June 25

Against the Giants: Session 211

map of doom bat cave

With the deafening shriek of unseen beasts, the heroes venture into the cave, stepping cautiously on the bridge, after Halmary throws some light into the cavern and Xellos tries (and fails) to coax out whatever is making the noise with some illusions. Nothing happens until Halmary reaches the first landing of the bridge: then, from caves dotting the wall, giant bats fly out and move in to attack!

Sindi unleashes a lightning bolt that wounds a couple and Calibos blesses everyone, except Halmary who is out of range. Halmary creates a zone of silence, which has the effect of disorientating any bats that pass through the area, and everyone else finds themselves ducking and lashing out as the bats fly through them, biting and slapping with their tails, trying to dislodge the heroes from their perch on the bridge. The first giant bat is knocked out of the air by Ungrid, killing it instantly as grontdrengi smashes its skull. Sindi takes out another, flying into it with her spear leading; the others slash and hack as the bats fly overhead. Eshan defends himself, but is knocked off the bridge; but he thankfully falls only ten feet to the cavern floor, missing the chasm. He quickly turns invisible and stays out of the way.

Meanwhile, another pair of bats manage to knock Ungrid off balance, and the dwarf totters on the edge of the bridge… then plummets off into the chasm!

Xellos fireballs several bats, incinerating one, burning others. Halmary does something similar after slinging stones at them, and flame strikes some bats. More bats fall to sword and axe, albeit slowly.

Meanwhile, Ungrid saves himself by activating his boots of levitation before he hits the floor, and Sindi flies down to help as several bats dive at them; together they finish off a few bats.

Soon the bats are all dead, and Ungrid is hauled back up to the bridge. They cross the ancient bridge, back into the tunnel on the opposite side and from there spend a further four days travelling along. The days and nights are uneventful until the penultimate day, when they pass through a damp section of the tunnel, with stalactites hanging from the ceiling. Some of these drop when they pass under, wounding some of three of the party. The piercers turn out to be useless after they’ve dropped and are swiftly dispatched.

Then, on the final day, they read the end of the tunnel, where a shaft ascends up and up and up…

End of Session

Kills: 12 doom bats; a colony of piercers.

# days in tunnel: 20.

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June 19

Against the Giants: Session 210

arane cavern

The Heroes camp down in the crumbling tunnel on the night of their 11th day underground. During the night they are attacked by Cave Morays that squirm out of the cracks and fissures, managing to bite a few of the unarmoured and sleeping before the adventurers (even Eshan) manage to dice them. They move camp further down the tunnel, then set camp again and the rest of the night passes without incident.

They travel for another two days, truding through the perfectly straight tunnel, and come to another cavern: this one is a large chams, the tunnel continuing on the other side. Thick cobwebs span the chasm, anchored to the walls and boulders partially blocking the entry. Sindi takes flight using her Feather spear carrying the magical glowing warhammer of Halmary’s. She spots a cave high on the wall, and spots a large spider climbing out. Before she has a chance to warn the others, that spider spots Halmary and scuttles forward, letting loose a stream of webs that completely engulf the cleric, trapping him!

Another two of the spiders scuttle out, all moving down onto the webs spanning the chasm, and as the adventurers move forward, both Calibos and Ungrid are both webbed too!

Xellos manages to duck down as another spray of sticky webs heads his way, and then he retaliates with a lightning bolt that badly burns two of the spiders; Sindi follows with a blast from her shield, her lightning bolt further wounding them. Then Sindi too is webbed, leaving only Xellos and Eshan untouched. Calibos, with his girdle of giant strength starts tearing free, while Eshan starts to cut away at Ungrid’s webs. Meanwhile, Xellos finishes off the two wounded spiders with a flurry of fiery magic missiles, sending them spiralling into the chasm below. He injures the last spider with more magic missiles, and as it scurries closer, Calibos breaks free and takes a swipe at the spider as it enters his reach; the spider is cut in twain and falls twitching to the ground.

After freeing the others from the webs, Sindi, Ungrid and Calibos (using Boots and a Potion of Levitation) explore the cave the spiders crawled out of, finding plenty of loot that they collect and stow away in their bags of holding. Sindi then uses the remaining time of her fly to ship the others all upto the cave. From there, Xellos uses a floating disc and borrowed boots of levitation and ferries everyone across to the other side, where they re-enter the tunnel, camping there before they head off the following day.

After a brief encounter with another tunnel worm (that barely raised its head before Sindi and Ungrid smashed it to pulp), another couple of days travel finds them arriving at yet another cavern, with a chasm falling away before the cave opens up. Old, crumbling stairs arch over the chasm, then rise up on supporting columns to the tunnel opposite, high above the cave floor.

Sindi takes flight and enters the cave, and no sooner has she done so, then a yipping, shriekinghigh-pitched chorus ecohes around the cave, grating on nerves and almost deafening the party.

End of Session

Kills: 12 moray eels, 3 arane, 1 tunnel worm.

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June 11

Against the Giants: Session 209

After leaving behind the slug-inhabited cavern, the intrepid adventurers continue trekking down the tunnel. The tunnel now shows signs of erosion, possibly an earthquake, with fissures breaking up the otherwise even walls and ceiling, cracks crisscrossing the floor, rocks partially blocking the passage from where the ceiling caved-in. After a day travelling, as ‘night’ comes, and the party decide to stop to rest and sleep, Sindi and Calibos (scouting ahead) spot a group of four blue-skinned, white-haired dwarf-like creatures approaching in the dark. Before they have a chance to warn the others, these creatures fire bolts at the people they can see: these bolts harmlessly ping off armour and magical protection, and Calibos then just wades in and in a dance of death, decapitates the whole lot. They loot the bodies, but the only items of interest are the pair of small repeating crossbows they carried.

The rest of their rest goes without incident, as do the next three and a half days; and then they arrive at another break in the tunnel, this time a wall with a gate and a tower blocking the way.

map of derro cave
Toll Tower

As they approach, a voice in an unknown language calls out to them. Halmary prays to understand their tongues and translates as Calibos parleys. The creatures (derro, they later learn) demand a toll for passage through their gate: they want gemstones or magic and get increasingly greedy during the negotiations. While they talk, Sindi, invisible, uses her boots of levitation to scale the wall and investigate the other side. In the dim light cast by Halmary’s glowing warhammer, she spots a few derro, doors into the tower, the tunnel beyond and a more natural side-tunnel leading off. Sidni then creeps up to one of the gates and pulls the bolt free.

At that moment, Ungrid gets bored and decide to put an end to the negotiations by hurling grontdrengi at one of the derro on the wall: the hammer knocks the short blue-skinned dwarf off the wall, crushing his ribs, killing him instantly. Battle is quickly joined. Sindi opens the other gate, the others race through, one of the derro opens a door and releases a Chaos Hulk: a constantly shifting mass of limbs, eyes and legs. Derro attack, and are slaughtered; one flees down the side-tunnel shouting for aid and reinforcements. Halmary deals with the hulk with a well-timed finger of death, eliminating it before it has a chance to do any damage. Sindi heads up the side-tunnel, blindly firing off a lightning bolt down it, managing to kill some more derro; Calibos heads down there too, into a cave of huts; he kills a derro, then a savant releases a cloud kill, but before it reaches them, the part decide it’s not worth the effort (nor ethical) to slaughter an entire colony of derro. They withdraw, and the derro, in their wisdom, decide to let them go, since it is obvious that they are outmatched.

The adventurers continue down the passage for a another couple of hours until they are sure there is no one following them, then settle down to sleep. During their camp, a giant worm burrows out of the rock, but barely manages to bite something when Sindi and Ungrid chop it in two. They move camp, and in the ‘morning’ once again continue their long journey through the tunnel…

End of Session

Kills: 11 derro, 1 chaos hulk, 1 tunnel worm.

Time Spent in Tunnel: 13 days.

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June 6

Against the Giants: Session 208

map of ancient vault
Vault of the Ancient Gods

As the Heroes tend to their wounds, Xellos uses Alter Self together with a ritual scroll of Permanency to appear as a living, whole person, thus enabling him to use both legs. He then summons a hero (via a spell), and a worn and tired soldier called Reuben appears. He’s not too happy to go exploring ahead of Xellos, who turns himself Invisible to follow, but has no choice but to obey. They don’t go far, just exploring the immediate area looking for the creature that attacked them. They find nothing, but are too wary to explore through the doors yet unopened. Instead they return to the tunnel, setting up camp after wizard locking and magic mouthing the door. Reuben stands guard together with Wulsted and Xellos, and Eshan keeps an eye on the tunnel. The others settle down to sleep.

Not long after, but long enough for the summoned hero to return whence he came, Wulsted cries out in alarm as the creature returns to attack (using Passwall to bypass the door): the barbarian takes the full force of a pair of cone of cold blasts, freezing him solid. Xellos wakes the others, tries to attack the creature, but it turns its hideous alien face on him and he finds himself paralysed.

Then the battle is won when Sindi steps up and lets loose with a lightning bolt from her shield; it ricochets down the passage, blasting Wulstead into tiny pieces, shocking Xellos out of his paralysis, and finishing off the creature in one final blow.

Wulsted is dead. They mourn his death, briefly, and now they are down to one ex-prisoner, Eshan. The others are all dead now.

The rest of the night passes uneventfully, and in the morning, rested and mostly fully healed, they begin trekking down the tunnel. It gradually descends for a mile before widening into a 20′ wide, 25′ high arched tunnel that looks natural but is obviously not. They travel down the monotonous tunnel for two days, then come to a cavern where water has eroded the bedrock. The tunnel continues on the other side, and there are signs of a cave-in, the other entry partially blocked by debris. Sindi scouts ahead invisible and finds a pair of giant slugs inhabiting the cavern. Thankfully the slugs are not particularly interested in the party, so they make their way through the cavern, Sindi flying them over the river that runs through it and up to the ledge where the tunnel continues

map of cave
Giant Slugs

They squeeze through the blockage and carry on down the tunnel…

End of Session

Kills: 1 Khepri Hierarch.

KO’d: Wulsted, now well and truly dead.

Levelled-Up: Halmary is now level 11.

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June 4

Holheim

Way back in 2014, I had an idea for a campaign (and I actually posted about this map when i was working on it), which was conjured out of an idea for a novel, which never panned out. The campaign had two attempts, neither of them panned out either. I’d forgotten about the maps I’d drawn for it (well, I drew two, one area, one city) until I came across it yesterday while looking through my box of sketchpads and journals, seeing what paper I had to play with.

Anyhow, the map below has finally been scanned in, although the seam where the two pages meet isn’t perfect. Hell, the map isn’t perfect compared to what I could do now. I’ll have to have another go at this at some point, just to see what I can do now.

So, this is Holheim, the Hollow Home, which is a city underground with a large central cavern hosting a market, catacombs down one corner, tunnels off into mines, and lots of carved out chambers, dwellings, and so forth. Also know as the Graveyard, since the populace are basically buried under the mountains.

map of underground city
The Hollow City

This is the text I sketched for the setting:

Leynaskrípiríki: Kingdom of Hidden Horrors

No one can remember when the kingdom fell into darkness, with the arrival of the forað– monsters– that preyed upon the settlements of our land. They tore whole villages apart, gorged themselves on towns and laid waste to cities. Settlements were suddenly isolated and forced to survive by themselves, and the kingdom collapsed and all-but disappeared.

Now we live in isolated communities, walled or buried, with few connections to other settlements. The discovery that the blood of another forað could be used to ward off others, akin to a wolf marking its territory, allowed stones to be raised and painted with the blood: these are the Sentinels that ring our communities; those, and the Wardens, skilled men and women who have devoted their lives to guarding their communities, protect the settlements. The Wardens scavenge the ruins of former towns and cities, to help build and grow their own settlements, maintain the ring of Sentinels, and hunt the beasts and monsters that prey on us.

The Triad

Three sheltered and hidden towns form the Triad (þrennr), settlements that trade with one another and provide mutual protection. Each offers something the others do not, and without one another they would fall prey to the horrors beyond the Sentinels that keep the monsters at bay. They are connected by tunnels through the mountains (the Frécendúna or perilous mountains) that separate them; passages expanded or dug anew that traverse caverns and underground rivers, and hold their own dangers.

The Three Settlements

Hrafnvatn (Ravenmere)

The smallest of the three settlements, but arguably the best protected, this walled town sits in a sheltered valley in the middle of the mountains, on the shore of a lake that provides plenty of fresh water and tasty fish. Meadows surround it, and the town trades dried fish, salted meats, and leather and wool.

Holheim (Hollow Home)

Built into the side and down to the roots of the mountain is the settlement known as the Hollow home, with its mines of iron and silver. It is renowned for its forges and provides the other towns with the best armour and weapons.

Heargeard (Dwelling-in-the-Wood)

The largest town is Heargeard, which sits in a fertile woodland on the slopes of the north face of the mountains, and is the source of the blood that is used to soak the Sentinel warding stones. In a secure dungeon beneath the settlement is a chained and sedated monster, known as dreyrugrlík (the blood-stained corpse). It is ‘tapped’ every week, the blood stored and later transported to the other members of the triad, who then use it to reinforce the wards of the sentinels.

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