I am on vacation.
Which means for me I am at home, defragging my brain, presently working on the headache of the Jeweller's table, a solution for which is not presently in sight, which is why I haven't posted in four days. It seemed it would be quite simple ... randomly determined item, material, workmanship, special features, gems. I'm on that last bit now, realizing that the table has to be tailored for specific size gems to be added to specific sized bits of jewellery, requiring a different algorithm for every type of jewellery that is randomly indicated.
So putting that aside, I am also trying to write the first few bits of the book I'm right now calling Yonder, which may be problematic since there's already a 13th century graphic novel called Yonder that was released in 2008. It's a shame, as the title really fits my theme well.
Anyway, it is not going well. I have been working for 18 months without a vacation and I have noticed an increasing inability to focus deeply upon given tasks. I am now in day five, and I am hoping I start to relax soon. I have to be back at work on Monday. My hope is that I can at least start the book, enter it onto my other blog and talk about the problems of starting it and the reasons I'm incorporating various elements into the opening. I hope this kind of information will be useful for others.
My offline campaign went rather well on Saturday, building up a number of themes that have been coming together for some time. I'm not usually the type to tell war stories, but I'm stretching out my mind and I thought I'd settle into describing what's been happening with my party. I know some out there like to read this sort of thing. I really don't, but then I'm writing, so it probably won't be as boring for me as listening to someone else.
Hah. Well, now that I've set the gentle reader up to be really fascinated ...
Last winter, the party began poking under a huge stone carved as a single piece with the name Xalmoxis written on it. It was fairly clear from the beginning that it was some kind of altar, but they found it partly buried in the remote woods and Carpathian foothills about ten miles from their borderland fiefdom. For a whole running the futzed around with it, eventually tunnelling under it into an immense hollow cave. There they woke up - not intentionally - a large steampunk-like machine that fired a barrage of metal stones at them and then began tunnelling its way horizontally out of the cave. The party felt they were unable to destroy it, so they retreated to their home.
When it emerged, it did so by a pond in the valley; it reconstructed itself into a 'factory,' and began sucking water up from the pond. The party found it by stumbling across a tin golem which was roving the countryside gathering boulders and bringing them back to the factory. The party discovered there were three of them, and after destroying the first followed one of the others home. By this time the factory was sixty feet long and thirty feet wide. After much conjecture on how to destroy it, they settled on a lightning bolt, which succeeded in creating an explosion that blew the riveted roof of the factory open.
Inside they discovered the factory had been producing a kind of slurry, which poured out onto the ground from the exploded source and began spontaneously producing flesh golems. Due to the slowness of the golem production, the party was unable to unload a lot of magic attacks into the mass of golems as they coelesced, so that even though 45 golems were ultimately formed, most were low on hit points by the time the party faced them in hand-to-hand combat. As well, being able to encircle the main body with a wall of fire, the golems were able to emerge only a few at a time in the wall's opening, and this helped the party enormously. Still, there were about ten or twelve golems that simply ran off into the wilderness while the battle raged.
As the golems died, the bodies began to melt, releasing a lot of heat. What was left behind was an egg-shaped oval about a foot long and looking very much like obsidian. When the battle was over, the party investigated these. The cleric Widda decided to strike one with her hammer; it exploded, destroying the hammer, obliterating Widda's hand and killing the 6th level assassin and the 6th level mage that are standing nearby.
Returning to town in search of raising and regeneration spells, the party found Kronstadt (eastern Transylvania) in a tither. The Archbishop of Transylvania had arrived with an entourage, and was said to be in congress with three odd wisemen from a distant land. This information was given because a member of the party is a Landgraf, a minor noble, and has the benefit of such inside knowledge. Word got around about the flesh golems, who were killing innocents with abandon, and the party confessed its involvement, and ultimately were approached by the wise men.
These wise men are apparently not human, and they describe their own journeying as something not done by overland; the party still isn't clear. In appearance, they look somewhat like the mummy before the mummy is quite reconstituted - but has most of his human face. The wise men became aware of things happening when the space under the altar had been opened and the tunnelling machine had been activated. These men explain to the party that 1) a gate has been opened between the plane of Pandemonium and Earth; 2) creatures on that plane have sought to awaken the god Xalmoxis for eons; 3) the god Xalmoxis is thought by myth to be sleeping somewhere beneath the south Carpathian Mountains; 4) the gate was opened when the cleric destroyed the egg; 5) the cleric has made herself the perfect tool to awaken the god, and the Xalmoxian creatures will now be seeking her out.
The party long ago required a book that enables them to escape detection by scrying (their names written in the book allow the magic to work), which the acquired to avoid another enemy they gained in an earlier adventure. This book now keeps the cleric safe, but it is known the cleric is somewhere in the area and she is being searched for. The wise men promise to consider the matter, including their new knowledge of the party's book. They regenerate the cleric's hand. The party gears up for things getting worse, the assassin and mage receive raise dead spells. But the assassin fails the resurrection survival and dies permanently. The player rolls up a new character.
Three members of the party stumble across a weird creature moving through the town and upon approaching it find themselves face to face with a frog-like being about seven feet tall (it straightens from its original appearance). It pointed a stick with two handles at the party and sling bullets come flying out. One of the party members suffers 23 damage. The others chase the creature until it turns onto a street, whereupon an opening appears in space like a door, floating about two feet off the ground. There is a blinding white light in the opening, and another creature which is waving one hand. The fleeing creature jumps through the opening and it disappears.
The party returns to the wise men who explain that these are the creatures and they are obviously poking around to find the cleric. They suggest the cleric needs protection, and becuase the cleric is not a Roman Catholic, she should try to obtain the mcguffin for the next couple of runnings, the spike that was driven into the left hand of Christ. It is in a castle under a deweomer that will allow its recovery by a Christian, for reasons that are not given. The deweomer was cast 250 years ago by St. Anthony of Alba, who had some reason not to allow Catholics to have the spike. The party discusses the matter and decides to get the item.
This brings them to a castle near Brod, which they enter, fight a lot of skeletal warriors and hell cats, and ultimately get the item in hand. The cleric gets a feeling from the spike that it will work perfectly in a godentag, which is the cleric's perferred weapon; at this point I reveal to the cleric that this makes his godentag +4 to hit and damage, which pleases the cleric immensely. I also explain that the spike is sentient, but isn't awake, and this worries the cleric immensely. It is clear the item is an artifact, and probably has both good and bad powers. The party discusses the nature of these powers, and it is surmised that the spike was 'created' but the unusual events that occurred with the crucifixion of Christ. In fact, it could be said that the crucifixion was a sort of 'experiment' that required certain elements to come together to form the spike and bring it consciousness. The party agreed - with some obscured hinting from the DM in the form of the wise men - that the blood of Christ could not create an evil item ... that ultimately the item would have to be made holy by its creation.
The party also found in the castle six maces of profound mastercraftsmanship, worth about 4,700 g.p. each. They are not magical, but they are associated with a legend, and thought lost.
The legend is that the Avars, in the 7th century, a tribe of eastern Europe, was nearly wiped out by its enemies (here I am not keeping with Earth history in time frame, but it does not matter). The last Avar tribe was comprised of the people's wisest and most brilliant scholars, and they fashioned a means by which they could escape to another plane of existence. The maces were - the legend goes - the means by which the gate was opened. The party does not know how this works. However, the wise men upon seeing the maces propose that the Avars might be an aid to the party against the other creatures ... allies, if you will.
The wise men have offered the party a group of options: 1) flee, and hope the cleric is never found; 2) kill the cleric; 3) gather all the power they can and find Xalmoxis and send him from this plane before the god can be awoken; 4) prepare for a seige, for the creatures will ultimately gather to destroy Kronstadt and find the cleric.
The party has decided (not surprisingly) to seek more allies, and the Avars seem to fit that bill. The wise men leave to hunt down the last of the golems and to return to their home to seek a greater wisdom. The party investigates and reasons out that if the Avars are to be found, it must be discovered where they disappeared from ... ie, where it the last place on earth they were. They hope to find clues there.
I have to say, the party and I have already agreed that the solution can't be sticking the maces into 6 convenient holes and making a machine work. That's how Hollywood would do it. I'm trying to be more clever than that.
Two sessions ago the party left Kronstadt for the great libraries of Europe, deciding that Vienna would be a good choice. Knowing from experience that it is very difficult to cross the frontier between Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire, they decided to go by ship from the Black Sea to Venice, and move up through the mountains.
Last session, on Saturday, the party had trouble getting over the pass into Austria, as it is late winter, but they did reach Salzburg. They looked into the libraries there, and found they needed to speak to a man named Belisarius who is a scholar in Padua. The book the party needs, The Tale of Carrol, supposedly tells the exact location of the departure of the Avars.
The party goes back over the pass, encounters some hill giants, which they avoid (though they could easily take them). They find the hill giants watching them from a distance (the party is 21 persons, retainers included, along with horses and one hippogriff), wary of approaching. Thus stalked, the party gets down the far side of the pass and there meets an entourage of 100 soldiers. In one of those coincidences that I love, they find the soldiers are attendants to Belisarius, the same scholar, and he is looking for a hill giant lair because he is looking for an undisclosed object said to have been in the possession of some large hill giant clan these past 120 years. He does not say what the object is. The party knows where the lair is, because the druid using commune with nature was able to locate it, about five miles to the west, over a mountain saddle. They offer to tell Belisarius this location if he will provide the book they need. Belisarius sends a man back to Padua for the book (it will take 4 to 6 days) and the party agrees to lead the army to the lair. That is where the session ended.
Interestingly, as the party will now approach the lair, one of the party members is 8 and a half months pregnant. She joined the campaign two runnings ago. The background to her character indicated that she started six months pregnant. With travel times, ten weeks have passed, and she is now due the 6th of April. It is the 16th of March as the party sits at the bottom of the mountain saddle. There is some discussion of what will happen if the character gets hit hard.
Okay. I've done my duty, I've written a post. Tomorrow, I may write another one.