[Campaign Journal] Sword, Sorcery and Rayguns #01

[Note: This series is a repost of Premier's campaign journal, originally featured on Dragonsfoot. It covers the last one and a half years of our first Fomalhaut campaign, started 13 January 2007 and concluded 3 October 2010, starting after the first Isles on an Emerald Sea arc. I have made no substantial changes to Premier's writing except to correct simple mistakes and lapses of memory, but I have added notes and comments, some I made in the original thread and some new -- along with extra scanned diagrams, maps and other illustrative material. -- G.L.]

Sword, Sorcery and Rayguns #01
by Kalman Farago

Well, whenever Melan decides to post English-language bits of his Fomalhaut setting, there seems to some interest and positive feedback. Since we’ve just toasted his campaign’s 2nd birthday a few weeks ago and an “official” campaign journal by him seems unforthcoming, I guess I’ll step up to the plate. I’ll endeavour to recount the general movements of our campaign – only going from fallible memory -, and see how far energy, free time and enthusiasm takes me. With two years of history, perhaps I’ll be excused for not doing this linearly. Instead, I’ll begin by recounting our recentmost adventure, then go backwards in time.

The present cast:
- Gwyddion ap Cwllich, 8th level Etunian (horse nomad) Fighter. Lawful Neutral, started the game in a strong by-the-contract mercenary spirit, but recently started having more independent plans for the far future. Unknown to anyone else in the party, he’s the champion of the evil god Uthummaos, a deity with whom the party has a strongly mixed past experience. Let’s just say one Uthummaos-worshipping PC died at the hands of his party members in the past. Probably the wisest and most trustworthy adventurer in the party at present, and coincidentially my character.
- Licar del’ Avellos, 8th (9th?) level Imperial (purple-skinned decadent imperialists) Wizard. The only PC to have survived all the way from the very first session. He carries a big book with him, which can allegedly summon a powerful demon once its mysteries are unraveled.
- Tyraxus Tharg, 7th(?) level Wizard, not sure which human race. He’s accompanied by his permanently Charmed 5th level Fighter henchman, the always taciturn Xulunder Kham.
- Zaxtaros, the most recently joined PC, a 7th level thief. The player’s previous character, a finally-dead Cleric of the bat god of thieves was an untrustworthy conniving embezzling bastard. So far it remains to be seen if the new guy is of a similar personality, but my money’s riding on “yes”.

The general situation: several sessions ago, a poorly-worded ring-powered Wish spell uttered by Beristo (aforementioned untrustworthy cleric) transported the whole party from the middle of combat into a tiny derelict island in the middle of the Sea of Emerald Idols, a stretch of water named after humongous emerald statues arising from the below the surface. We eventually escaped from the island, then acquired a small boat and started exploring the various archipelagoes in the area, eventually upgrading our small barge to a larger, better one. One possible self-set long-term goal for us here is to decipher the meaning of a cryptic engraving we found on one island: “False gods and true goddesses shall show the way.” Combined with a partial map of the sea, Gwyddion’s theory is that the gods and goddesses refer to the giant green statues, which are road markers to some surely fabulous place.

Health problems prevented me from attending the last but one session, so Gwyddion stayed behind guarding the boat, while the others allied on an island with worshippers of Kang the Thousand-Eyed, god of adventurers, greed and shameless hoarding (and some of the PCs actually converted to his religion), helping them kill some atheist invaders. At the beginning of today’s session, we’ve just upgraded to our new, slightly larger boat and set sail.

We’ve heard of two interesting islands at the northern end of this archipelago, one containing a magic well, the other a minotaur- and gnoll-infested ancient complex, which is in fact a conversion of the Mazes & Minotaurs megadungeon Tomb of the Bull King. Around this time, Gwyddion had a dream strongly suggesting that make a valuable sacrifice at the shrine of Uthummaos, located in the west part of the complex. How to do that without the others trying to rob the same place remains to be seen. Deciding to check out the magic well first, we made landfall on the appropriate island, seemingly devoid of civilisation. As it was evening, we rested for the night, somewhat unsettled by the strange wolf howls – Gwyddion could tell it sounded different from ordinary wolves.

The Isle of Stonewell

We began to explore the island in the morning, with Licar staying behind to meditate on his new level gain (as his player was not present). We soon came onto the still smouldering remains of a large seaside bonfire, where a human was burned and assumably eaten, with two tracks of bestial footprints leading away into two directions. Following one, we came near the northern tip of the island, where a few primitive stone huts once stood, now largely collapsed and empty of anything interesting. Exploring the surroundings, we soon came to the magical well we were looking for. There was the glimmer of gold at its bottom, and throwing in one more coin awoke a disembodied voice. We learned that untold knowledge can be learned from the well in exchange for generous amounts of gold (which we sorely lacked), or a sacrifice of a “two-legged animal”, i.e. an intelligent being. Lacking the means and inclination for either option, we decided to leave and maybe come back later with an appropriate offering and ask about the riddle of the false gods and true goddesses.

The Tomb in the Shallows

For the time being, we went back to the bonfire pit and started following the other set of tracks. They led us to a random encounter rolled up right there and then, a cliffside with a narrow path leading down to a stretch of sand right by the water. Down there the party found some old ruins – broken pillars arising from waist-deep water, and a sort of small stone gazebo with an elevated sarcophagus, which we couldn’t quite see from our present vantage point, as it was under an outcropping of the cliff face. While the others stayed behind on some rocks arising from the water, the thief waded in some 10 meters to examine the stone coffin. The lid was nailed down, and on it was written the name KHETEIRA. He pried the nails loose, lifted the cover, and saw… the perfectly unspoiled body of a beautiful woman dressed in little more than very expensive and expansive golden jewellery. Oh, [expletive deleted]. Two sessions ago we tangled with a vampire lord, so now there were some groans going around the table. The next moment the woman’s golden eyes popped open and she rose from the coffin, revealing her great bat wings, and a few seconds later our friendly thief was already under her charm. Seeing us a but behind, the winged woman started into another incantation, summonung a huge winged monkey (a demon) which must have weighted a ton, while she herself turned invisible. A few brief verbal attempts to knock sense into the thief failed, while the monkey demon was advancing on us; so we turned tailed and fled back to the path leading to the cliff top, with the demon luckily not following us. We formulated a quick battle plan (two fighters and one wizard, maybe not the best to tackle a demon, a charmed party member and a succubus). Invisible and surrounded by Mirror Images (which I guess were also invisible while that spell lasted), Tyraxus flew out above the water to gain a good view of the battlefield. His bodyguard Xulunder stayed on the shore with a raygun in hand to cover the wizard, while I started cautiously advancing on the dome – trying to stay in the broken pillars’ cover -, where the thief and the now visible hellwoman were. The battle was opened by Tyraxus’ fireball, which wounded the succubus, slightly wounded our charmed friend, and did little more than annoy the monkey demon. The latter took to the air and flew towards the now visible wizard, while I rushed forward to attack the succubus. I stabbed her with a dagger steeped in deadly poison (originally belonging to our thief of questionable loyalty, but we found his gear before freeing him from a derelict ship, and I decided not to return him such a lethal weapon before he proves himself); but failed to do any damage. Seeing it was ineffective, I drew my trusty magic blade, the Sword of Tyr Wulos, and trusted it, my magical full plate armour and my prowess at arms to avail against the foul monster. As we battled (and I luckily disrupted her attempt to charm me as well with a blow), the thief kept firing crossbow bolts at me, some of which hit but without truly serious consequences.

Meanwhile, the Tyraxus and Xulunder rained spells and laser bolts at the oncoming demon, doing little to it, and they were getting desperate. Tyraxus eventually read one of his scrolls and summoned a few monsters – an underwhelming pack of sic completely ordinary wolves.The wolves did a good job at annoying and slowing down the demon, while Tyraxus seared it with a Flaming Sphere. Actually, one of the wolves almost did much more than that: a natural 20, then another; and a third hit (not necessarily a 20) would have allowed the wolf to kill the huge menacing demon with one single bite; but the final roll was just a bit too low. Meanwhile, I forced the now seriously wounded succubus to take flight and escape, then turned my attention to our thief. He suddenly remembered that he also had a raygun besides his crossbow, and hit me with it once, dropping my pretty low on HP; but next round I was already in close combat range, and he couldn’t seriously hope to match me in a straight-up fight, even with me only going for non-lethal blows with the flat of the blade and such. Shortly thereafter he was knocked unconscious, just as the monkey demon noticed the flight of its summoner and decided to disappear as well in a puff of smoke.

The thief tied and disarmed (still charmed, after all), we quickly emptied the sarcophagus of its contents: 600 gp’s worht of gold and platinum, and a metal scroll case (which we later opened to find a partial map to the Tomb of the Bull King, yay!) We returned the thief to the boat, then after some deliberation decided to trust our luck and go hunt the now wounded and magic-depleted succubus. We knew were pushing our luck – Tyraxus had maybe one spell left, and I and Xulunder were both down on HP. But, we figured that she probably had no more magic tricks up her sleeve, and even seriously wounded, I posed a considerable threat to her in a straight fight.

Night has fallen already, but we made our way back to her seaside sarcophagus. Rayguns in hand, I and Xulunder crept closer to the gazebo where we could see her outlinne as she was singing a haunting song; while Tyraxus was readying a Flaming Sphere from farther back. Being in the lead, I crept up as close as a dared in the waist-high water, took aim, and… dropped the raygun (the thief’s, borrowed for the time being) and screamed in pain as something grabbed me painfully under the water! A Giant Crabs of Unspeakable Terror (and therein lies a tale for another time) came up into the shallow waters to feed at night, and I was meant to its dinner! The succubus was immediately and obviously alarmed, and she took to the wing, escaping, but not before Xulunder shot her in the wing once. Meanwhile, I barely managed to myself from the crab’s pincers, turned tail and ran back up to the shore. Repeated out-of-character remarks arrived from the thief’s player about how I Gwyddion won’t live long after losing his precious pistol; followed by out-of-character remarks about how excellently a tied and unconscious thief can serve as a receptacle for Gwyddion’s sword.

Thanks to the damn crab, I was now down to 5 HP, and Tyraxus was out of spells (wasted the sphere on this attempt). Desperation and frustration, however, drove us to madness: we decided that the succubus must be near dead by now, and with a damaged wing she couldn’t have flown far; so we’ll go after and finish this one way or another. We set off to the north, since she fled that way. While walking, we came up with a desperate plan for combat, which involved me trading my magical sword for Xulunder’s mundane mace and having him lead the assault. We came to a narrow pass, cliffside and sea on the left, a higher elevation to the right. I was worried the succubus might be hiding up there, but we decided to follow this precarious pass. CRACK! A boulder came rolling down as my fears were confirmed, and we barely jumped aside. We turned around to head back towards a spot where we too could reach higher ground, but didn’t get far. A few steps in the dark, a failed roll to hear noises, and Xulunder felt the warm sweet kiss of doom on his nape. Tyraxus and I turned around just as the hellspawn succubus softly commanded Xulunder to jump off the cliff. A feeling of doom, a sinking of the stomach. A cry of “He’s carrying my sword!” by someone I’d rather not name, and initiative was rolled. The wizard Tyraxus raised his raygun, while I with my 5 Hit Points was prepared to grab the succubus with bare hands and either throw her off the cliff or jump to my death pulling her with me. But the dice gods favour us sometimes, sort of, and the laser bolt hut home, killing the demon and knocking her into the waves below… while Xulunder, falling in water rather than hard rock, managed to swim ashore. Quickly tying two ropes and a grappling hook together, I tried to fish the succubus and her considerable set of jewellery out of the water, but she was washed out to sea, so I redirected my efforts to pull up Xulunder. “If you dropped my sword, swim around and look for it first!” – luckily he didn’t.

We went back to the boat on the verge of death, but upbeat – “the sorriest victory march” remarked Gwyddion. Rested for the night and a few hours into the morning, while the ungrateful thief went, fished out his pistol from the water, then later explored a bit and saw from the distance a flock of harpies we wisely decided to avoid.

The City State of Khonón

For our next destination, we decided to head to the southernmost island of the archipelago, one with two civilized settlements – for those’ve read the relevant article in Fight On!, we’ve headed for the one were cats are worshipped to a ludicrous degree. On the way, we found some naked dead bodies floating in the water, their wounds suggesting a pirate attack. In the city we largely confined ourselves to the Foreigner’s Quarters – the rest of the city is closed to unescorted outsiders to make sure they don’t accidentally hurt any cats. We sold quite a bit of loot we collected on various islands, checked into the seraglio, bought some supplies for our expedition into the Tomb of the Bull King, heard some rumours about the place, and I made some enquiries into the possible pirate attack. The man in charge of the guard sounded apprehensive – and grateful for the warning -, but something was just a tiny bit off, and some in our party are now harbouring secret suspicions about the true identity of whoever killed and dumped those people. Be that as it may, we’ll spend a few days resting in this surprisingly friendly and polite town, then we’re off to the Tomb!

(Originally posted February 28, 2009.)

Referee’s notes (2009): Much of the session as recounted here was based on improvisation and random rolls; in the end, it proved more lucrative than the last occasion, which, if it were an episode, would have been called “Kill atheists for fun and profit”. This time, the characters ran into a situation that seemed innocent at first but quickly got way over their heads – it was to a great extent a matter of luck that when the succubus was driven away, the ape demon also decided that its business there was concluded, and returned to werever it had come from. The events afterwards were really audacious from the party; they won, but they could have easily all died, since characters were depleted of almost all resources and in a general bad health. Had they failed to kill the succubus so soon, they would probably have been dead.

The segment in Khonon was of course lengthier. On the attached map, the “IST” stands for the temple of Ishtar, “FED” for the temple of Fedafuce (run by Bursator Grenspanios of all things; no relation at all), the cup sign for the seraglio, “Artothrokusz” for the shop and home of Artothrocus, an elderly dealer in magic and esoterica (yes, there are magic item shops on Fomalhaut, and what’s it to ya?). Finally, the circled house in the inner district is the home of Megamarkhos Periptekhos, a wealthy collector and member of the Poetic Society. In addition to pampering protopersons – that is, the cats – Khonon’s citizens run their affairs by representative democracy; the three parties are the Poetic Society, the Pragmatic Incrementalists (a philosophical humbug that has become de rigeur all over Fomalhaut in the last decades) and the Aesthete Order of Mesomarkhos. It is an enlightened city; to keep it that way, strangers are required to wear a distinguishing white armband while here, and are not allowed out of the foreigner’s quarter without invitation from a citizen. Justice is swift and the police force is efficient.


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