Crypts of the Barrowmaze

Session Five - August 27th 2017
Tombs and Tall Tales

CRYPTS OF THE BARROWMAZE AFTER ACTION REPORT – Session 5, August 27th 2017

In attendance: Kathy (Silas), Julian (Vydar), Brett (Clondya the Pale), Ryan (Mynes)

Week of the Rooster, MY 269

While Clondya transcribes spells from the scrolls found last time into her spellbook and studies the working of the crystal of continual light in order to better control it, Mynes & Vydar go out on the town in Helix and Slowbrook as well as some of the other nearby settlements, spreading the word of their adventures and exploits. Mynes’ stories are better received than the taciturn Vydar’s.

However, they do learn more about what’s going on with the Sons of the Swamp and the attempt on the Duke’s life at the New Year’s Progress. It seems the locals are less unwilling to talk about the Sons of the Swamp now that the Duke’s men are hunting them down; they reveal that the Sons have mostly stopped extorting protection money from local merchants and farmers, but they’re hiding out at the estate of one Madame Eliza Rayburn outside Helix. A foreign-looking woman and a man they think is her servant are also staying there. Vydar & Mynes share this information with Duke Rana, who seems quite pleased – it also seems that he has a grudge against Madame Rayburn over something.

Silas spends the week sending messengers to the City of Water’s agents at Slowbrook in search of specialized swimming and diving gear to use in the swamps. His inquiries bear fruit, but prove somewhat expensive. 5 sets of diving gear will be delivered sometime in the Week of the Frog.

Copperday-Tinday, Week of the Moth, MY 269

After recruiting some new hirelings with the help of Mygdo Keelish, the party returns to the Barrow Fields. With the scary tales told by Dells and Tembo about their expedition with the party, it seems that Keelish is having to send further afield to find recruits, and many of those he does find are foreigners who are unfamiliar with the reputation of the Barrowmaze.

The party hire Marla Ironthighs, a pretty and ferocious-seeming mercenary; Yaromir, a tribesman from the Icewind Steppes on a quest for meaning with his pet squirrel; Ulf the Widower, a garrulous old Northman who tells lots of stories; and of course the loyal Hanah, whose improved skills have made her a valuable part of the team and earned her a half-share in the treasure.

On the way to the Barrowmaze, they stop at the campsite where the Serpent Cult had been encamped, finding it completely abandoned but with traps set among the abandoned refuse of the cult’s encampment. That night as they get ready to set watches, Ulf shares a scary tale of the Death Moth Queen, a supposed haunt that prowls wild places during the Week of the Moth, luring unwary travelers with its glowing red eyes in the dark. Hanah, inspired by the tale, sneaks out into the swamp with two torches and plays a prank on the first watch (Mynes and Marla) by making it appear that two red glowing eyes are out in the dark of the swamp.

Later that night, though, Vydar hears what seems to be a human scream from out in the swamp that is abruptly cut off. The next day, they find an empty skiff floating by the path. The occupant seems to have simply stepped out of the boat into the swamp, leaving all his supplies behind.

Bronzeday, Week of the Moth, MY 269

The group arrives at the Barrow Fields and descends into the necropolis via the hidden stair they located last time. They discover that the pit that claimed Kyra’s life has mysteriously become covered over by the sheet of stone that hid it before, and Silas’s elemental inquiries suggest that it has never been disturbed since it was placed here centuries ago. A thorough search of the room full of statues discovers no additional secrets or treasures, until it comes to an end as a pair of shambling, decrepit walking corpses approach from the North passage. These are quickly dispatched, proving to be much slower and less coordinated than the venomous zombies used by the Serpent Cult. These must be poor souls who died in the Barrowmaze and found no rest in death.

Once the zombies are dealt with, the group investigates the small chamber to the East of the stairs, where a pile of stacked bricks is all that remain of the bricked-up doorway. Careful searching shows that another bricked-up doorway is concealed by a thin coat of plaster, but a nest of giant red centipedes must be dealt with before it can be explored. Clondya’s new burning hands spell easily exterminates the many-legged horrors, and the party decides to explore elsewhere nearby before attempting the noisy work of breaking down the bricked-up doorway.

Moving North, the party discovers a long-dead body missing one leg slumped by another pile of bricks. Nearby graffiti reads “No more food. We should not have come.” Vydar hears noises behind the nearby door, and the party readies to ambush whoever is in there. That proves to be three diminutive, misshapen mutants with mismatched animal body parts. They are easily defeated, and one is captured alive – Stinky. They have amassed a small hoard of “shinies” nearby – many silver and copper coins plus a few small emeralds.

Interrogating Stinky about the dungeon, they learn that he and his deceased friends (Pickles and Meatboy) lived furtive existences in the necropolis, avoiding the patrols of undead and other unspecified dangers. Stinky seems to know little, but he does give some warnings about the doors to the West.

The party next begins searching an octagonal room filled with small burial niches. Most have been looted already, but those highest up the walls still hold some treasure. Before it can all be collected, though, a large troop of skeleton warriors approach from the West, led by an “officer” of sorts who orders them to the attack.

A pitched battle breaks out at the corridor intersection, with the skeletons forcing the group back with cunning tactical maneuvers and ferocious spear and sword strikes. Vydar and Yaromir nearly fall victim to the monsters before Clondya’s arcane might breaks their will and drives them back. The surviving skeletons retreat in good order, and then seem to receive new commands – they march away to the West. Clondya has sensed that a greater intelligence controls the skeletons and makes them hard to influence with her own magic.

Fortunately, a few swigs of strong drink see the wounded right again, but the worst casualty is Marla’s nerves. She has been growing increasingly frightened ever since the “Death Moth” story at camp the night before, and now she is almost useless with fear, reduced to simply keeping Stinky’s leash secure and carrying things. Clearly whatever her martial skills, she was not prepared for a place where the dead walk.

Thinking to do a little more exploring, the group erect a makeshift barricade across the corridor South of the intersection and break into the hidden chamber they detected earlier. Within is a large tomb with a massive black stone mausoleum in the center and many small urn niches in the walls, each with a coin and a black clay urn in it. Mynes examines the mausoleum, which proves to be decorated with an image of a man being tormented by wire hooks tearing his flesh and inscribed with curses promising eternal suffering to the occupant – one “Klexx the Maligned”. Mynes knows that name from his studies – he was a courtier of Gaxx who led an unsuccessful rebellion against King Nergal shortly before the Fall of the Green Star. The urns in the niches contain the remains of his accomplices, each with a scarred silver coin representing the “traitor’s price”. Twelve urns surrounding the doorway to the tomb lack this mark of shame – perhaps the remains of those who constructed the tomb and had to be killed so they could not reveal its location.

They consider breaking into the mausoleum, but with Marla’s shattered morale it seems unwise. Interestingly, Silas discovers that this tomb seems free of the dark magic that interferes with his elemental senses elsewhere in Barrowmaze, and he undertakes to scry for places of power nearby, getting a good sense of several directions and distances along with a general sense of what might be found there.

  • To the Southeast, moderately close, a diffuse region of strong elemental magic of all 4 prime elements, but commingled with the dark taint that seems endemic to Barrowmaze.
  • To the Northwest, moderately close, a source of non-elemental power, seemingly pure and bright, untainted by Barrowmaze.
  • To the South, somewhat distant, another non-elemental power, dark and malignant.
  • To the North, somewhat distant, elemental nodes of Earth and Water.
  • To the North, distant, a powerful source of chaotic and dark magic, the influence of the Outer Dark.
  • To the Northwest and Northeast, distant, a smattering of elemental sources – nodes or something similar.

They ask Stinky about the two doors in the East hallway, and he tells them that the mutants have not dared to loot them for “shinies.” One is haunted by a voice that growls and demands “blood and bones.” The other contains horrible undead things that stink of rot and disease. Undeterred, the party undertakes to raid these rooms. First, however, they must decide how to deal with the cat-sized gray moths that cling to the walls nearby. The moths don’t seem to be aggressive, but when approached they release a dust from their wings that appears to be a drug or poison of some kind.

They keep their distance from the moths at first, entering the closer of the two tombs in the East hall. As related by Stinky, a disembodied voice gives an animalistic growl and voices its demand… “blood and bones”. The tomb is in complete disarray, with fragments of bone scattered about the floor, some cracked as if to get at the marrow. It looks like all the burial niches have been torn apart to get at the contents. A little experimentation shows that whatever is haunting this crypt will attack whole bones, but not a living moth… probably not worth risking, though, so they close it back up.

Entering the next tomb, though, requires some attention to the moths. They drive them off with torches and fire, and then open the tomb. Within, several low niches hold wrapped bodies adorned with jewelry and show elaborate carvings of courtly life in ancient Gaxx. Stinky has warned them that the dead here do not rest, and this is proven when Vydar attempts to winkle out a bit of jewelry from the corpse nearest the door. An attempt is made to draw the creatures to the doorway, where they can be fought one by one – but all goes wrong when Vydar is grabbed by the throat, pulled forward into the room, and thrown to the floor. A desperate struggle ensues, with both Vydar and Hanah mauled by the creatures before the door is closed once more. The rewards are great, with valuable jewelry recovered… but Vydar and Hanah can feel a horrid disease already working within them where the creature’s bony hands touched them.

This being the last straw, the party withdraws to seek medical care for the injured and sick and count their haul.

SESSION REWARD SUMMARY

TREASURE RECOVERED

  • 1900 sp from mutant shinies 190
  • Emeralds from mutant shinies (75+100+200+400=775) 775
  • Jewelry from huecuva 610
  • Silver from traitor tombs 131
  • Platinum from octagon tomb (41) = 410

TOTAL = 2116 GP

EXPERIENCE AWARDS

TREASURE: 2116 XP

COMBAT: 915 XP

  • 2 Barrowmaze Zombies 60
  • 6 Giant Red Centipedes 60
  • 3 Barrowmaze Skeletons 60
  • 1 Barrowmaze Skeleton Lieutenant 30
  • 8 Barrowmaze Skeletons (turned) 80
  • 2 Mongrel Mutants [Pickles, Meatboy] 20
  • 1 Mongrel Mutant [Stinky] (defeated) 5
  • 2 Huecuva 300
  • 4 Huecuva (turned) 300
  • 6 Death Moths 300

INTERACTION: +25 XP to Hanah

  • Hanah receives 25 XP for her practical joke

CHECKPOINTS: 350 XP

  • Tomb of Klexx the Maligned Found 200
  • Legend of the Death Moth Queen 50
  • Camp 2 reclaimed 100

OVERALL XP TOTAL = 3381

  • Split 4.5 ways = 751 per PC, 375+25 for Hanah
  • Clondya, Silas = 826
  • Vydar, Mynes = 789
  • Hanah = 440

OTHER REWARDS/EVENTS

Duke Rana has learned who is sheltering his enemies in Helix. He will take action soon.

Vydar and Hanah have contracted the Curse of Nergal. This disease will cause them to lose CON each day until treated. When you return to Castle Blackmoss, each has already lost 2 CON.

You have hidden Stinky away in a shed near the swamp path that Keelish told you about. Marla volunteered to guard him – you can hire her or someone else, or delegate one of your PCs to do it.

You could also turn him over to Acanthus Rho – he was most interested in your description of the mutants. You suspect he would reward you.

Ulf and Yaromir are well-disposed toward you. While the adventure was dangerous and frightening, they respect your bravery and skill. You can hire them again.

Yaromir gained experience and revealed a talent. He has Die Hard – when reduced to 0 HP, he may take one action before being taken out.

Ulf gained experience and revealed a talent. He has Good Company – each time you camp for 4 or more hours, he can lift the party’s spirits with his stories, restoring 1 Morale to each NPC whose morale is less than his own. He gains 1 permanent base Morale.

Marla is frightened by what happened while adventuring. She does not want to return to Barrowmaze. However, she also is impressed with the party and will happily work for them as an agent in town or on missions. You can order Marla to undertake some Downtime Actions on your behalf while you are adventuring. She may regain her nerve in the future.

Dells has recovered his nerve. He is available to hire again.

Tembo has recovered his nerve. He is available to hire again.

You collected enough Death Moth Powder to create 6 doses of the drug. What it does is currently unknown.

 

 

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Session Four - July 23rd 2017
Some Excavation, A Visitation, and a Defenestration

CRYPTS OF THE BARROWMAZE AFTER ACTION REPORT – Session 4, July 23rd 2017

In attendance: Kathy (Silas), Julian (Vydar), Brett (Clondya the Pale), Ryan (Mynes)

Copperday, Week of the Young King, MY 269

The adventurers refuse an invitation to accompany Duke Rana on his progress through the settlements of Helbend to celebrate the New Year. They decide that it is more important to return to the Barrow Fields before the Snake Cult can recover from the blow they recently dealt to it than to curry favor with the Duke and possibly protect him from an assassination attempt or other action by the Sons of the Swamp. Gathering Hanah and Dells, along with the old duelist Kyla, the party travels into the swamps. They stop by to check on Camp Sweetwater, finding all in good order, but there are still sightings of mysterious boats near the camp in the night. Pressing on to Tower Island, they likewise find signs that a boat has been here, and a crude trap has been left at the top of the stair.

Observing from the top of the tower, they can see that the Snake Cult’s camp seems to have been abandoned. They see no signs of excavations or torch-bearing parties in the Barrow Fields by night.

Tinday, Week of the Young King, MY 269

Advancing to the Barrow Fields, they briefly encounter some rotted zombies beneath the waters of the swamp, but Clondya proves able to command them to depart. On the Barrow Fields, they begin examining mounds near the “places of power” that Silas had mapped during his astral venture. They also discover a Snake Cultist’s corpse, mutilated and hung from the top of the Stele. Signs of some sort of ritual dance appear near the base of the Stele, apparently made by both crab-like feet and bare human feet – the hyrakitoi! The sight (and the conversation that accompanies it) unnerves the hirelings.

Silas’s efforts to commune with the elementals and learn where the best places to excavate might be are frustrated – the elementals of this place are hostile and oppressive, impossible to communicate with. All he gets are glimpses of leering, demonic faces.

As they work at breaking into Mound #12, a Giant King Scorpion approaches, but they keep it at bay with arrows until another emerges from the fog and attacks it. It seems the creatures are very territorial. The scorpions depart into the fog, embattled. Breaking into the mound at last, they find a peaceful tomb that seems to be the last resting place of a craftsman. Beautiful and delicate painted jars are arrayed on shelves around the tomb. They carefully remove 21 jars and pack them away.

They next choose to excavate Mound #10, an endeavor that occupies much of the afternoon. Entering the tomb, they find two skeletal bodies atop wooden biers. As they search the cabinets under the biers for treasure, the skeletons attack and are soon defeated – but more approach from outside. Remarkably, Vydar holds them off almost single-handed while the others plunder the tomb, retrieving jewels, a silver knife, and a magical scroll. Unsettlingly, the attacking skeletons outside seemed to use intelligent tactics, and even stopped to apparently “receive new orders” from the direction of the Stele. They realize that the soil of the Barrow Fields is permeated with bone fragments, and that the sheer necromantic energies of the place might be capable of producing a nearly infinite supply of animated skeletons if roused to do so.

Exploring around the area in the last hours of daylight, they hear a bizarre and unsettling song from high above among the rain-clouds.

Examining Mound #6, they find it is uncovered, with its paired slab doors carved with bas-reliefs depicting lion-headed soldiers. An aura of menace seems to radiate from it. They decide not to attempt to enter. Retreating to the Fallen Tower, they make camp.

Late that night, they have a visitor… a hyrakitoi walks down through the air to their camp, and dances just outside the wards. They quickly discover that its song and gaze combine to bend the minds of those who are snared by them, causing them to attempt to leave the protection of the wards and approach the creature. They attempt to parlay with the creature, as Mynes can comprehend a little of its speech, but all that they can learn is that it seems to be curious about them, a new force that is disturbing the balance of powers at the Barrowmaze. It departs as it arrived, with the party little wiser but seriously frightened.

Ironday, Week of the Young King, MY 269

The party manage through dedicated efforts to restore at least some of the nerve of their hirelings, and venture back into the Barrow Fields. Today they venture into Mound #11, where they find a dusty and cobwebbed tomb with a large stone sarcophagus within. The sarcophagus has had a hole smashed into the top, and only withered remains are to be found within, but Mynes detects a hidden mechanism triggered by a switch among the carvings of dancing skeletons that ring the sides of the sarcophagus – the sarcophagus slides aside to reveal a stairway going steeply down, with footprints showing that it has recently been used.

Below, they enter the necropolis, finding surprisingly non-dusty corridors and a faint stench of rot. They explore for a while, finding little of interest until they enter a strangely-shaped room with several alcoves holding clay statues of animal-headed figures – perhaps some sort of Gaxxic household familiars? Several of the statues have had holes smashed into them, presumably by earlier tomb-robbers seeking hidden treasure, but one proves to contain a hidden lever that reveals a secret door when pulled. Rather than go further, they continue to search, but tragedy strikes when an undetected pit opens beneath Kyla, who falls to her death!

Chastened, the party resolves to withdraw from the Barrowmaze and return to Castle Blackmoss with Kyla’s body and their meager treasure.

 

 

SESSION REWARD SUMMARY

TREASURE RECOVERED

  • 21 jars worth a combined 823 gp
  • Silver dagger worth 70 gp
  • Scroll with three spells worth 300 gp

EXPERIENCE AWARDS

COMBAT: 405 XP

  • 7 skeletons = 105 XP
  • 1 giant king scorpion (driven off) = 300 XP

TREASURE: 1193 XP

INTERACTION: 160 XP

  • Hyrakitoi 100 XP
  • Hirelings 60 XP

CHECKPOINTS: 150 XP

  • Discover “infinite skeletons” directed by intelligent force 100 XP
  • Find a new Barrowmaze entrance 50 XP

TOTAL XP

  • 1908 XP
  • divided 4 ways = 477 XP per PC
  • —after bonus experience for ability scores: Vydar, Mynes = 501; Clondya, Silas = 525

OTHER REWARDS AND UPDATES

Hanah has become a 1st-level Barbarian. You can hire her as a Retainer.

Dells is pretty worried about what happened this time, and doesn’t want to end up like Kyla. He will not be available to hire for your next adventure.

Tembo hears about what happened and is glad he didn’t get involved. He is not available to hire for your next adventure.

Thanks to Coran and Swamp Hoss, an attempt to release a clutch of deadly swamp vipers at the Duke’s Banquet in Helix was thwarted. Only a couple of kitchen staff were killed, but the perpetrators got away. Each of those characters gains 50 XP. Duke Rana has vowed to root out the Sons of the Swamp.

Acanthus Rho is frustrated by Duke Rana’s new devotion to hunting the Sons, as it is taking resources away from the viaduct project.

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Session Three - June 25 2017
So Much Winning

CRYPTS OF THE BARROWMAZE AFTER ACTION REPORT – Session 3, June 25th 2017

In attendance: Kathy (Silas), Julian (Vydar), Brett (Klondia the Pale)

Week of the Otter, MY 268

The adventurers rest and recover, each pursuing their own ends. Klondia recovers from her wounds and records a new spell, sleep, from a scroll into her spellbook. Vydar haunts the inns and roadhouses of Helix and Slowbrook, regaling the locals with tales of his adventures. And Silas negotiates with Acanthus Rho to use his Elemental arts and scout the Barrow Fields magically. Leaving his body, he flies through the Dragon Lines to the Barrow Fields, where he is able to learn much about the layout of the mounds and where items and places of power may be found. Rho is so pleased with this intelligence that he agrees to waive monthly maintenance costs and pay out a bounty.

Meanwhile, Mynes and Swamp Hoss are off doing some kind of mischief, and poor Coran is locked beneath the East tower, whence screams and other less wholesome sounds sometimes emanate. Acanthus Rho visits him often.

Copperday, Week of the Turtle, MY 268

Ready to dare the swamps again, the adventurers have asked Mygdo Keelish to help them find some likely hirelings. They dismiss one of the candidates he finds after catching him trying to peek up Klondia’s skirts, but hire 3 brave souls: Hanah, Dells, and Tembo. They pay to equip their hirelings well, boosting their spirits. The group heads into the swamp, spending the night at Camp Sweetwater, where the maddening chorus of the frogs saps the bravery of the hirelings, but all are still ready for action.

Tinday-Ironday, Week of the Turtle, MY 268

The group travels to the abandoned viaduct tower where they had encountered centipedes before, armed with a plan to clear them out using smoke and fire and Silas’s elemental abilities. While the plan is successful, it is also time-consuming. The party spend several days on the island working on it before they are able to reach the top of the tower. In the meantime, they detect a boat approaching the island by night, but they retreat and do not land.

Jewelday, Week of the Turtle, MY 268

Reaching the top of the tower, they can now get a good look at the Barrow Fields as well as Camp #3. They learn – as they suspected – that the Cult of the Writhing Serpent has occupied the camp in large numbers. By night, the cultist send teams into the Barrow Field, where they seem to be excavating buried mounds. During the night, though, something attacks the digging teams and the cultists retreat to their camp.

They also discover a dead body atop the tower, and after some searching they find treasure this person had attempted to hide before they died. Among the items is a small black onyx statuette of a hideous crab/woman creature, which Klondia recognizes as a little-understood breed of demon, the hyrakitoi of the Green Star. These horrid creatures have a hypnotic sensual power over humans, and seek out pain and depravity to feed upon.

Copperday, Week of the Smith, MY 268

The group stay one more day at the tower, spying on the cultist camp and the Barrow Fields, while they decide on next steps.

Tinday, Week of the Smith, MY 268

The group venture onwards to the island of the Slaughtergrove, where dead bodies are lashed to cypress trees surrounding a mound of fresh earth. The hirelings are terrified by the psychic screaming of the corpses, triggered when the perimeter is passed. They refuse to leave the boat.

Klondia steps into the shadows and can see what has happened here – there is a hideous demon maw where the mound of red earth sits within the circle of trees, and tormented souls slowly being devoured as their bodies rot away. This being must be a powerful demon, probably worshipped by a cult that is feeding it souls to bring it closer to our world.

Meanwhile, Vydar has found another of the onyx hyrakitoi under one of the trees where a nearly skeletonized body hangs. Further searches ultimately reveal 10 of the items. These are the “soul anchors” the cult must use to keep the souls of their victims bound to their bodies for the maw to feed upon.

The group resolve to destroy this place of evil, and begin cutting down the bodies, felling the trees, and creating a bonfire to scorch and scour the red earth mound. It takes until nearly dusk, but they are able to do so without further incident. As the blaze rises, though, all sense a terrible moaning bellow of pain and rage from under the earth. The thing that was worshipped here knows what they have done, and its hunger will not be so easily defeated. All feel a terrible dread that this is not over.

Later that night

The group camps at the Fallen Tower near the Barrow Field. As night falls, a band of Snake Cultists and a large number of zombies approach the Barrow Field. The party can easily eavesdrop on them while remaining hidden. Noting the pyre burning at the Slaughtergrove in the distance, the cultists debate what to do. Some want to retreat to their camp, others want to press on and continue their excavations, and yet others want to investigate the blaze and then decide.

It appears that the cult is on some kind of timeline: “the Mistress” will be displeased if they have not had results from their excavations in the next few days. On the other hand, they also fear the “Daughters of the Red Maw” who will surely be roused to action. Eventually, a small group of 4 cultists are sent into the swamp to investigate the fire, while the rest remain at edge of the Barrow Fields.

The party ambushes the cultist scouting party, making short work of them, and then return to the Fallen Tower. There, they are also able to get the drop on the rest of the cultists, taking most of them out before they even know what is happening. Klondia steals control of their zombies using the serpent circlet, and that is the end of all the cultists.

VICTORY!

The party returns to Castle Blackmoss to plan their next moves.

SESSION REWARD SUMMARY

TREASURE RECOVERED

  • 34.9 gp
  • hyrakitoi Soul Anchors (sold to Acanthus Rho)

EXPERIENCE AWARDS

COMBAT: 480 XP

  • 12 cultists 180 XP
  • 36 zombies (*0.5) = 300 XP

TREASURE: 954.9 XP

INTERACTION: 150 XP

  • Drive a hard bargain with Acanthus Rho 50 XP
  • Hirelings 100 XP

CHECKPOINTS: 550 XP

  • Clear Waystation Tower 100 XP
  • Destroy Slaughtergrove 250 XP
  • Strike a blow against the Snake Cult 150 XP
  • Discover Red Maw & hyrakitoi  50 XP

TOTAL XP

  • 2135 XP
  • divided 3 ways = 712 XP per PC
  • —after bonus experience for ability scores: Vydar = 748; Klondia, Silas = 783

OTHER REWARDS

Hanah has revealed a special talent (Tracker). She remains well-disposed to the group and in particular to Silas. If she survives one more expedition, she will be eligible to become a Retainer and a 1st-level Barbarian.

Tembo has gone home to think about what he experienced. He will not be available to hire for the next adventure, but might become available again.

Dells likes the money and thinks you are good employers, but all this supernatural stuff is pretty scary. His base morale has improved by +1. He now costs 1 gp as his base rate to hire. He has not yet revealed any special talents, nor is he eligible to become a Retainer.

Acanthus Rho is well-pleased with your progress and has agreed to waive your maintenance fees for the next 2 months. He is working on creating new warding totems from the cultist skulls you brought back with you.

DOWNTIME RESULTS for inactive characters

Mynes looked for Dishonest Work. He was very lucky, falling in with a crew of local toughs to redress some local vendetta in Helix – leaning on one rich toff to pay his debts to some other local Importance, somebody the rest of the gang just call “Ma’am”. It went so smoothly that they doubled his share of the take – he gains 200 GP.

Swamp Hoss tried to line up some Dishonest Work as well, but the only thing that he could learn about was the job Mynes got involved with, and that was Vineyards stuff – not something he dared to get involved in after that little misunderstanding with Ma’am last summer.

Coran was locked away for a couple weeks while Acanthus Rho worked to Purge the Mutations.  At first it didn’t go well at all. He doesn’t remember much except the screaming. But as the days went by, he could feel himself growing stronger and more in control. He gains 50 XP and a Gift of Mutation.

SPECIAL ITEMS

Gift of Mutation – Marrowsteel

Once during your next adventure, invoke the Gift of Mutation to convert all CON damage from a single attack into points of Corruption. If you do not use the Gift, gain 50 XP instead.

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Session Two - May 28 2017
Welcome to the Barrow Fields

CRYPTS OF THE BARROWMAZE AFTER ACTION REPORT – Session 2, May 28th 2017

In attendance: Kathy (Silas), Ryan (Mynes), Brett (Klondia the Pale), Larry (Swamp Hoss), Kai (Coran Gorechosen).

Jewelday, Week of the Salamander, MY 268

Vydar the Fighter has taken ill after his battle with the venomous zombies last session, and must remain behind at Camp Sweetwater to recuperate. However, Acanthus Rho has sent some reinforcements, a couple of hulking warriors. One goes by “Swamp Hoss”, and the other doesn’t talk much at first, although we eventually learn his name is Coran.

The party decides that rather than try to get through by the path leading to Camp #3, where the snake cult seems to be patrolling, they will take boats and follow the route of the old ruined viaduct through the swamp to the ruined waystations.

They soon find the viaduct ruins, but one of the boats runs aground on it and Coran and Mynes end up in the drink – attracting a mob of vicious mutant frogs! There are some tense moments as the frogs maul them – one frog in particular is a bloated monstrosity the size of a man, with vile teeth and claws, and it soaks up two of Klondia’s powerful black magic missiles without dying! In the end, they escape alive, and with plenty of frog carcasses.

Tired and chastened by the strange horrors of the swamp, they decide to make camp at the first ruined waystation. Enroute, Coran snacks on the raw frog carcasses, and finds a shiny treasure within the gut of the largest one.

Camping at the waystation is fairly uneventful. They make an effort to climb the stair to the top of the tower for a look around, but it turns out that giant red centipedes infest the rubble, and only quick reactions save one of the explorers from a venomous bite. “Swamp Hoss” recognizes the red centipedes, but he’s never seen one nearly this large. They decide to leave well enough alone and just camp until the next morning.

Copperday, Week of the Dove

The next day, they set out for the final waystation, the traditional campsite for those who explore the Barrowmaze. Along the way, they pass by an island in the swamp with a ring of large cypress trees around the edge of it. Mutilated bodies are lashed up in the trees – closer inspection shows that the freshest ones have had cuts of flesh neatly removed as if by a butcher. Is this the domain of some cannibalistic swamp monster? Better not to poke around and find out – they move on.

Arriving at the ruins, they discover that the tower has completely collapsed, as if thrown down by an explosion. Huge chunks of masonry lie everywhere, forming a maze of rubble. The remnants of camping equipment litter the area. Silas senses a strong Earth Node somewhere within the ruins.

As they enter the maze, monsters appear! Two huge Giant King Scorpions, mottled purple-and-yellow things nearly as large as a pony, scuttle to attack. The creatures are deadly – nearly impenetrably armored, and armed with slicing pincers and a deadly lashing stinger. The party battles desperately against these horrors, but things are not looking good – Klondia is badly wounded, and even the fearsome Coran cannot harm the creatures due to their armored shells. Fortunately, Silas calls upon the elements and begins to radiate an intolerable cold, which forces the cold-blooded creatures to slow and ultimately lose consciousness. While he deals with the scorpions, though, more monsters appear – giant frogs again, and a huge viper. Something must be calling them to the attack.

Silas saw a gold snake idol at the site where the Earth Node was located within the ruin while he was chasing down the last scorpion – maybe that’s the problem. Once they deal with the snake and frogs, they quickly move the idol off of the Earth Node, reducing its power, and then roll it into the swamp.

Completing their search of the ruin, they salvage several items left behind by other adventurers and even find a treasure chest buried in the loose earth.

That night while they camp, they see torches moving on the Barrow Field – it looks like the snake cult is active in the area and visit the Barrowmaze by night.

Tinday, Week of the Dove

The next day, they decide to explore the nearest few mounds, relying on Keelish’s recollection of his own explorations 13 years ago to guide them. The nearest mound is buried, and it looks like some effort has been made to excavate it in the past but was interrupted by some danger that slew the laborers.

Silas speculates on how the Barrowmaze can exist in the midst of the swamp without everything sinking into the mire and flooding. He thinks perhaps that some sort of barrier has been set up by altering the flow of the Dragon Lines, keeping the water spirits from entering the bounded area. Perhaps the waystation tower was destroyed when part of that ward failed? He begins to keep careful notes of all he observes, hoping to understand what was done here.

The next mound they examine has been uncovered, and some marks on the stone slab sealing it show that someone has tried to break in unsuccessfully. It would take some time with tools and make a good deal of noise to break down the seal.

Next, they visit the towering stele they saw from a distance. Rising 70’ above the Barrow Field, it is made from seamless black granite and covered in tiny, worn inscriptions. The script seems to be some variant on that used in ancient Gaxx, but it makes no sense – perhaps it is a code, or perhaps the script is merely being used to spell out some alien language. At the top of the stele, four stone heads gaze out to North, South, East, and West. Respectively, they are a human skull, a vulture, a lion, and a viper.

Klondia’s serpent circlet whispers to her about the stele, calling it “the folly of Nergal” and prophesying “the serpent shall devour his brothers and all will come to ruin.”

The party moves on to the central mound, where Keelish says an entrance to the necropolis can be found. As they approach, they see that the mound is surrounded by a circle of low stone posts with bowl-shaped depressions in the top – perhaps lamps? They prepare to enter the mound, when out of the corner of an eye they see skeletal figures pulling themselves from the earth nearby – undead warriors guard this place! After a short fight, the skeletons are defeated and they descend the stairs into the dark. Within, a pillared chamber leads to a hole in the floor and an iron tripod with block and tackle. To either side of the path, piles of scattered bones fill the room. Looking down into the dark, Klondia’s light reveals a chamber and a foul smell of rot. They also learn that the floor they stand on is a thin sheet of stone suspended on a lattice of beams.

Unnerved, and with daylight flagging, the party decides to return to camp before night falls.

SESSION REWARD SUMMARY

TREASURE RECOVERED

  • 500 gp ruby
  • chainmail & shield
  • 20 arrows
  • crystal of continual light
  • 150 gp
  • 70 sp
  • 3 carnelian gems, 20 gp each
  • scroll of sleep

EXPERIENCE AWARDS

COMBAT: 1750 XP

  • 7 Small Monster Frogs 7×15 = 105
  • 1 Large Monster Frog = 35
  • 1 Giant Viper = 400
  • 2 Giant King Scorpions = 1200
  • 1 Giant Red Centipede = 10

TREASURE: 717 XP

INTERACTION: 25 XP

CHECKPOINTS: 185 XP

  • explore Waystation Ruin #2 (partial) 15 XP
  • sighted (but did not explore) Slaughtergrove 25 XP
  • explore Waystation Ruin #3 50 XP
  • removed summoning idol from Waystation Ruin #3 25 XP
  • explored 2 mounds (exterior only) 20 XP
  • examined Stele of Nergal 25 XP
  • explored central mound 25 XP

TOTAL XP

  • 2677 XP
  • divided 5 ways = 535 XP per PC 
  • after bonus experience for ability scores: Coran, Hoss, Mynes = 562; Klondia, Silas = 589

 

SPECIAL ITEMS

COMMON SPELL (scroll): sleep (Klondia)

Spell Level 1 (Sorcerer, Gray Magic)
Range 240’
Duration 1 hour

This spell puts enemies into an enchanted slumber for 1D6 rounds. The spell affects up to 4HD of creatures, starting with the lowest first. For example four Nemons (1HD) are accompanied by a Priest (3HD). Rather than target the Nemon Priest and then take down another Nemon, the spell affects four Nemons. Player characters may Test their Luck and if Lucky completely ignore the effects of this spell.

Note this spell does not work on the undead or the demonic Others.

MAGIC ITEM: crystal of continual light (Klondia)

This transparent crystal sphere, about 2” in diameter, radiates light upon a mental command from a sorcerer. The light is as bright as daylight, but has no warmth or color. It illuminates to 120’ brightly, and up to 240’ dimly.

As a Downtime Action requiring one week and 100 gp in materials, a sorcerer can learn to control the light more finely, choosing one of the following skills for each Downtime Action:

  • focusing it into a narrow beam that provides a “spotlight” of bright illumination up to 120’ away and up to 6’ in diameter.
  • activating it as a blinding flash that dazzles all within 60’, giving them -2 To Hit for 5 minutes (PCs may Test Their Luck to avert their eyes and avoid this). Using the crystal in this way depletes its magic for the next 8 hours.
  • changing the color of the light emitted at will
  • varying the brightness of the light emitted at will, from candle-light to full intensity

 

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Session One - April 23rd 2017
Frogs and Snakes

CRYPTS OF THE BARROWMAZE AFTER ACTION REPORT – Session 1, April 23rd 2017

In attendance: Kathy (Silas), Ryan (Mynes), Brett (Klondia the Pale), Julian (Vidar).

Tinday, Week of the Salamander, MY 268

Silas the Elementalist, Vidar the Fighter, Mynes the Thief, and Klondia the Pale, a Sorceress have responded to the invitation of Acanthus Rho to come to Castle Blackmoss in the depths of the Helmire and assist in plundering the riches of the ancient necropolis known as the Barrowmaze.

They are summoned to his salon where he explains the difficulties the project has been having with sabotage of the campsites along the only known safe route into the Barrow Fields – some local malcontents calling themselves the “Sons of the Swamp” seek to prevent Duke Rana and Acanthus Rho from laying claim to the riches of the tombs and disrupting the locals’ ability to loot would-be tomb explorers. Rho has prepared – at great expense – a dozen Warding Totems that will allow the camps (and any future ones deeper into the tomb complex) to be more secure. He wants the adventurers to secure a usable route to the Barrow Fields using these devices.

Rho warns that the “Sons of the Swamp” might have informants among the local people, so the party should be circumspect if they want to recruit hirelings in Slowbrook or Helix. A small number of the castle’s slaves can be spared as bearers and general labor, but they are not to be armed and must be returned to their work restoring the castle and the old viaduct as soon as possible.

The adventurers discuss the terms of their employment. Castle Blackmoss expects a flat monthly fee of 75 gp per person for their support services – provisioning, lodging, security of personal belongings, and so forth. Acanthus Rho expects that artifacts found within the Barrowmaze should be brought to him for examination, and that he have the option to purchase any that he finds of interest. Beyond that, anything the adventurers find in Barrowmaze they can keep – at least for now. Rho does hint that Lord Rana intends on a more organized exploitation of the tombs once the viaduct leading to them is rebuilt, so the adventurers probably only have a limited time in which to maximize their own returns. However, it does seem like a pretty good deal. Wonder what the creepy sorcerer and his boss have up their sleeves?

After examining a map of the area, the group decide that their best bet is probably to bypass the first leg of the path across Frog’s Heaven Marsh entirely, taking skiffs from the end of the viaduct directly to Camp #2 – but they want more intelligence and maybe a guide before they depart. They head into Slowbrook to have a look around.

In Slowbrook, a colorful Selling Barge from the City of Water is tied up at the docks, and vendors are hawking trinkets and exotic foods from its decks and a number of small carts they have set up on the docks. An extravagantly mustached man sits in front of the local watering hole glaring at the foreign merchants, who are doing a brisk trade. The party decide he looks worth talking to, over the objections of Silas whose taste buds are tingling at the mere possibility of food like what he got used to when he was a scribe in the Great Library of the Four Cities.

As they arrive at the establishment – apparently called “The Bristlenose” – Vidar notices a small letter “Z” daubed in red paint at the top of one of the lintel posts. Later on, they’ll note similar marks on a number of other buildings around town. Mynes thinks they indicate who’s paying protection to some local gang – maybe these “Sons of the Swamp.” The proprietor of The Bristlenose – Olak Frake – is happy to see the customers and cheerfully serves them roast meat, mudbug soup, and local wine “from the Folly Vineyards.” He tries to warn them away from the Barrowmaze with tales of other adventurers before them who disappeared into the swamp never to return, or returned maimed or mad from the horrors of the place. Other than that, he’s not too helpful – he says he doesn’t know anyone who’d be crazy enough to be their guide, though there used to be some fellows in Helix who’d do it “but I wouldn’t say I know that any of them could be trusted.”

Pressed for suggestions, Frake does remember one of those former adventurers he mentioned – a man named Mygdo Keelish. He stuck around Slowbrook and lives in a shack down by the river at the nearby bridge. Maybe he could be convinced to help the party?

They depart to seek out this Keelish fellow. He is reluctant at first, and warns them that anyone heading into the swamp risks the ire of the Sons of the Swamp – notably, his shack lacks the “Z” mark that Keelish tells them indicates the Sons’ protection. But after the party explain their plan to bypass the usual route into the swamp – and offer him gold plus a promise he will not have to go all the way to the Barrow Fields – he agrees to meet them at the end of the viaduct the next morning. He takes his advance payment and sends his son off into town with it to stay with his mother, and sets about preparing for the expedition.

The party return to Castle Blackmoss to make their own preparations.

Bronzeday, Week of the Salamander

Meeting Keelish in his canoe at the end of the viaduct along with their detachment of 8 slaves and a pair of large skiffs, the party sets out at first light across the misty waters of Frog’s Heaven Marsh, accompanied by the croaking of its eponymous inhabitants. As they pole across the marsh, it almost seems the frogs are speaking to one another in some secret language, laughing at the futility of man’s efforts to conquer the swamp. One of the slaves speaks of stories other slaves have told of seeing giant frogs – “the size of a dog!” in the marsh at night.

Before long, the ruins of the old viaduct waystation that mark the edge of the marsh loom out of the mist. A tall pair of stone pillars are all that stand, although rotted timbers below demonstrate that a superstructure once hung from the pillars here as a watch-point and toll station – many years ago, in the time of Gaxx when the necropolis was still occasionally used to inter some Gaxxian noble. Debarking their boats, the group begin the portage to Camp #2, some ¾ mile away across the swamp.

At Camp #2, they find a wooden palisade surrounding a square graveled area a little raised above the rest of the soil, with a covered well in the center. It appears the camp has been visited recently by booted men – probably locals. The well is clean and good – in fact, Silas sense that a strong Water Node lies within, and the Dragon Lines that meet here are healthy and easy to sense.

Checking the perimeter, Mynes notes some kind of gooey substance smeared on the walls and a powerful reek – he can’t identify it, but Keelish recognizes frog musk – used as bait when trapping frogs, it attracts them and excites them. Someone has deliberately placed this substance here to draw frogs at night. They do the best they can to cleanse the palisades, using lamp oil to scrub it off and then igniting it to cover the lingering scent.

They set up 8 of the Warding Totems – enough to completely enclose the camp site – with Klondia making a big show of it to ensure that the slaves will not tamper with the wards.

At night, a maddening chorus of frogs ensures restless nights for everyone – particularly Mynes, who can nearly understand what they are saying to one another and is sure it bodes no good – and the slaves are huddled together in fear all night, but no danger appears. Late at night Vidar thinks he sees signs that the camp is watched by someone in a boat, but he can’t be sure.

Ironday, Week of the Salamander

In the morning, the party resolves to continue on toward the Barrow Fields – they will inspect Camp #3 on the way, but they intend to reach the ruined chapel at the edge of the Barrow Fields and use that as their staging area. At first Keelish refuses to go any further – he feels he has done what he agreed to by getting them this far – but is eventually convinced.

The route is relatively easy going, and they are making good time. Keelish warns them of a few minor dangers which are easily avoided, but near mid-day they find tracks on the path. It seems three different sorts – a single pair of smaller bare feet, perhaps a woman’s; several sets of heavy boots (soldiers?); and others that are hard to make out, seemingly shuffling or dragging their feet. They decide to hide in the trees alongside the path and see who comes along.

Before long, footsteps are heard. A group of people come walking down the path – perhaps a patrol. A well-armed man wearing a snake-shaped circlet leads the group, followed by 3 shuffling monks in voluminous robes of sackcloth daubed with white snake symbols. Klondia recognizes the iconography as that of the Cult of the Writhing Serpent, a degenerate venom-cult once prevalent among the people of Gaxx who worship a demon-god named Set, who offers sensual ecstasy and eternal life to his debased followers. But the worship of the Writhing Serpent died out with the Lords of Gaxx, more than 3 centuries ago….

The cultists move on, not noticing the party. An ambush is prepared for when they return.

The ambush is quite successful – Vidar takes a bit of roughing up at the hands of the robed cultists, who are revealed to be some kind of venomous undead things, but it’s nothing he can’t shake off. Klondia recovers the serpent circlet from the human leader, and despite sensing its evil power puts it on her head. It whispers into her mind in the dark language of the Serpent Kings, unlocking forbidden knowledge there – but she is not yet strong enough in her magic to make use of this ability. The zombies dissolve into vile pools of poisonous goo, while the body of the leader must be decapitated before the venom in its veins works a foul resurrection on the corpse.

Several hours have been lost in the ambush, and unsure what might await at Camp #3 now that they have encountered the cultists, the party considers whether it would be best to press on, or retreat to Camp #2 for now.

[If I have exactly the same group next time, we can pick up immediately where we left off. Otherwise, we’ll pick up on Jewelday, Week of the Salamander back at Camp #2.]

SESSION REWARD SUMMARY

TREASURE RECOVERED

— 12 sp, 6 gp

— longsword

— longbow, 12 arrows

— chain shirt

— 3 foul and stained cultist robes

serpent circlet (worn by Klondia)

— small vial of golden hell-venom (claimed by Silas)

EXPERIENCE AWARDS

COMBAT: 170 XP

TREASURE: 12.6 XP

INTERACTION: 250 XP

CHECKPOINTS

— ward Camp #2 – 200 XP

— identify Cult of the Writhing Serpent 50 XP

— discover Sons of the Swamp influence in Slowbrook 25 XP

— befriend Olak Frake 15 XP

— hire Mygdo Keelish 15 XP

BONUS

EVADED ENCOUNTERS (half XP): 165 XP

TOTAL XP

— 902.6 XP

— divided 4 ways = 225 XP per PC

SPECIAL ITEMS

UNCOMMON SPELL: command undead (Klondia)

Spell Level 2 (Sorcerer, Black Magic)
Range Voice
Duration 1 day per caster level

The caster can speak to undead, and they will cease what they are currently doing and listen to him for at least 1 minute. Intelligent undead must be convinced to do what the caster asks, but they will treat the caster as friendly and be inclined to negotiate rather than attack. Unintelligent undead must obey the caster's commands, but they can only understand very simple one or two word commands and take them extremely literally.

While this spell is in effect, if the caster attempts the Banishment of Evil, any undead that would normally be turned or destroyed are instead controlled utterly (as if under a charm effect) for 1 hour. However, if any undead targeted are not affected by the Banishment, they will attack the caster in a rage, gaining +1 To Hit and +1 Damage.

 

MAGIC ITEM: serpent circlet (Klondia)

This bronze circlet is in the shape of a snake coiled around the wearer’s brow, with a fanged viper head rearing at the front. When placed on the head, any person not pledged to the service of Set or who does not have golden venom in their system is poisoned and dies immediately, rising 5 minutes later as a venomous zombie. Characters with Luck may Test Their Luck to avoid this effect – if they are Lucky, they are warned of the danger by the sibilant whispering of the circlet before they put it on. If they are not lucky, they are poisoned by the golden venom (1d6/1 Lethal). If a character who has been warned or one who is safely envenomed dons the circlet, it whispers secrets of the Writhing Serpent into their mind. If they are a sorcerer, they immediately learn the spell command undead. Sorcerers and non-sorcerers alike gain 1 Corruption on donning the circlet as it whispers blasphemy.

Once a character has put on the circlet, they desire to keep it with them at all times. Letting it out of their sight requires a Sanity test (1d3). They are not forced to wear it, but they must know where it is.

In addition to teaching the spell, the circlet has two other beneficial effects. The wearer is resistant to all poisons (+3 to tests to resist poison), and venomous zombies obey his commands.

 

SPECIAL ITEM: golden hell-venom (Silas)

This small bronze vial with a wax seal contains a few drops of golden liquid. This is golden hell-venom, harvested from the sacred vipers of Set. It is an incredibly dangerous poison (Injected, 1d6/1 Lethal), but its true value to the cult is twofold. First, those slain by the venom rise shortly thereafter as venomous zombies. Secondly, those who are initiates of the cult develop a tolerance for the venom, and repeated envenoments gradually transform them and grant them magical powers and inhuman pleasures.

 

SPECIAL ITEM: warding totems

A skull, inlaid with strange geometric patterns in copper. When it is placed and a command word given, it activates. An active Warding Totem forms a barrier with any other Warding Totem within 30+d20’, a dimly shimmering haze of magic. Nonsentient Others and various supernatural creatures are repelled by the barrier and cannot cross it at all. Sentient creatures tend to avoid it and find it unpleasant to approach – they can penetrate the barrier with a successful Sanity test, but otherwise are filled with dread and fear, refusing to approach.

All Warding Totems have a password set when they are created, which can deactivate the ward. Someone who knows the password can “key” the ward to others by having them touch it for a few seconds – this allows them to pass the barrier.

Creating a Warding Totem requires the skull of a sentient creature, a sorcerer capable of casting 3rd-level Black Magic, and 300 gp of materials. Acanthus Rho has related that skulls from those slain by the user are the most effective wards, and that more powerful creatures will have more powerful skulls.

You currently have a box of 12 – all that Acanthus Rho has been able to create thus far. Of these, 8 have been deployed to ward Camp #2.

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