Tuesday, December 20, 2016

One-Shot: Ancient History: The Dwarves

The first in what may well be a series of glimpses into the past; a reliving of the origin of Dwarves.

Prologue: A Book Is Found

In the hidden city of the gnomes, while the others were off digging up a great scale, Llarm decided to take a look in the library. The gnomish library is, in fact, one of the greatest libraries in Mor-Thir, provided you have a Stack Guide. Llarm poked about, and with his innate Librarian skills, discovered a small secret area. Inside, he found an ancient book - not even a book, but a carefully carved slab of stone, covered in runes. Bound to it with a strap of leather was a scroll, written in Mountain Dwarf. With the help of Groin, Llarm deciphered the scroll. On it was written the following tale:

Part I: The First Dwarves

6/12, 52 BC ("Before Creation")

Long, long ago, dwarves lived underground, mining for glow-gems, farming mushrooms and moss, tending Mother-root, and fending off the creatures of the earth. Their cities were well-defended, and their lives comfortable. Until one day, the High Chief of the Free Cities, Olaf Ironsen, called his most trusted assistants to his fortress:

Jolun Broadback, lawful craftpriest of Thor
Ebryl Cragglift, neutral delver
Ulrik Mudgrin, neutral fury
Kathlen Van Der Maul, neutral machinist

High Chief Olaf Ironsen gave them a dangerous assignment: strange creatures were attacking their outlying mines; something needed to be done to stop them. Additionally, the chief would like to send his son, Loke Ironsen along - hopefully, spending time with hard-working adventurers would teach him something. The friends set off in Kathlen's mechanical digging machine.

The first trouble they found were some simple tiger beetles; they were quickly dealt with, and they moved on. After meandering through a few cities, and picking up some information that strange creatures have invaded the new mine, they traveled on, crashing momentarily and disturbing an ancient dwarven burial ground. The three Specters there were not pleased, but Jolun's protection from evil kept them at bay. They were driven off by Turn Undead, and pursued until destroyed. Inside their tombs (handily opened by the Dwarven Fury with a belt of giant's strength), they found a few magical items, notably six potions and a scroll. The machine repaired by Kathlen, they traveled again, reaching a cave-in and punching through.

They found destruction on the other side, and dark craft-priests performing some ritual. They quickly engaged, but the heavily-armored dwarves had a hard time hitting each other. Ebryl attempted to sneak around behind, but was spotted! Half of the 8 dark vaultguards went after him, while the others ran for the machinist and the fury. through a dozen rounds of combat, the poor delver rolled exactly one below what he needed to make an acrobatics roll and escape. Kathlen and Ulrik managed to hold their own, until they were approached by two dark craft-priests; in a gamble, the craft-priests readied two spells, both of which managed to go off: Weakness of mind, causing Ulrik to suddenly have a -4 for all saving throws, and Command Word. And which word of command was given?

"Copulate!" The players laughed... then Kathlen's player stopped laughing. Kathlen, thankfully, was able to go first in initiative, and manged to successfully flee. At least until Ulrik turned to pursue her, and managed to knock her down. The spell ended with the round, thankfully.

Ulrik managed to bring down the clerics, and Jolun dealt with the vaultguards fighting him. Ebryl finally managed to escape, after working his way through several potions. However, when Kathlen tried to take advantage of the Continual Darkness that was cast, she realized just why Ebryl was seen - that cleric had cast True Seeing on himself, and could see through invisibility, as well as the unnatural darkness! Luckily, he didn't manage to land more than a single hit, before he was brought down.

The dark priests taken care of, the group rested, all somewhat annoyed at the chiefling's attitude. After a night's sleep, they drove towards the mining city. More corpses were found, too many to bury. Finally, they turned a corner and saw the city - and monsters! Huge, terrifying monsters they had never seen before! The terror and carnage was so great, Ulrik was frozen in fear, though Jolun was able to calm him.

For sake of time, I skipped the battle between the monsters and the heroes. Essentially, the battle would have gone something like this:

The three giant scorpions were dropped fairly quickly, but the carcass scavengers took them by surprise, paralyzing Ulrik; the others managed to make their saves, and quickly destroyed the creatures. Ebryl was taken by surprise when one of the ankhegs leaped from below, catching him in its maw! He struggled, and the others came to his aid, finally killing the beast.

I'm not going to bother counting the entire XP; there was a lot, but not enough for anyone to level up. However, I will list interesting treasure gained:

  • 2,000 Electrum
  • 3,000 Gold
  • 2,000 Silver
  • 1 Amber (100 gp)
  • 1 Black sapphire (1,000 gp)
  • 1 Carved jade jewelry (1,000 gp)
  • 1 ivory jewelry (700 gp)
  • 1 silver studded with turquoise jewelry (1,000 gp)
  • 1 tiger eye (25 gp)
  • 1 wrought platinum jewelry (900 gp)
  • 1 Agate (25 gp)
  • 1 topaz (500 gp)
  • 1 Amber (100 gp)
  • 1 hematite (10 gp)
  • 1 jasper (50 gp)
  • 1 topaz (500 gp)
  • 2 vials of rare perfume (1 stone per 100 vials), each worth 100gp
  • 2 vials of rare perfume (1 stone per 100 vials), each worth 25gp
  • 4 crates of glassware, worth 200gp each (5 stone each)
  • 7 sticks of rare incense (1 stone per 100 sticks), each worth 23gp
  • 3 barrels of fine spirits or liquor, worth 200gp each (16 stone each)
  • 3 crates of armor and weapons, worth 225gp each (10 stone each)
  • 3 crates of glassware, worth 200gp each (5 stone each)
  • 13 rolls of garishly dyed cloth, worth 10gp each (4 stone each)
  • 6 unknown potions
  • 1 Ring of Protection (+1)
  • 3 unknown scrolls
  • 1 Unknown wand
  • 1 Unknown magical sword
  • 12 +1 plate
  • 12 +1 shields
  • Encounters:
    • 3 tiger beetles
    • 3 spectres
    • 4 7th lvl clerics
    • 8 5th lvl vaultguards
    • 3 Carcass scavengers

Part II: Riches Beyond Belief

After dispatching the disgusting insects, the team met the leader of the dig, Lars Brightsen. Loke, climbing down from the digger where he was hiding, takes over, ordering the dig leader to gather any surviving men, women, and children, and escort them back to one of the nearby Free Cities.

The digger plows onward, searching for the origin of the creatures. And, soon enough, they find it, wrapped in mother-root, with only enough room to walk through. Jolun cast Speak with Plants, to see if the mother-root knew anything about the portal. It seems as if the portal was fairly new; the mother-root observed the insects they had fought go through, but nothing living had followed in the few days since. The party asked a few more questions, and learned that the mother-root was a great, tangled root, winding down into the depths of the earth; she looked after the world. Though her consciousness was limited to a specific area, she could transfer it along her entire root system. And, perhaps most interesting, they learned the surface of the world was harsh and unlivable. Out of character, the party (correctly) surmised that the world they were on may not actually be part of Mor-Thir.

Cautiously, the party pressed forward, and soon were standing in a brightly lit room. Not just any room - a room built out of a huge gem! More gemstones littered the floor, and there was a single sarcophagus, also carved from a single gem, standing in the middle of the floor. Wooden cages lined the room.

They picked up a few of the gems, wondering where in the world this could be, with such huge gems everywhere; gems made of... granite. Yes, the world they lived in had no stones but gems and artificial rocks; only loose earth, mother-root, and gems.

The party walked towards the source of light, stepping out into an enormous cavern, its ceiling studded with glow-gems, including a massive glow-gem, illuminating the cavern with blinding light. Or, in terms of what the players understood: the party walked out of a cave, and into the great outdoors.

Loke, eager to tell his father of his magnificent find, rushed them back through the gate, and to the digger - which was being attacked by a Dao and three earth elementals!

After a few rounds of fighting, the hardy dwarves cut through the Dao and his minions, hardly injured, even with the extra 1d8 the earth elementals got for being in contact with earth. Which, in the dwarven homeland, is basically everywhere. A quick nap and heal, and the dwarves were back on the trail.

The next stop was in the Free City they had passed earlier, but this time, they found only destruction. The city was mauled, and no one was left alive. Or dead, actually. Farther down the road, they found a crushed bodies - the members of the mining town! Loke, for the first time in his life, realized that his actions affected others, and vowed to turn his life around, and be the leader that he should be.

Apart from destroyed cities and wrecked tunnels, no signs of life (or death) were found until they reached the Great City, leader of the Free Cities. The place was crawling with undead; the first monsters they faced were horrible looking zombies, that turned out to be skeletons wearing flay-fiends. No matter; the cleric Turned them to dust, all but one, which the fury and the machinist reduced to a pulp.

They traveled on, dodging and engaging undead, until they reached the center of the city, where a huge mob of undead and bone golems were fighting the last stand of dwarf warriors! As the reached the edge of the battle, they saw a strange creature walking towards them. Obviously undead, with blue flesh and grotesque rotting holes, but wearing full plate and carrying a sword. Its eyes locked on the party, and it approached with an obscene grin on its face. Casually, it ripped a dwarf's head from his shoulders, never breaking eye contact with the group.

With cries of, "It's a lich!", the party charged, but the fury's burning axe met with solid resistance as it struck, as it hitting iron. The machinist activated her cube of force, slowly approaching the foul creature, and protecting the fury - and a good thing, too. Before the field went up around the fury, the creature reached into its chest and flung its own heart at the fury! The heart writhed, slicing the fury's face. The combined efforts of the fury and the machinist reduced the heart to a pulp, much to the monster's anger. It attempted to use Passwall on the cube, but failed. Once the cleric was near, the three dwarves attached together, slowly chipping away at the creature's life-force; but even then, it was only reduced to a gaseous form. It flew up to the ceiling; soon, thunder rolled, and a thunderstorm - the first the dwarves had ever seen - was in full effect, pulling the strange weather from above. As the earth turned to mud and lightning struck nearby armored dwarves, the Chief called out to his son, and told him to gather as many dwarves as he could and flee. The city had fallen.

Loke did just that; the party fled, taking as many men, women, and children with them as possible. They retreated to the portal, knowing that it, at least, was a defend-able entrance. The mother-root promised to seal the entrance from the other side; she was already growing like crazy, intent on trapping and destroying the undead within. After a few miserable days (none of the dwarves were prepared for daylight), a guard at the gate called out - a strange mist had begun seeping into the room. By the time the party arrived, the sarcophagus was closed...

That, of course, would not do. Jolun cast Dispel Evil; it failed to dispel the creature, but it certainly disturbed its sleep! Angered, it lashed out with its spells, and the party fled into the sunlight. Oddly, the creature did not pursue. After a long debate outside, the dwarves surmised it may well dislike sunlight, and conjured as much light as they could, pushing it into the cave. They found the creature reformed, but frozen - not turned to dust like a vampire, however. Jolun again cast Dispel evil, and the body burst into flame, burning to ash. They destroyed the coffin, and discovered an ancient scroll; they managed to decipher it enough to realize that the ashes of the creature must be scattered in a body of water. Luckily, there was such a body nearby; they sprinkled the fowl ash over a lake, and watched as it hissed, then sank, finally dead.

Epilogue

As Llarm the librarian and Gróin the sapper finished reading the slab, they realized a portion of the corner was loose; with a click, they pried out a small stone, with a map inscribed in it. Calling for a map of Mor-Thir, they matched the symbols: Home, in what appeared to be mountains; Water, a river and the edge of a lake; and Tree, against what may well be a forest. Gróin, after careful study, decided that the location was just north of the forests of the Winter Fae, on the south edge of the mountains of the Mountain Dwarves. Could this stone map lead to the portal to the ancient dwarven lands? Only exploration will tell!