Let the games begin, hurrah!
Scenes and Events
Arrival at New Thissenford
After the both exhilarating and harrowing events of their journey, the party arrived in New Thissenford with only the current day between them and the kick-off of the First Annual Highland Games. They escorted Gerald of Hightower’s wagon to his final chosen set-up spot, and he paid them for their time and trials.
On the way into town, they passed a fairly small graveyard, and nearby was an old gnarled Hanging Tree, from which gently swayed the dangling fresh corpse of a large, hooded man. Other than that, of note was the fact that the grave yard was remarkably small for a community in such a harsh climate, signifying that the camp probably has its own Crusader (likely a Raenite) tending to its needs.
After the pay-out there was a brief reunion with Treyhern, the personal valet of their previous short-term employer, the Marquis Valentrellis. Treyhern expressed concern for his missing cousin Veitan, who was sent forth as a lone rider the night before. The party secretly suspects that Veitan was killed in whatever explosion collasped the path that night, but they keep this suspicion to themselves for now.
Also during this time, Icare met and mingled with the newly-encountered Burrenfolk – massive bear-people who apparently live in this region. There was much drinking and talking and banjo-playing shared by them, indeed. He met at least three of them, named Hurf, Dingle, and Ello.
While the rest set about buying tents and creating their own camps, Nyll met with the current “leader” of the town, who was actually the brother of the merchant Feldrinas they had assisted much earlier in the campaign. Through this man, and the rest of the party’s rumor-mongering, the following bits of information were discovered:
- A new mining prospector’s town (called Panner’s Hollow) has sprung up just a few days deeper into the hills – they’ve found gems and precious metals galore! It’s the right time to go check things out before everyone stakes a claim!
- A Gorimsson has arrived to win the Games! [Kinda true: Ghim has arrived!]
- Adventure opportunity: the manservant of the Marquis is organizing men to search for his missing rider. He fears something in the dark of the woods.
- The former Cleric of the town, a Raenite named Martin, was just yesterday murdered by a crazed logger named Wendel Gort. Gort was caught in the very act and hung shortly after. He is now also suspected of being responsible for two other murders shortly before Martin’s.
- The former patron and namesake of the town, Lord Thissenford, had built a mansion-like hunting lodge just up the river on a beautiful private lake. Two weeks ago, that lodge burned to the ground, leaving no trace of the Lord. There’s no proof of cause, but given recent crimes, the suspect is the late Wendel Gort.
With both Lord and Cleric gone, the town has no one who can officiate the Games, and that would be a bad omen indeed. Nyll tries to convince Zsofia to do it, but she’s reluctant. He uses some clever illusion magic to convince the rest of the town that she’s the chosen one, however, and she changes her mind, agreeing to do the job.
Our session concluded there, and will kick off again next time with…
The Games Begin!
On the second morning, the Games officially began. The crowd was successfully taken in by Nyll’s magical theatrics, and truly believed that Zsofia was officially there to bless the opening of the event. Everyone followed her up to the main podium, where she gave a rousing convocation, commencing the events with the blessing of Jay-kob the Farstrider, Patron Ascendant of Travelers. Much applause followed, and all the while Icare and Gerwaldde picked the pockets of the distracted attendants.
At this point, the Signup roster was complete. The list of contestants:
- The Party of Heroes (5): All five of the players chose to participate. The entrance fee was minimal, and it was well worth it for all the free food and booze!
- The Burrens (2): Hurf and Dingle of course chose to try their might in the competitions.
- Borgun Sternfinger, aka “The Ünderhammer,” a famous dwarf adventurer from the homeland
- The Marquis Emile Valentrellis, aka Emile Hardcastle, Icare’s one-time secret lover and the party’s one-time potential employer.
- Revelle, a lone black-haired elfess of unknown origin.
- Ari Heivem, some random human bloke
- Miro and Milo (2), the Halfling fraternal twins
- The Lumberjack Contingent (6): Tancia and Gorfela (the sisters), Maxwell, Rupert, Vilhelm, and Waldegund.
The Games, Explained (Mechanics)
We worked out a set of mechanics to use specifically for these events, so as not to just make everything a boring old one-roll, pass-fail, single-die test. Each Games event is a matched “Feat of Athletics.” For every such event, each contestant rolls 2d10 added together (instead of the usual 1d20 roll). The goal is to roll as high a total as possible under your relevant attribute for that Feat, without going over. For example, the Keg Tossing event is a Feat of Strength, and participants rolled to get under their Strength score.
Different circumstances might give you an advantage, such as being trained in a very relevant skill, or being the size of a bear-man. Whenever you have an advantage, you roll another d10 in the set, and then pick the more favorable two dice of the results. If you manage to hit the exact score of your attribute, your final result is considered an amazing four points higher. So if you have STR of 13, and you roll a total of 13, your successful result is treated as if it were actually a 17.
Additionally, each character starts with a Bonus pool of three D10 dice, directly modified by both STR and CON bonuses and penalties. Characters with d6 Hit Dice (Crusaders, Elves, and Thieves) get +1 additional Bonus Die for each character level. Characters with d8 or higher Hit Dice (Bowmen, Dwarves, Fighters, and Vulterrans) get +2 additional Bonus Dice for each character level. Any participant can sacrifice (as in not going to the central kitty) any number of their personal Risk Dice (bennies) for the session to add more dice to the pool on a one-for-one basis.
Each die added is a D10. Once each participant’s Bonus Pool is built, all of them are rolled – and this is done before any of the games are played. Write down each die’s result separately. During each following Feat of Athletics, after their 2D10 roll is made, a contestant can choose to modify the result by plus or minus the scores of one or more of their already-rolled bonus dice. Cross those individual dice out of your bonus pool forever. Bonus dice must last you the entire two days of events, so spend them wisely!
The events are scored based on the final roll total. Each of the events has a maximum of 5 base points you can score, and you score a point for every increment of 4 points of your final rolled test. A roll of 1-4 would be 1 point, 5-8 is 2 points, 9-12 is 3 points, 13-16 is 4 points, and 17-20 is 5 points. If your roll is under your Stat, you gain that many points. If your roll is over your stat, you lose that many points. And if your roll hits your stat square on the mark, you gain points as if you had rolled 4 higher (critical success!).
Every event has a Score Multiplier. These are randomly rolled immediately before the new event is played out. The GM will roll a single D10. A result of 1-4 = x1 multiplier, 5-7 = x2 multiplier, 8-9 = x3 multiplier, and 10 = x4 multiplier. Your final score result from that related Feat is multiplied by that amount.
Finally, if ever your score reaches negative, you’re disqualified and out of the ranks for good.
The Games Events: Day 1!
After a hearty breakfast shared by all, the events of Day 1 were announced: a Drinking Contest, a Keg Tossing contest, a Drunk Tossing contest, an Arm Wrestling contest, a Sheaf Tossing contest, and finally the Highland Games Trivia contest would conclude the day’s competitive events.
Rather than break everything down into play-by-play recounts, I’ll just share some of the more memorable highlights of the Events:
- During the Drinking contest, only three contestants didn’t cut the mustard: Gorfela, Vilhelm, and the Marquis. They were added to the list of Drunks to be tossed in a following event (the rest being rowdies arrested from the previous night’s mass of drinking and revelry).
- Icare was randomly roped into filling in for one of the missing announcers for the second contest, and did a fantastic job of it.
- During the Keg-Tossing contest, Dingle the Burren got a bit confused and just kept drinking from his keg, and passed out, joining the list of drunks-to-be-tossed.
- There was much tossing of drunks, oh yes! Most of it was proportional, although Zsofia got stuck with tossing Dingle, which she did most mightily.
- During the Arm-wrestling contest, contestants were paired off by relevant scores. The matches were pretty much spot-on, and the only disqualified negative score went to Miro the halfling.
- The Trivia event was pretty silly, and several new world facts were established as a result (and others just plain vetoed out of silliness).
When all the contests of the day were complete, Zsofia (the most consistently bad ass member of the group) stood in the lead with 57 points, followed by Borgun Sternfinger in second place with 53 points. Tied at third place with 51 points each were the burren Hurf and the surprisingly-strong elfess Revelle. Fourth place was held by the lumberjack Maxwell at 41 points, Somehow, the tiny Gerwaldde is also doing well enough to have attained sixth place, with 37 points, only one behind Ghim’s 38-point hold on fifth. Even Nyll scored an amazing 35 points, a testament to the power of his sheer ambition.
The conclusion of the day’s contests quickly transformed into more mass revelry. Icare and Gerwaldde spent some time picking more pockets, and Gerwaldde even managed to score something from the pocket of none other than the Ünderhammer – specifically, an ancient metal key with the head of a bearded dwarf. Shiny! At some point she even managed to get lucky with Milo, the still-in-the-running Halfling contestant. Score!
This was followed by drinking, chatting, socializing, and much inter-athlete flirtation. After uncharacteristically complementing Nyll on his good ranking, Zsofia wandered off to the “winner’s tent” to join the other top-ranking contestants. She ended up in an impromptu three-way flirt-off between herself, the elf Revelle, and the dwarf Borgun. Well, one thing led to another which led to yet more, and the next morning they wake up in a sans-clothing dwarf-human-elf sandwich. Oh my!
Icare’s luck wasn’t so good, though. He attempted to flirt with Maxwell, but accidentally called him the wrong name “Marcus,” which garnered the response of another guy actually named Marcus (a big beefy “man with the strength of a bear, that has the strength of two bears”), and the two ended up off in yet another tent. “Save vs Rod/Staff, Icare.”
On the less-sexy end of things, Nyll wandered the camp and cast out his mind, opening it to the world, looking for feelings of power and strangeness. He was contacted almost immediately by some form of spiritual presence, accompanied by harplike music, a seemingly-angelic force that promised him ways to change the world. This concluded with a tug in the direction of the woods, and a sudden awareness that a nexus of ley line energy lied in that direction, and not too far away!
Finally, Ghim’s own wanderings led him to something else interesting: an encounter with a crazy (aka “sky-touched”) dwarf from the wilds. The poor thing could barely form sentences, and had clearly been through something traumatic, and recently. Adding complications to the situation was the clear-as-day branding of a marked bandit on his hand (missing knuckle from a finger). He talked of “the ancient waters that see all” and the end of days, and the night coming to swallow them all. Ghim took him off with him to talk to Amden who had become a friend and advisor over the last few days. Amden agreed to take care of the dwarf, as dwarves tend to do.
Our session concluded there, and will kick off again next time with…
The Games Events, Day 2!
We’ve got a new player joining us this time, Matthew’s friend Corinne, taking over the role of Chiara.
After a morning of hangovers and some awkward post-romantic realizations, everyone gets back to the breakfast tents for the opening of Day 2 of the First Annual Forthalome Highland Games! We also learn that Zsofia has a sure-solid preventative for hangovers: exercise, power squats, and a concoction of moss and leaves. Interesting.
To start things off and get Corinne right into the thick of things, we play out a short series of scenes from the day before. Earlier the first day, we learn that Chiara has been busy trying to get chummy with other local woodsfolk, so that she can possibly find more work should the whole “adventuring party” thing fall through. Always need something to fall back on, right? Anyway, she learns that one of the local woodsmen is a Trapper named Marcus, who has trapped and brought with him a number of foxes, which are to be hunted as part of the opening event of Day 2. She then secretly decides that she is going to free those foxes, and gets to planning.
On the evening of the first day, she gets her chance. When the cage wagon is finally left unwatched for a moment, she moves in and unlocks their cages, using a bit of putrid meat-oil (ewwwwww) as lubricant to keep the cages from squealing. Her training keeps them following her into the woods, where she sets them on their way.
Anyway, back to the morning of the second day, Icare wakes up in bed with said Marcus, and while making an exit he steals an exquisite fox-fur cloak from the man. He immediately sets out into the woods and buries the cloak, but Chiara witnesses him. After he departs, she digs it back up and burns it, willingly sacrificing what could be a magic item for her character’s beliefs, and immediately gaining XP.
Anyway, the next day of The Games is played out. The planned events of the day are (along with base stat and score multiplier)
- fox hunt! (canceled last minute! all been set free!)
- archery (DEX) x2
- stone put (STR) x1
- knife-throwing (DEX) x1
- hammer throw (STR) x4
- axe-throwing target competition (STR) x4
- caber tossing (STR) x4
- dance thrown-down (CHA) x4
Highlights of the proceedings:
- The Fox hunt is canceled, due to all the foxes having been freed!
- During the Stone Put, a brawl breaks out as Marcus finally catches up with Icare, thinking the thief both stole the cloak and set free the foxes. But everyone joins in while the stones are still being thrown, resulting in a very memorable new sport invention.
- After the brawl, Icare is jumped by thugs! They attempt to get him to leave with them, but he sends forth his magical dagger at their leader instead. They knock him out, though, and he doesn’t come back to until much later that evening…
- A nice three-way dance performance by Gerwaldde, Ghim, and Borgun, showing traditional dwarven kick-dancing.
In the end, the final rankings are:
- Zsofia the Walking Harbinger, with 154 points
- Borgun Sternfinger, with 124 points
- Ghim Gorimsson, with 116 points
- Revelle, with 116 points
- Gerwaldde (!!!) with 103 points
- and Hurf the burren, with 100 points
After the conclusion of the final events, there’s yet another long night of partying. The first, second, and third place contestants each get some hefty cash rewards, and the first place winner is also named the Honorary Spiritual Patron of the town for the next year, and given the, ahem, “presidential” suite at the Lodge for the full year (it’s not penthouse-quality, but it’s still pretty awesome). Zsofia moves her stuff into the suite and then immediately sets to the noble and time-honored task of getting completely trashed.
I… I admit to losing track of what happened to Ghim. Someone care to fill me in?
Nyll convinced Chiara to escort him into the woods in search of that magical energy he felt the night before, knowing that her woodsy skills would be most useful on finding their way back again. After a mile trek into the woods, though, they are diverted by a distress call… wait was that Icare?!
Icare has woken up buried neck-deep in the ground out in the woods, being eaten alive by poisonous ants that were deliberately set next to his head. Making matters more complicated, he is also in some ridiculously complicated trap that turns out to be made from the skull of a dragon. Chiara and Nuyll manage to partially disarm it, freeing Icare but somewhat hurting him in the process. Chiara runs back to get some healing draughts, leaving Icare with Nyll…
We conclude our session there. Probably only one more to go of this Chapter!
What’s Out There in the Woods, Anyway?
Our final session involves the exploration of the weird energies deeper in the woods. We pick up where we left off last time, with Nyll “guarding” Icare while Chiara runs back to the camp to get help. Unfortunately for Chiara, night is falling as she makes the return trek, and the full moon rises bright above the woodlands, triggering some kind of horrible transformation! Yay lycanthropy! Thankfully, because she has invested some prior “death rewards” into eventual control of the form, I allow her some saving throws (which she makes) to run off another direction into the woods instead. The benefit of this is that while she is definitely not in control, neither does she run toward the town nor back toward her companions, effectively removing her from the scene as a potential additional threat.
Nyll and Icare trek forward, really wanting to know what’s deeper in the woods. They discover a beautiful and serene misty lake, and the charred ruins of a small “keep-like” lodge on its shore – this must be the remains of the old Thissenford Lodge! Nyll is quite certain that the call of power is emanating from beneath that lodge, which is a two-tower structure spanning the water between the lakeshore and a small rocky island in said lake. Without waiting for reinforcements (because Nyll is in fact being magically compelled to want to know more), they navigate the treacherous rubble and enter the ruin.
Meanwhile, back at the camp, Zsofia is partying it up when she has an incredibly sobering and humbling vision from her Patron Saint, Jay-kob. The vision appears as a great armored paladin standing before her, and chastises her for celebrating her own personal selfish victory while those she has sworn to protect are in danger. Before he leaves her, he removes his helmet and reveals his face: a white-haired, busy-browed, “Mark Twain”-looking older man with a striking resemblance to Nyll! (Potentially a vision of Nyll’s very grandfather)
Zsofia ceases partying immediately, and finds Ghim and Gerwaldde. They divine the general location of Icare and Nyll (G & G had seen them heading into the woods with Chiara earlier), and head in that same direction. Their panic is increased when they find Chiara’s torn gear thrown madly about a torn-up hollow in the woods, and they pick up their pace, fearing the worst.
They arrive at the tower just in time to see the bodies of Nyll and Icare – fallen in battle! – being dragged into the nests of the roach-monsters that downed them moments earlier. The heroes make a quick work of slaying these creatures, and as fortune would have it, they arrived in time to still be able to heal their fallen allies, bringing them back from the very brink of death.
Nyll is thankful of the rescue, and persuades them to keep pushing into the ruin, to discover what lies within. The surface ruin is pretty barren, having been burned down at some point in the last month or so, leaving only the stone outer walls still standing. Some pieces of buried treasure in the form of candlesticks and such remain, but for the most part the ruin is picked clean. They even cross the precarious span between the two towers, making their way to the separate island but accidentally collapsing the span behind them.
On the island they find another secret: a hidden cellar entrance covered by a well-placed bush. They break in and find an underground stone dungeon, clearly dug and constructed by dwarves, sometime in the last year. Inside they discover the true hidden lair of the late Count Thissenford. As it turns out, Thissenford was a man of many eclectic personal interests, including fine cigars, violins, Restructionist Commonwealth-period sculpture, and necromancy. Thissenford’s basement is full of all kinds of nick-nacks and boxes and furnitures, and he could safely be called a “hoarder” by modern definitions of that word.
Of note among the things found within are some twice-dead dwarf corpses (killed, reanimated, and killed again, all before the party arrived), some carrion crawlers (which they dispatch), another corpse – a halfling thief! – that looks just like Gerwaldde, a room full of “taxidermied” undead “trophies” of Thissenford’s various experiments (his wife, his servant, and his mother in law; all blasted to ash by Zsofia), and a magical study full of all kinds of interesting books and implements (Nyll takes one book for now, intending to come back and take more later).
Of even greater note is the final chamber built around an underground Ley Line Nexus, clearly Thissenford’s attempt to harness its power for his purposes. Also, the Angelic being just hanging out in it – well, only Nyll sees an angel, actually, as everyone else sees a massive worm-monster just waiting to eat all of them. Combat immediately follows! Nyll (charmed by the creature) tries to intercede, but gets hurt and knocked out. Ghim blows his awesome dwarf-horn – twice! – and triggers a countdown for an impending cave-in. The clock is now kicking down as they try to escape. During the escape, Chiara and Zsofia try to fight it while also simultaneously trying to get Nyll’s near-dead body out of danger.
Three really interesting decisions are made here while the rest of the party flees. First, Icare gets grabby and opens the final unchecked door of the basement complex, which lets free five dwarf zombies which were being kept inside! Second, Chiara drops Nyll (leaving his body to be handled by Zsofia) and focuses entirely on killing the worm-thing – and she succeeds! Third, Zsofia remains as the cave-in happens, choosing to put rescuing Nyll as a higher priority than saving herself, even leaving her precious Order Shield behind. Awesome.
Dice are rolled, damage is dealt, and in the end Zsofia comes running out with Nyll’s body right as the rocks finally close the basement off for good. But it’s too late: as Nyll is laid down for the application of healing, his last hit point fades away and his soul is gone across the door of death. Thus occurs the first PC death of this campaign. Zsofia is devastated, and we end the game session right there.
In retrospect, if Chiara had not stopped to fight the worm-thing, Nyll probably would have made it out in time to get saved. However, the thing also would not have been killed, and might have either kept on coming or escaped to come at them another day. Plus, they wouldn’t have gotten the XP for defeating it.
- Nyll (RIP)
- What’s the deal with the hanged murderer?
- What caused the Thissenford Lodge fire?
- What made the dwarf bandit so crazy?
- What really happened to Treyhern’s rider?
- What the hell was that Worm-Thing?
Portents of the Future
- Panner’s Hollow sounds like an interesting place to check out next!
- The Burrens: Hurf, Dingle, and Ello
- Marcus the Fox-Trapper
- Mister Knife-in-Your-Back, the now-probably-dead thief
- Mohlo the Sky-touched Dwarf
New Creatures and Enemies
- Massive Roach-Monsters
- Dwarf Zombies
- The Worm-Thing in the Thissenford Basement
Misc Loot of Note
- The book Nyll grabbed in the Thissenford dungeon
Interesting New Facts and Tidbits
Throughout play, we established new new facts about the world:
- When dwarves go crazy, other dwarves refer to them as “sky-touched.”
- “fat-belly stew” is a dwarven delicacy, from fat-bellied scorpion moles
- cut-and-branded knuckle on the right hand is sign of a captured Bandit in the new world. You’re given “one more chance” basically.
- TRIVIA: Gorm Gormson (Relative of Ghim) was founder of Port Hope.
- TRIVIA: Smith Anvilleg is the greatest smith in the land.
- TRIVIA: The nearby River is knows as Tears of the Weeping Mountain
Only two characters tempted death and came back from it. Icare and Nyll both were downed during their exploration of the ruined Manor, but were brought back to health by their allies. I haven’t decided what Icare’s bonus will be, but I’m thinking it might have something to do with Nyll’s influence.
These are specifically before individual class XP multipliers, and have not yet been divided by the number of characters involved. We will determine final rewards at start of the next session.
- Participate in the Highland Games! (All) Base XP 300 each
- Defeat Marcus (Minor, All): Base XP 120 total
- Defeat the 3 Roaches (All): Base XP 360 total
- Defeat the Worm-Thing (All): Base XP 1400 total
- Participation Bonus (aka “just showing up and playing” each session, worth 100 XP/session):
- Chiara: +200
- Gerwaldde: +300
- Ghim: +400
- Icare: +400
- Nyll: +400
- Zsofia: +400
- Make it to the top 6 in the Games! (Zsofia, Ghim, Gerwaldde) +300 each
- Win the Games! (Zsofia): +300
- Setting the foxes free (Chiara): +100
- Continued fantastic dwarf-playing and world-building (Ghim): +200
- Defeating Knife-in-Your-Back (Icare): +100
- Actually trusting Nyll (Chiara): +100
- Awesome Sexy-Times (Zsofia, Icare, Gerwaldde): +200
- Dat Jack-o-lantern (Ghim): +200
- Minor Loot from the Manor (Icare): +120 (the GP value of all of that stuff)
- Damn fine charmed-character role-playing that led to his demise (Nyll): +400
- Clever Use of the Dwarf-Horn (Ghim; seriously, it caused all kinds of cool things to happen, including deafening everyone and making them immune to the monster’s charm-song): +300
- UNLOCK ALL THE DOORS (Icare): +200
- Killing Blow to the Worm-Thing (Chiara): +200
- Defeat Nyll (technically Ghim killed him with that cave-in…): +100