

“We are faced with a choice my friends; do we try to circumvent this barrier, or turn back and take the other path?”  

 

 

 

The Devil’s Riddle: Session 36

Posted in The Devil's Riddle on May 28, 2017 by Carl

“Damnation! My sword hilts are burning!” Fyn cries, wincing in pain as he tries to keep a grip on them. The intense heat from left hand blade is too much though he drops it, flapping his hand wildly to try and cool the burning sensation. The sickly smell of cooking meat fills his nostrils and turns his stomach.

Oblivious to his surroundings the adventurer jumps to entirely the wrong conclusion. “These damn things must be heating the metal somehow.” he growls, and stabs wildly at the closet russet-coloured creature. But the pain puts him off; he misses his target.

Cocking its head the creature gazes up at him with black unblinking eyes, then down at his fallen rapier. It scuttles forward with surprising speed, its feathery antennae brushing over the gleaming blade. A fine patina of rust spreads over the finely crafted weapon, and in an instant it collapses into a heap of fine oxidised rust-red dust. The rust monster digs in to its supper, purring contentedly. “No!” cries Fyn in disbelief. “It ate my rapier!”    

At the rear of the group Idril has seen the spell activate and knows better than her impetuous companion. “No creature is causing this, a spell was triggered when you passed through the archway, Mr Smallwood!” the tiny old woman calls out. “If we move out of the area of effect the magic may disperse.”

She shuffles back down the corridor, and her silver amulet immediately cools. “It works! Everyone back away down the corridor! Quickly!”

Cayleb doesn’t need telling twice. Pausing only to kick his dropped sword back down the corridor he beats a hasty retreat. Rufus hears the old woman’s words, but is conflicted; retreating will leave Fyn alone, and the others will need him ahead of them to cover their retreat…

All rational thought is interrupted by the searing heat as the metal he wears begins to glow a dull red. He drops his shield, and the pain from his scale mail armour is indescribable. Despite the pain the blademaster keeps a firm grip on his elegant curved sword; though smoke curls up from between his fingers he grits his teeth and clings on. “Back! Fall back!” he gasps, staggering back down the corridor. As he reaches the periphery of the spell’s area of effect the heat instantly dissipates. He sags with relief as the pain starts to subside, but his reprieve comes at a cost; another rust monster falls upon his discarded shield, and devours it.

The last rust monster, denied any fallen scraps, turns its attention on the sword-wielding Fyn. Antenna reach out, but Fyn is easily able to bring his blade out of reach. He gulps as three sets of beady eyes fix upon it.   

Lisandra gasps with pain and is unable to hold onto her shield. Her face whitens, but she steps forward so that she can see Fyn ahead and the others behind. Soft white light emanates from her as she lifts a hand, palm upraised, and calls out “Blessing of the Light be upon us!” Fyn, Rufus and the Channeler feel its touch like a cooling salve; burned and blackened flesh reknits, as good as new. Her job done she retreats hastily.

“Behind me!” comes a deep booming cry. The huge mountain Tomas man wears no metal armour, and the wooden haft of his greataxe keeps him safe from the dull red glow of the axe head. He tosses the weapon back to Rufus as he strides forward, calling out “Don’t strike them with metal! I know of these beasts; any metal touching them will corrode! Get back Fyn, quickly! I will cover your retreat!”

The Devil’s Riddle: Session 35

Posted in The Devil's Riddle on May 19, 2017 by Carl

The group set out once more, and after a swift search of the bandit quarters (which reveals nothing but bedbugs and lice) they make their way down the left hand passage Skunk had indicated. The crudely cut smuggler’s tunnel twists and turns, pitch black but for for the soft blue glow of Lisandra’s staff.

“Phaugh, what’s that unholy stench?” Asks Tomas, and all of the party’s nostrils are assaulted by a potent rancid stink that makes the air almost unbreathable. “Be on your guard” Rufus replies through gritted teeth. “It may be some foul creature is up ahead.” But as they move on the smell diminishes. “They could really use a good cleaner down here” Fyn quips.   

After what seems like an age the party come to a T junction. “Which way?” Fyn whispers, peering into the darkness. Rufus reflects briefly, then indicates to the right. “Quietly now, we don’t know what lies ahead.”

At each turn in the tunnel Fyn peeks around the corner to ensure the path is clear. At the next bend he leans around the corner and sees a crude stone archway leading into a small chamber. Two doors lead out of the room. But of more immediate concern are the amber chitin-covered creatures  at the centre of the room, their long antennae twitching in Fyn’s direction. They are perhaps three feet long and really rather cute-looking in an insectoid sort of way.

“Aw, will you look at these guys!” Fyn grins. “Hello there big fella! Lisandra, can we keep one?”

Rufus, following close behind, takes a look into the room and cries out in alarm. “Fyn! Keep away from those things!”

But the warning comes a fraction too late. As Fyn steps into the room there’s a dull orange flash that spreads out from the archway, bathing the whole party in it’s light. “Uh, is it me or is it getting rather hot in here?” Cayleb asks. Then, a second later he lets out a yelp and drops his shortsword, shaking his fingers. “It burned me!”

One by one the others begin to display signs of increasing discomfort as every metal object they carry begins to grow steadily hotter and hotter.

And the rust monsters start to close in…

The Devil’s Riddle: Session 34

Posted in The Devil's Riddle on May 14, 2017 by Carl

In short order the thugs are trussed securely. Lisandra and Cayleb emerge from the shadows, to be greeted by a string of curses. “Cayleb! You filthy double-crossing filth!” snarls the fat, bald fellow.

“Good to see you too, Fat Rollo.” Cayleb replies, reloading his crossbow. “Skunk, Kurnak. I’d say it was a shame about Shivers and the boss, but we all know they were the lowest sort of scum. I’ve found me a better class of crew.”

Fyn approaches and claps Cayleb on his shoulder. “Great work, Cayleb! Your knowledge of this place was invaluable. And that one-two on the gap-toothed creep? Priceless.”

“Good work all round.” Lisandra nods, as the slender young mother morphs into the wrinkled, diminutive form of Idril. “We successfully drew them out from hiding and prevented them from sounding the alarm. Now Cayleb, you said you only know the camp as far as the barracks beyond this room. Perhaps one of these men will be able to provide us with a little more information.”

Rufus, who has been cleaning the blood from his blade, strides towards the kneeling, tied men. Tomas falls into step behind him. The blademaster studies each in turn, searching for signs of fear. He sees only angry defiance in the face of Fat Rollo and sullen resignation in that of Kurnak. But he stops at Skunk, a whippet-thin fellow with long, greasy black hair and a tattoo of a bird of prey covering one side of his neck. This one is sweating, barely able to stop himself from trembling with fear.

Rufus points at Skunk with his sword. “You. You will tell me…”

Words come spilling out of the skinny man before Rufus can complete his request. “Sure, I’ll tell you everything, just don’t hurt me, OK? I can help! The boss has a healing potion on his belt, and money too!” 

Fat Rollo splutters in outrage. “Skunk, you worm, shut yer mouth you…” Rufus’ sword moves in a blur and Fat Rollo stops dead, the blade touching lightly to his adam’s apple. Tomas leans down to search the dead bandit chief, and Rufus moves the blade slowly back to Skunk.

“There’s a room beyond this one where we rest. Out through the hidden doors and right, or you can go through the other hidden door.” Skunk nods at the eastern wall and upon closer inspection a section of wall resolves itself into a door. “No others there, this is all of us guards. We ain’t allowed nowhere else in the camp, off to the left up there. That’s just for the… others.”  He gulps, ignoring the look of ill-suppressed fury on Fat Rollo’s face.

“The Jesters. Their undead things. But there’s something else out there, something even worse. I don’t know what it is, but I overheard some of them talkin’, and they were scared of it! Those things, scared!” Having started talking Skunk doesn’t seem able to stop. “Have you seen those things? What could make something like that afeared? Oh Light, you’ve got to let us go! Please, just let us go, we…”

“Enough.” says Rufus, his blade an unwavering inch from the man’s tattooed throat. Skunk stops. Turning to Lisandra he raises an eyebrow.

The channeler sighs, but before she can speak Fat Rollo erupts. “Skunk, you snot-nosed coward, I’ll kill you, I’ll kill you all…”

He gets no further. Rufus’ sword flashes once and the fat man’s head topples from his shoulders. The remaining bandits stare at the blademaster in horrified silence.

“Go. Leave this place and do not look back.” Lisandra says, her face hidden beneath her white hood. The bandits, hands still tied, scramble to their feet and oblige her, racing from the chamber as if all the hounds of hell were on their heels.