- 992 9 September 28, 1 AM—Saturday, April 30th, 2016
Eddie, Riana, and Zah Eil
Eddie, Riana, and Zah Eil as you may recall, returned to the ebon demon room; the demon continued to always face Riana. They sent Eddie the giant (lizard) thief out to the temple of Ishtar to scout around. Eddie snuck loudly out the secret door, but fortunately no one in the abandoned temple noticed him. Eddie snuck around the corner where he knew there was a passage, and found himself looking straight at four jackal-headed creatures lolling about some columns that flanked wide stairs leading down. Eddie ran back into the secret room; the jackal-heads were not surprised, however, and managed to fire their arrows at him; two hit. Eddie gained an injury; he converted it into three injuries in his tail, and loses his tail.1
But Eddie managed to get back through the secret door before the creatures came around the corner to see him enter it. Since they hadn’t yet cried out, the jackal-heads at the temple didn’t see him either. Eddie tried to hold the door shut in case they came looking for it; he heard them moving beyond it and talking unintelligibly to each other, but no one seemed to try the secret panel.
They discussed going back down to where the giant stone creature had been rampaging, but Riana decided to become a skink and scout out the area that Eddie had seen. This was her last shape change of the day. She skittered past the four guards and down the stairs, finding a rubble-filled cavern. On the other side of the cavern she found (a) stairs leading up, and (b) a lone jackal-headed guard guarding a door. She scooted under the door and saw seven jackal-headed creatures and one human. One of the jackal-headed creatures occasionally looked out of a small hole in the wall. Riana went out a back door, to the right and to the right again, and saw stairs leading upward. This would be where the creature was looking. She went back out; almost got stomped by the outside guard; went back up through the cavern and up the stairs, and looked in the other passage. There was a man-made structure there, some sort of room, empty.
Zah Eil spent this time reading the tablet of the arts to find information about golems which, because he’s a prophet, is what he expected the stone creature was.
Alvin, Majelica, and Owen
Meanwhile, Alvin, Majelica, and Owen escaped through the secret room behind the altar. The earth elemental tried to grab Owen as they ran through the doors into the glowing blue room, but Owen made his evasion roll. They ran up the stairs into the room with green-glowing columns and statues of Greek monsters.
- 992 9 September 27, 10 PM—Saturday, April 23rd, 2016
Zah Eil and a few others started feeling tired. The pulsing blue light made them drowsy. They walked up the stairway, to a set of unadorned double doors at the top of the stairs. Eddie said they were probably a secret door on the other side, and not trapped.
They opened the door, and discovered a long hall with glowing green columns on either side, and next to each column a statue of a strange creature: a sphinx, a manticore, a hydra, a harpy, and on and on.
Eddie examined the door to make sure he knew how to open it again if it became necessary; pressing on the door where the lock was on the other side worked it. (They also still haven’t removed the rock holding the door in the blue room open.)
As they discussed what this room was and what to do next, the green glowing lights went out. Owen’s magic light remained, but they still freaked a bit. A few minutes later, the green lights came back on again.
Zah Eil, when he received his spirits that morning asked for two war spirits and two healing spirits. He got the healing spirits, but only one war spirit—and one prophet spirit that he didn’t ask for. He guessed (correctly) that this meant Ishtar wanted him to manifest divine guidance. Looking about this room, he realized that this whole area was the temple section of a larger city. And that meant it was a holy area that he could manifest divine guidance in.
He had the spirit manifest divine guidance. A man’s voice spoke to him.
“Why are you taking a man’s voice?”
“I am not Ishtar. She’s not speaking with you right now. I am Tammuz, and I’m not too happy about that because when she starts calling me Tammuz it means I’m going to die soon.”
“Why are you here?”
“Well, I guess, the third tablet?”
“She stole those tablets from Enki. They’re hers. She wants them back. Where are you going now?”
“A third secret, the tablet of music and the arts, waits in the court of the lizard king, beyond the ebon demon, beyond the shrine of the moon, past the temples of the dead, in a city lost, ancient beyond imagining. Look you beyond, and beware, the hidden crossroads and the guardians of the lizard king’s rest.
‘We know where the ebon demon is, and the shrine of the moon, but where is the lizard king?”
“I can’t tell you that because (a) it’s a goddamn riddle, and (b) Enki is all over this place. But haven’t you already seen one?”
“Oh, shit, that fresco in the hallway before the urns?”
- 992 9 September 27, 8 AM—Saturday, April 16th, 2016
Rather than rest in the demon room, they cut away the plaster. Riana used her claws and, after Riana did not get punished by the attentive ebon demon, Owen used his spare knife.
Eddie Lizard checked for traps, then opened the door. The other side was as Owen had described it—rubble everywhere, stalactites and stalagmites blocking the way. It went down eighty feet, turned left, and went down eighty feet again, whereupon it opened into a one hundred by two hundred foot room. There were tracks coming out of one of the side doors and leading towards the front of the room. Eddie examined them; probably some of the jackal-men. They came out of one door and went up to the altar; it looked like kneeling.
Eddie walked around the walls of the room; there were four doors on each side, many blocked by rubble and rock growths. Fallen plaster and dust was everywhere. At the far end of the room the wall was a semicircle. The half-circle was on raised stone; stairs led up to it, and within it was an altar and a podium. The curved wall was covered by the tattered rags of a faded tapestry.
Zah Eil went to look behind the tapestry, because there had to be, of course, a hidden door there. At his touch, the entire tapestry crumbled into dust on the floor. And there was indeed a door behind it—a pair of them.
They decided to hole up here. They’re worried about the tracks they’ve left in the dust betraying where they are, so Majelica cast dust wand and sucked all of the dust in the room into her wand simply by walking up the room and pointing her wand left and right. The rubble, fallen plaster, and ancient columns were now as clean as they had been when they were made. Or broken. Or whatever. But the party’s tracks are gone, because there is no dust for them to be in.
Next, they closed the door that had tracks coming out of it and Majelica cast bar passage. It will be barred for about five days. They then went back up the stairs toward the demon room, and at the landing where it turned left, they set up camp and watches. Owen prepared to create a lost corner if they hear anyone trying to open the barred door.
There were, however, no encounters that “night”. They rested twelve hours.
In the “morning”, Eddie searched for traps on the no-longer-hidden doors behind the altar; finding none, Eddie opened the doors. This led into an 80-foot square room very similar to the one they just left: plaster frescoes shattered on the floor, stalactites, stalagmites, and debris everywhere. There are doors on the left wall and doors on the wall straight ahead. They chose to go straight ahead.
- 992 9 September 27, 7 AM—Saturday, April 9th, 2016
The jackal-headed mananubi brought the captured characters to a Greek-like open-air chapel. On the way there, they saw a glass tube rising into the clouds; a gigantic oak-like tree; and a wall of thorny trees on either side of the chapel. There was a minotaur, two saurians, and five jackals on guard at the chapel. The creatures all discussed what to do with the captives. They decided (a) to send some jackals back to the platform to check out the other side, since it probably isn’t guarded any more (six people can’t sneak through); and to send one of the jackals on ahead to tell the minotaur-king that they have captives.
At that moment, Zah Eil commanded the minotaur to sleep. The minotaur walked over to a column, leaned back, and took a nap. While the minotaur was walking, Zah Eil manifested darkness. Because they’d seen this sort of thing before from him and Riana, none of the player characters were surprised.
Eddie Lizard could still see people—saurians have “underground” vision. He/she surmised, then, that the two saurians on the chapel steps could also see. They brandished their clubs and began to step down.
The jackals that had had their bows out fired in the darkness, and missed everything.
Riana manifested sunder weapons. All wooden weapons in play were warped and cracked beyond use: the bows of the jackals, the clubs of the saurians, and the battle-axes of the jackals on the steps. Since the player characters didn’t have any weapons, this didn’t affect them. Eddie saw the saurians reach for something in their armor.
Zah Eil ended his darkness.
Alvin began sermonizing about the wrath of the gods.
The saurians threw darts at Eddie and Zah Eil, and hit Eddie.
Majelica and Owen both cast sleep on the six jackals that had captured them. All but one fell asleep.
At this point, the remaining jackal behind them ran away; the five up front retreated quickly, with the saurians covering them with more darts. Riana manifested darkness on one of the saurians; it didn’t hold, but there was still darkness around the west side of the chapel/guardhouse. This covered the player character escape as they ran back to the platform they’d arrived on.
Alvin grabbed the bag of their weapons that one of the jackals had been carrying; they distributed their weapons and jumped onto the platform.
Alvin and Majelica looked at the destroyed control pillar; everyone else went into the center of the platform. After a minute, everyone else disappeared. Alvin and Majelica then went into the center.
Rather than the platform floating above the jungle that they expected, they were in utter darkness. No stars, no moon(s), nothing. Eddie could see shapes moving. Owen called out “light spell” in Anglish and cast light.
- 992 9 September 26, 7 AM—Saturday, April 2nd, 2016
They talked for a bit with Mahukia. Akudaum, Mahukia’s somewhat bumbling assistant, was still asleep1. They mentioned the circus. He gave them his spiel about the circus, which I stole directly from Ray Bradbury:
Who are the insects? October people, I’d guess. Off one of the side roads there was a man who saw the flea circus, must have seen it, for he wrote the truest words about it I’ve ever read. I have it here somewhere. Ah, yes:
“Where do they come from? The dust. Where do they go? The grave. Night sand flows in their veins; the worm ticks in their heads; the blind burrower sees with their eyes, and they speak the tongue of flies. They are the abyss between the stars. They sift the divine storm for souls, eat flesh of reason, fill tombs with sinners. In gusts they beetle-scurry, frenzy forth, creep, thread, filter, motion, make all moons sullen, and cloud all clear-run waters. The spider-web hears them, trembles—breaks. Such are the October people.
“They set their clocks by death-watch beetles and thrive the centuries. These creatures want the flaming gas off souls who can’t sleep nights, that fever by day from old crimes. They build death-camps for our dreams.”
Zah Eil convinced them that the dragon-tail room was a safe place: the slug-creatures wouldn’t be able to find it.2
Zah Eil asked Ishtar for guidance on how to continue on the path she’s set for him. He was given a description of how to get to the tablet of music.
Ishtar stole the tablets of life from Enki, who hoarded the secrets that man would die. The secret of language and the secret of gardening were stolen from the city, and hidden in the passage of fire. But a third secret, the tablet of music and the arts, waits in the court of the lizard king, beyond the ebon demon, beyond the shrine of the moon, past the temples of the dead, in a city lost, ancient beyond imagining. Look you beyond, and beware, the hidden crossroads and the guardians of the lizard king’s rest.
He was also given a riddle:
Only a glutton may cross this portal, one who eats heavily and can never get enough, yet who cringes even at the thought of drinking, for drinking will sicken him until he dies.
Zah Eil decided that the riddle meant fire. He lit a candle and touched it to the door; the metal pooled a little.
- Caverns of Thracia session reports—Saturday, March 26th, 2016
I originally planned on doing these session reports in order, but that is a huge and daunting task. So I thought I’d put them up in order of how much other people might be interested in them. That’s why The Caverns of Thracia is up first, despite coming near the end of the campaign. On the list of “adventures I really want to run”, Caverns of Thracia has been at the top ever since I first acquired it from eBay back in my acquisition phase several years ago.
So when the player characters came to the edge of the domain of the First City, and I decided I needed an abandoned town of a culture built on divine power mixed with a bit of technology, it seemed a tailor-made opportunity to re-skin Thracia.
The characters first learned about the Lost City in the Temple of Apuiporo in The Yellow Forest off of The Road. Supposedly, one of the nine tablets of Enki was hidden in the Lost City, and Ishtar, of whom one of the PCs was a prophet, wanted the tablets restored to The City. Since she originally stole the tablets from Enki and gifted them to mankind, she felt she had a stake in the matter.
The characters are:
- Alvin, 7th-level warrior from Highland.
- Eddie the Lizard, 5th-level saurian thief from the Yellow Forest.
- Majelica Mountjoy, 6th-level sorceror from Highland.
- Owen, 7th-level classical sorceror from Highland.
- Riana Carlyle, 5th-level Druid from the Celtic lands with an archaeopteryx familiar (Riana is often an NPC).
- Zah Eil, 2nd-level warrior/2nd-level prophet of Ishtar from Kish in the domains of the City.
As they leave the Temple of Apuiporo, it is about 7 AM on September 26, 992 AC (after the cataclysm). They are guests of Mahukia in the Temple of Apuiporo and have just defeated four saurian butterflies (servants of the Insect Mesh). Zah Eil, Majelica, and Owen are all seriously injured: Zah Eil has three injuries, Majelica four, and Owen seven. In Gods & Monsters, that number is also the penalty they each have on any attack or action rolls they make.1
- Session Reports—Saturday, March 26th, 2016
We gamed in the World of Highland and its environs for almost ten years. I kept track of sessions almost since the start.
- Giant saber-toothed leaping salmon—Saturday, March 12th, 2016
Pluto and the thunder lizards aren’t the only legends getting downgraded by science. Paleontologists used to think there were two-meter-long saber-toothed salmon roaming the prehistoric seas, according to the February 6 Science News. Now they think their tooth was more of a tusk. Saber-toothed or saber-tusked, giant leaping attack salmon sound like a great monster. The prehistoric Oncorhynchus rastrosus—from the late Miocene—weighed, according to Susan Milius, “more than 450 kilograms”. That’s nearly half a ton.
Other sources say the saber-toothed salmon was two to nearly three meters long. Technically, they probably ate plankton, but you don’t need to tell your players that when they’re being attacked by nine-foot-long half-ton saber-toothed fish.
The artists’ renditions of these things don’t look particularly frightening. You could use that to lull the adventurers into complacency, or you could upsize the modern sabertooth fish to give it a makeover.
Meanwhile, on land, the same issue reports that the small Tanzanian Rhampholeon spinosus chameleon “accelerates its tongue 2,590 meters per second per second with a power output of 14,040 watts per kilogram of muscle—the strongest movement on record for any reptile, bird or mammal.”
Perhaps they had a giant cousin in the Mesozoic, too. We can always dream. Make that six to nine feet and half a ton, and it could grab up fully-armed humans in its tongue.