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The Knights of the Golden Dragonby Kris Thomas
Hi, Following a conversation with a member of my old gaming group I'm going to try chronicling my old Mystara campaigns beginning with
The Knights of the Golden Dragon
After Prince Thrain heir apparent to the throne of Oceansend goes missing during a sea voyage to Helskir, Maximillian, court mage, summons a group of adventurers to serve the Crown they are:
Fallon D'Azrael: Kingsweed smoking woodelf with an eye for espionage, the only survivor of the mysterious shipwreck when the prince went missing
Kagorot: A halfelf with his own reasons for wanting to impress the king
"Thoric Redhand": A dwarf priest with a shameful secret
Timbrull Katang: Ex-privateer turned Priest of Protius
"Bob" Dhu: Female Paladin who can't remember whether she's pretending to be a boy or not
Grimble Grumble: gnome buffoon
Slayer: Ranger with an INT of 6
Ronin the Barberian: Player with an INT of 6
This was the group that set out to find the prince, will they succeed?
The Knights of the Golden Dragon part 1
Ok here's the first adventure as I remember it
After purchasing supplies (are we going to sea? then i'll definitely need a ten foot pole) the group got aboard the ship and set off to where the prince had gone missing, there was evidence of a shipwreck but little else, as night fell eerie underwater lights could be seen, the group (wisely) assumed an approaching attack and got a life boat off into the water and covered by a darkness spell watched as the ship was destroyed, and tracked the now obviously submersible vessel (i can't remember how they kept up, probably a haste spell or two, i remember a lot of haste spells) back to a secret heldannic base in a marine cave on a small island. The Heldannic Knights it seemed had recently come into possession of a Glantrian copy of an Alphatian design submersible (ala DotE appendix, imc the House of Ritterburg was Heldannic in origin and Prince Jaggar amongst others in the house often found aiding an enemy of the Khanates irresistable) and had used it in the kidnap of the prince in an effort to derail the negotiations of alliance between Helskir and Oceansend.
The dock itself was quite poorly manned so the group sneaked around a lot planting the several dozen barrels (barrels not flasks) of greek oil which the dwarf Thoric wanted to bring along, around the cave mouth, Thoric having made several successful Engineering checks to optimise blast damage. Ronin stayed behind to light the fuse, Fallon and Thoric made to search for the prince while the rest of the group distracted the guards with a frontal assault.
The battle went well at first, well after Grimble Grumble attempted to suplex the first guard he encountered, the battle improved, until this massive knight, black armour, deaths head helm, weird glowing gauntlet steps up and starts beating the snot out of everyone, thankfully by this time the others have found the prince, freed him, they give the signal everyone jumps in the water, Ronin lights the fuse, bang everyone gets on the sub and Bob pilots the ship cause she had a proficiency slot free.
The group have rescued the prince hooray!(genuinely hooray, i was inexperienced as a DM, no-one in the group had role-played at all except for my brother, once (Fallon) and the age range was 15-35, i had no idea how it would turn out) but will they make it back to Oceansend? What other schemes do the Heldannic Knights have? Who was the big guy?
Knights of the Golden Dragon part 2
Now I maybe wrong about the order of events because this was over ten years ago, but i think what happened next was this.
After an uneventful voyage back from the secret heldannic naval base, the stolen submersible pulls into the harbour to a joyous reception befitting returning heroes. Thoric promptly uses his lyre of building and a few stone shape spells to erect a statue to his glory in the harbour. The prince is returned to his father and preparations are made for the investiture of the PCs as knights. Maximillian debriefs the group, and promptly orders the expulsion of the Heldannic Knights from Oceansend and a seizure of any property they hold in the city. In gratitude Maximillian tells the group that the main chapterhouse of the knights will be gifted to them as a base. After the debriefing, the group was allowed to have some free time in the city, Kagorot asked Maximillian for a word in private. He briefly mentioned that his mothers name be mentioned to the king, Maximillian not being a fool (18+ INT) got the implication and demanded a quantity of blood (the same amount as you would need for say, a clone spell) for testing, a little worried Kagarot allows the blood to be taken and rejoins the group who have decided to put their coin where it is needed most, the tavern.
The group had decided to go to the tavern with the greatest choice of ladies of negotiable affection as could be found in the city, A contest of some sort was held with the loser having to pay for the winners evening with the most expensive girl in the house while he himself would have to go with the girl with the lowest charisma. Disgusting behaviour i'm sure you agree, but entirely typical in my experience of players. Kagarot won and spent a thoroughly enjoyable time with the beautiful Argentium (I'm sure you see where that's going), while Grimble the loser was brutalised all night by the Half Ogre girl who worked in the cellar (Grimble was a gnome if you remember, and a small one at that)
I didn't then and won't now go into what happened in the cellar that night, but that incident and the following morning when Timbrull awoke in a state of tumescense and urinated in his own eye, have continued to be talked about to this day. I don't know you put all that work into an adventure, then...
Knights of the Golden Dragon part 3
So after the group have dumped their stuff at the new headquarters, they received a message that they would be acting as Prince Thrain's personal bodyguard for the renewed diplomatic mission to Helskir, it is revealed that Eruul Zarr has expressed an interest in marrying Prince Thrain to his daughter, and making him his heir effectively uniting the two cities into a small but strategically important maritime power, the mission must succeed
The sea was calm the sun shining and a fair wind blew the ship towards Helskir and the voyage passed uneventfully(they would have expected that wouldn't they), the diplomacy bit went well the marriage was announced, and they departed the city without incident (no one saw that coming)
On the return voyage, however, a storm blew up out of nowhere, blowing the ship towards a rocky island, the captain believed he could steer through the rocks but a malevolent whirl pool formed near the ship, quickly dragging the ship to it's doom the PC's and the crew were thrown into the water as the ship teared itself apart
Dragged under the water by the weight of their armour the group fared worse then the crew but all were doomed as the whirl pool dragged them down. Suddenly the PCs felt hands grasp them and suddenly they could breathe again, some aquatic elves had saved them and carried them through the water to an underwater cave where they were stripped of their belongings, they were prisoners.
They were taken out of the caves, through mines and foundries to an above ground ruined temple to the feet of their master a mighty Blue Dragon!
It wasn't unreasonable it said, it was willing to allow the group to live even to leave, but first it required a task, in a cave much deeper under the island was a temple built by the ancestors of the aquatic elves that served him today, in that temple was a large magical pearl retrieve the pearl and by all means the group would go free, he would even give them a new ship, he would even kick in a few water breathing rings from his own personal store.
They of course agreed
They were taken down to the deeper part of the caves by an aquatic elf guide who once they were away from the dragon began to beg the players not to do this that it would be better to die than to give this evil dragon the power that was contained in that pearl, his ancestors he said had hidden the pearl there for a reason and placed a powerful guardian there, a giant squid. What would they do?
The knights of the golden dragon part 4
The PCs are in no shape to go against a dragon and they know it, they've got a prince to get home and a dragon offering them a chance to do it, down they go to the base of the island to the temple ruins. From the outset things aren't looking good, sharks swarm around the entrance.
The battle that followed is brief but glorious, Timbrul as a priest of protius fares well against the foe, by the end the sharks are either dead or distracted by feeding on their dead and the group moves into the temple.
Inside the temple the first thing the group noticed was the large (at least 3 foot) pearl on the alter it glowed with a benevolent light, the second thing(s) were the large tentacles which reached through cracks in the wall to surround the pearl (I lifted this from PC3)
After some testing the group realised that while the tentacles could reach the pearl they could not touch it and that there was a small segment reaching almost to the centre of the temple, some spellcasting followed, i seem to remember Kagarot being hasted and telekinesis being used to float the pearl towards him most of the way and him having to dodge a few swipes of the tentacles before he got the pearl, but get it he did. As soon as he touched it it started communicating with him, telling him all would be well if he followed it's instructions.
Once they got to safety the pearl told them that it had been created in imitation of another (the Pearl of Power from Minrothad Guilds) to act as a relic for these aquatic elves separated from their kin, it knew of the dragon and it's plans but had been making plans of it's own, if the PCs would break a fragment of it off, grind that fragment into a powder give half to the elves and keep half for themselves the dragon would never be able to take all it's power, it would allow this to be done on the promise that when able to defeat the dragon they would return and do so (I could see the group was unhappy with the moral dilemma so i threw them a bone)
They of course agreed
When they gave the powder to the elves, there was muted celebration, their enslavement would go on but they had a new source of power, and explained that when mixed in a bath of sea water the powder would bond with any magical item placed inside giving it a magical bonus against blue dragons, the PCs elected to do this immedietly. Then they gave the pearl to the dragon, who having never seen the pearl didn't notice the missing segment as anything strange was true to his word (more bothered about his new toy) and allowed the PCs to go, in a new ship they sailed off to Oceansend. Timbrul Katang informed the group that as he was the only experienced sailor he would be captain and claimed the ship for the Oceansend navy.
They returned to Oceansend with the Prince where they were allowed to wander the city, (remember the last time they got to make their own decisions?) and check their base, what would they find?
The first thing the party asked when they returned to Oceansend was "Is there a magic shop?", they had a fair amount of treasure, i wanted to get rid of some of it so said "Yeah, why not? Moorekroft & Sons, has a branch in the town." The elves in the party bristled at the name. The went into the shop, asked non-commitedly about the stock, were unimpressed by the selection of spell ingredients and exotic goods, and after asking a few innocent questions about the general layout in the shop, left without purchasing anything.
Once they were a fair distance from the shop Thoric asked "That building was one storey yeah?" that was true, "Then they don't live above the shop, lets go back tonight and rob it!", I know, I know I should have seen that coming.
So with the afternoon to kill they went their separate ways, most went back to base, but Kagarot was contacted by a hooded elven figure who needed to talk with him about his mother.
Intrigued Kagarot slipped away from the group to meet with the mysterious elf
His absence did not go unnoticed, Fallon D'Azrael saw him leave and decided to follow, at a distance
In a dark alley he saw the hooded figure pull back his cloak to reveal the purple birth mark of a shadow elf shaman, Fallon was terrified to learn that Kagarot's mother had been a shadow elf spy, the shaman asked Kagarot if he could remember the operation, Kagarot of course remembered the day when his mother cut his ears remembered the pain and the tears, but had always thought that this was to aid him pass for human, he was informed that no it was to hide the nature of his elven heritage, not the heritage itself (I Know I'm taking liberties there are no half-elves according to Gaz5, but I like half-elves, and half-orcs for that matter so there) and that now that he was on the path to getting the king to recognize him as his son, the shamans expected him to act in the best interests of his people, the shadow elves. Kagarot was shocked but submitted to the will of Raphael.
Fallon was conflicted, Norwold had many elves, but he was an Alfheim Elf, sworn enemy of the shadow elves, and Kagarot a brave companion. He thought about it and dispatched a horse to Alfheim, to an elf he had dealings with in the past, Redsword Truetalker.
After that drama the group regrouped to rob the magic shop. What fun!
So I'd foolishly placed a magic shop in Oceansend, and given the group a good reason to dislike the owner, and they had decided to rob him, but I thought "Hey, some wards, some traps, a golem maybe this could be fun!"
Imagine my surprise when they marched to the back of the building cast a darkness spell, a silence spell, and stone shaped the back wall into a convenient door, the golem the traps the wards, all focused on the front entrance, all useless.
"Thoric Redhand" decided to commemorate the event by casting another stone shape on the excess removed from the wall and created another statue of himself, this time in the act of robbing the shop, after some discussion he agreed to remove the head to avoid identification.
The group pillaged the shop, I was annoyed at them so the didn't get much, a few dragon skins ready to be made into armor (good luck finding a smith!) a couple of +1 knick knacks and the like, still they were happy
They also "made safe" the golem with chains and whatnot in case they triggered it, they didn't
In case your wondering "What's the Paladin doing through all this?" she didn't know, she was blithely waiting back at the base, and she had time to do a little investigating...
You might remember that the base the Knights of the Golden Dragon are using used to be owned by the Heldannic Knights before it was seized by the city during the Heldannic expulsion from Oceansend. "Bob" Dhu has been waiting for her companions to arrive back from their night of fun (she assumed another whoring expedition) and has noticed some thing odd about the building, it is larger on the outside!
She's no engineer (no more spare proficiency slots) but she checks and rechecks the dimensions and there is definitely a hidden room behind the old alter, being unable to detect hidden doors she waits for the party to get back. Upon their return they discover a hidden chapel to Thanatos, apparently a secret sect exists within the heldannic order dedicated to Thanatos, a legacy of their Hattian descent, these "Death Knights" had been using this chapel for their foul rituals and obviously counted the big knight from the secret naval base among their number.
More disturbing than this however is the marble table tilted with large leather straps and channels cut into its face, within the channels lies dried blood as if someone (or many someones) had had their life's blood drained from them, the dread turned first to fear as the group discovered several magically chilled vats full of fresh blood, and from fear to panic as they found tubes which ran from the vats to several sealed stone sarcophagi
The group believed vampires had been sealed in these coffins, but were they active? It was an hour or so until dawn but they decided not to wait, the strongest of the group arranged themselves with crowbars ready to open one, Thoric and Bob readied their holy symbols, Slayer the ranger whose primary enemy was vampires was poised with a stake ready to drive it into the beasts heart.
The signal was given the fighters heaved with all their might, and the lid came away, revealing an emaciated vampire incapable of movement glaring back at them
"The eyes! don't look into the eyes!" shouted Slayer as he brought the stake down hammering it home even as Ronin failed his saving throw. Shaking off the near enchantment the group dismembered the corpse and moved on to the next coffin, it was at this point that one of the group i believe it was thoric asked if he could take the fangs of the vampire as a trophy, and so began the regular dismemberment, evisceration, flaying and otherwise appalling treatment of vanquished foes that became a signature of the group. There is nothing so demoralising to a foe than to have a group argueing about the ownership of its body parts before the fight has even begun.
The rest of the coffins were handled with the same ruthless efficiency, though most of the group (barring Thoric Bob and Slayer) bound their eyes with cloth to be on the safe side, the final coffin was dragged outside to be opened in the sunlight because "we wanna watch it burn"
Safe in the knowledge that they had saved the city from a vampire plague, the group was pleased to receive a new mission from Maximillian.....
Having dealt with the vampire menace, the PCs didn't feel the need to mention it to Maximillian the court mage, when he approached them with their new mission, (if they had who knows how many lives would had been saved? i do, lots) The Heldannic Knights had finally made their move into Norwold and were quickly approaching Landfall, once Landfall fell, Oceansend would be next and the king had decided to take decisive action, there was no way that a force could make it there in time but he hoped that they could relieve the inevitable siege, troops had already been dispatched, and the PCs should make haste to meet them in the field, lead the relief effort and save the city, they would be meeting with one Al Alto, head of a Thyatian crime family, and the real power in Landfall, if all went well southern Norwold would become effectively one nation, from this position of strength the king hoped to negotiate with the Kingdom of Alpha with regards mutual defence against the Heldannic threat.
With much on the line and a tight schedule the group set off for Landfall. Along the way they encountered a strangely dressed swarthy skinned young man named Jareth, with his brightly coloured headscarf and gold earrings he cut quite the figure, seeing thru "Bob" Dhu's disguise he flashed a smile and started making himself useful, the first time they stopped he made a fire in seconds rustled up some rabbit's for dinner and made idle chit chat, the group liked him (the fools!)
The next day, however, Jareth was nervous, unsettled, the weather had darkened a mist was heading in from the coast. The mist made Jareth gabble apologies, "I'm sorry I thought we had more time" he said as his features began to change, Jareth was a were-jackal!
He slashed wildly with his claws as he tried to back away from the group, howling angrily. The PCs were in no mood to allow him to get away and they followed as he fled into the mists. The chase went on for hours, Jareth leading them deeper and deeper into the mists, they lost him, and themselves and eventually decided to settle down and wait for the mists to lift.
When the mists cleared the PCs realized they were not in Kansas anymore...
OK a couple of points before i move on
Yes the group has gone to Ravenloft, but i'm not going to start a new post on the ravenloft forum, cos this is definitely a Mystara campaign
This will be my first published adventure with this group, so i've been getting stricter on the rules (Mostly 2nd ed with some culture specific stuff from the various gazeteers particularly rockhome and alfheim, which i use in place of the complete handbook of elves and dwarves that i haven't bought yet)
This has led to some out of game conversations one of them went a little like this
"So Karl, your dwarven fighter/priest Thoric, he's a priest of Kagyar, right?"
"So is he a speciality priest or just a cleric?"
"What's the difference?"
"Not much really but he would lose major access to necromancy"
"Lose necromancy! but thats where all the good spells are!"
"You can stay a cleric if you want"
"a necromantic cleric, damn straight"
And finally i want to take a second to curse out my memory, this stuff is from ten years ago in a fictional universe but i remember it as if it was yesterday, I even remembered the were-jackals name, for Rad's sake! Ask me about D&D, medieval history, the Old Testament, Hitler, the Graeco-Roman pantheon and i'm there, sit me in a quiz team and we'll win, all these things and more are the reasons why my girlfriend of nearly 20 yrs does not believe me when i say that i don't remember the conversation we had last week...it's not that i don't care, i really do, my brain however just doesn't seem to want to remember anything that has happened in the real world in my lifetime, damn my brain!
There thats out of the way, thank you for your indulgence, tomorrow i'll start remembering Ravenloft, though to be fair this time i've got a book to remind me
I've just realized that you might not have played Feast of Goblyns, i highly recommend you do, as such you may not want to know how it turned out, if so look away now, put your fingers in your ears and say "LA LA LA I'M NOT LISTENING!" for the next few posts
I think "Feast of Gobylns" is poorly named, there are hardly any goblyns in it, wolfweres up the wazoo but not many encounters with goblyns, anyhoo...
Jareth the vistani were-jackal was no where to be seen when the mists cleared, and the group were clearly not in Norwold, for one thing they'd been taking the coastal road to Landfall and they were no longer near a coast, it was however a beautiful day, the sun was shining, the scent of pine filled the air and the songbirds were particularly melodic as the PCs found a road of split logs heading towards a fair sized town in the distance... The Town of Harmonia awaited on the other side of an impressive looking toll bridge, the PCs waited in line to pay the toll, which seemed to involve some singing, some brief discussions with other travellers revealed that the pledge was sung to identify locals with non-locals (those who don't know the pledge) being charged far more, a local merchant offered to teach the pledge to the group for 10 pp, the group readily agreed eager to save money (the toll for non-locals was only 1 pp but they didn't know that) They got thru the guards after having been fleeced of a bit more cash crossed the river into the town proper
Music filled the air of the streets of the town from the distant sound of rehearsal at the ampitheatre to the street vendors singing the value of their goods, but the PCs enjoyment of this was halted by an official looking old man carrying keys and in a hell of a panic, the man was a prison guard and one of his prisoners had escaped his cell and was running amok in the jail, he needed the groups help to get him back in the cell or "put him down", they accepted.
In the depths of the jail they confronted the convict who, the jailor had failed to mention, was a werewolf, undaunted our heroes did battle and slayed the werewolf only to find themselves trapped in the cells by the jailor.
"Some of you are injured, maybe infected, it's a full moon tonight, reckon if you're ok by morning I can let you go"
The group thought that reasonable and so waited, no grand escape plans, no stone shape spells, they just waited
Which was fortunate because they then saw in the alley by the cell a beautiful young women having an argument with a large man who proceeded to whip her before leaving. They couldn't make out the words of the argument and so believed the woman when she explained to them that the man was a cruel suitor who had found out about her relationship with the kind doctor, if only someone would retrieve a certain magical item which was stolen from her family she and her love could be free of him, the group agreed to do it. She asked that they meet at the Old Kartakaan Inn at Skald where she could give them a map of the location in a few days time.
In the morning the group were freed, the jailor even bought them breakfast, and they set about their journey to Skald
On the way to Skald they were waylaid by a woman who had lost her son to an attack by a great wolf, the PCs offer to protect her and her family. They return to her home where they a treated to a home cooked meal, the party's ranger, Osmosis Viagra (I've been calling him Slayer cos I forgot his real name, understandably i think) checked around the womans cottage for tracks he found several wolf tracks and something...else but he couldn't follow the tracks for far before losing the trail.
That night the family retired upstairs after the PCs loaded the family blunderbuss with silver coins (they assumed werewolf)
The howling started soon after nightfall and the group left the fireside and prepared to face the beasts in the open, they were soon in the thick of battle, three large wolves tearing into them while a large man-wolf began to sing a song of lethargy, quickly halted by a silence spell, after the battle was over and the wolves skinned, the group called out Ontash and his wife to identify the body of the man. (Quick point: do wolfweres turn into humans when killed? I thought otherwise but the module specified it so...) It turned out to be a neighbor of theirs called Jaques who had offered to buy their farm several times.
The group decided to check of Jaques farm house, they found little of interest there, a cache of weapons in gold silver and iron (by this point they all had +1 weapons so these were kept to be sold) a map to somewhere marked with skulls (the Crown of Souls but they didn't know that) and four wolf pups which Osmosis immediately began training (Osmosis's special enemy was vampires so probably not the smartest of moves, but then he did have an INT of 6)
While they were ransacking the place, a person appeared at the door, saw the group tearing up the place, and fled, the group ran after him but he was quick, too quick, the rest of the journey to Skald was dogged by the movement of creatures through the trees never close enough to strike but enough to play on the groups nerves, some time the next day they arrived in Skald
While larger than Harmonia, Skald is somewhat more provincial, the PCs, most of them demi-humans are eyed suspiciously by the locals as they wander the town, plus they keep catching glimpses of the stranger who they chased from Jaques home moving thru the crowd. The group decide that something drastic needs to be done to bring this to a head.
Audible Glamer, Phatasmal Force, and a few other big showy spells are cast as Thoric shouts "Roll up, roll up, a show is in town come one come all!"
The locals begin to relax a little, a dwarf in armour with a big axe is something to be nervous about, but the same dwarf playing a lyre is just another street performer.
A large crowd gathers to see the juggler, spells and feats of strength that the group put on, meanwhile Kagarot has decided that his thief skills need improving so with Timbrul Katang (ex-pirate) pushing the hand cart, he spends some time robbing the houses of the people gathered in the crowd, when he returns to the group, Thoric and Bob are not best pleased, and are discussing what to do when Fallon sees the stranger and immediately casts magic missile.
All hell breaks loose as eight members of the crowd suddenly shift into man-wolf form and attack, the battle is fierce and confusing as towns folk scatter and spells are thrown with abandon in a built up area, when the dust settles, the group are victorious but the local guard and officials are demanding an explanation. Bob Dhu acts as spokesperson for the group (CHR 18) and calms them somewhat, but they still demand some form of compensation for the damage caused. Thoric as treasurer for the group, and to punish Kagarot and Timbrul for their larceny, promptly piles an excessive amount of treasure upon the floor and begins to strum on his lyre of building, which causes a large and beautifully gothic building to erupt from the ground (if your interested he played "Smoke on the Water") The officials are more than satisfied giving directions to the old Kartakaan Inn as they leave.
At the Old Kartakaan Inn, the locals like to play with their dinner (the PCs) and the games took the form of scratching hands as a greeting, suddenly revealing fangs while laughing, women growing hair on their faces as they turn away, little things, enough to convince the group that the entire pub is brimming with lycans and they are in serious trouble, the barman tells them that their "pretty" is in the backroom and the games stop. The PCs are just grateful to be out of the bar and don't really question how they got out (those wolfweres that aren't followers of Akriel know not to mess with her). When in the back they question Akriel as to her choice of meeting place (I've never been here before, it's open from Dusk til Dawn...) reassured they settle into negotiations, she has little to give but her lover, the good and noble doctor, is a wealthy man who will pay them for the crown and of course the group are welcome to any other treasure they might find, the group show her the map that they found at Jaques, what luck! It is a map of the region where the crown of soldiers lies with the caves marked on it, this proves however that others are seeking her birthright (Jaques was actually due to be bringing the map to this meeting to give to the PCs, Akriel had been wondering where he was) and the group must hurry to claim it, deciding not to stay the night at the inn the group headed off straight away not stopping to rest until morning when they felt a little safer.
Without further incident the group approached the caverns which held the crown the sound of drums in the distance heralded their arrival.
The gorge was a barren desolate area, so unlike the verdant countryside which they had become used to, they hadn't gone far when they were attacked by three giant ravens which they dispatched quickly, now i've run this adventure several times (for quite a while it was the only module that i owned) and every time, without any prompting from me the group has done the same thing, they animated the remains of the ravens to act as pack animals, this time it was Thoric who decided to "get his necromancy on" passed his powers check and they moved into the gorge.
Moving past the remains of people manacled to posts, noting the large skeletal riders atop the canyon walls, the bones jutting from the canyon walls they approached the quickwood tree that was now obviously the source of the drumming sounds, a quick assessment led to the decision that any harm the tree had done was already accomplished, so they left it booming away and instead moved into a canyon containing a large ziggurat topped with a statue of a raven, the raven turns slowly to face them as they approach, and despite the many skeletons standing to attention on the ziggurat's tiers having noticed the jewel like gleam of the raven's eyes the PCs decided to scale it's heights to claim those eyes, cue a battle that the PCs eventually won but found the ravens eyes to be merely cut glass (they failed to find the hidden chamber with all the treasure in) dissapointed they continued on until they found two fissures in the cavern wall they took the northernmost one and entered the Cavern of the Crown of Souls...
To be honest the cavern of the crown of souls went pretty much by the book with no great incidents or outstanding role play, suffice it to say they went in fought somethings avoided some traps found a crown wasn't the right one found the right one left.
The group then headed of to the Asylum of the good doctor in neighboring Gundarak, to give him the crown of soldiers.
Dr. Dominiani was obviously a bad guy, the group didn't trust him an inch it took every bit of reassurance on my part to get them not to attack him there and then, thankfully the group didn't know about the rule for undead and ESP and fell for the calm caring compassionate projected thoughts that the not-so good doctor allowed them to see, they gave him the crown, ate a simple meal (if a little heavy on the garlic) and departed carrying a message for Akriel.
Back in Skald they bumped into Akriel, who at first refused to acknowledge them, when they pressed her telling her that they had just returned from the doctor and making her read the message, she ushered them into a back room, revealing that she was afraid to acknowledge them as she was being watched, for the doctor had deceived her, he was in fact a vampire! the group must retrieve the crown at once for all our sakes! (most of this is nonsense, this is not Akriel but her father Harkon Lukas in her form, he didn't acknowledge the group at first because he'd never met them, once he new of Akriel's plan he intends to use the PC's against her, it's true about the doctor tho)
With a loud clamor of "I knew it!" the group returned to Gundarak, prepared to face the vampire Dr. Dominiani
Fighting their way thru gargoyle sentries the PCs fall upon the asylum like the Furies, quickly cornering Dominiani and battling him until his body dissolved into mist, knowing that this was only a temporary respite, the group sought the hiding place of the vampire's coffin, remembering the entrance to a cave the group had seen in the hospital grounds the PCs decided to start their search there, instead of the vampire at rest they found a crowd of the hospital inmates, most mad, some injured, some dying. The priests and the paladin in the party immediately set to work healing the injured, I was pleased to see that despite their own need they used several high level spells and actually managed to restore sanity to some, who were however too confused initially to warn the group that the orderlies who were now attacking were a group of zombies, it mattered little. After dealing with the zombies, they asked the restored patients to lead the rest to safety while they dealt with the doctor, and armed them as best they could. They then resumed their search for the coffin so as to stake him.
They conducted a room by room search of the keep to no avail, searching the battlements they found a secret door which led to a shaft, such that a vampire might use to get to hidden parts of his building, now on to the vampires ruse the group, they redoubled their efforts eventually finding the secret room which contained the resting vampire, he however was not in the comatose state they had been hoping for and their exhaustive search of the grounds had allowed him time to regenerate and the now more prepared doctor savagely attacked with all his might. The group had already consecrated a spare coffin so they had reason to believe there might be others, Thoric used a stone shape spell to seal the small chamber, create water to flood it, then Timbrul, Thoric and Bob blessed the water to make it holy water, Dominiani literally boiled to the true death! best vampire death eva
They returned to Skald only to find that the crown could only be destroyed if the necromancer priestess to whom it had belonged was destroyed, and a large force of undead had been seen leaving the caverns where the crown had been discovered and heading south, the group gave chase...
The trail that the undead army made was easy enough to follow, and with a few encounters with stragglers the group soon come to the strange village of Homlock...
Homlock was covered by a strange storm that swirled overhead, surrounded by a wall of skeletons 10 foot deep, a tall hill mounted by a large wooden building sat within the wall, and behind that some colossal structure composed solely of bone seemed to grow from the land itself.
The group fought it's way thru goblyns (different to goblins) to the large wooden building at the top of the hill, entering it they discover it to have once been a place of worship, now defiled by foul necromancy, corpses lie scattered about while some evil creature conducts any unholy service which is animating the dead, interestingly the group do not assume that the creature at the altar is the witch they seek, and cautiously fan out into the church, while Thoric does something foolish.
Having positioned himself on a balcony, using invisibility to undead to get there, he asks "Instead of attempting to turn the undead, i want to attempt to control them, can i do that?" I explained that while it was theoretically possible for him to do that it would be an evil act, which could lead to a powers check, and possibly earn the displeasure of his god "I get that but Kagyar probably would understand", so I allowed it. He made his control undead roll on the wight that was conducting the ritual, he also succeeded (just) with his powers check. The wight turned to obey him,
"Where is the necromancer?" Thoric demanded of it
Slowly the wight raised it's arm and pointed straight at Thoric!
"Well...obviously me, but i meant a different necromancer, they anywhere about?"
At this point Thoric was raked across the back by the claws of the witch Radaga, who had been directly behind him, he lost a level, and the battle was on!
Thorics control of the undead broken the witch retreated into the church setting her minions upon the group as she went, the battle raged on, room after room, the group discovered an elven warrior who told them that the one to strike the witch down must wear the crown for the curse to be broken, bravely Kagarot put on the crown and they entered into the final battle with the hag.
The group allowed Kagarot to engage with the witch while they threw spells of assistance from the side lines and kept what minions were left occupied, the combat was not long but it was fierce Kagarot lost two levels before he was able to strike her down, as she died the crown rose into the air and an elf appeared to tell the group that thanks to them he was free and a great evil had been defeated, the crown crumbled to dust and the mists swelled around them depositing them some small distance from Landfall their original destination, thus ended the Knights of the Golden Dragons excursion to Ravenloft.
Thoric, in particular, was moved by their return to Mystara, he fell on his knees kissed the ground, and I am quoting directly,
"I will never perform another evil act in my entire life!!!"
Foolish Thoric, that sounded awfully like a challenge
The group it seemed had arrived just in time to meet the Oceansend forces as they prepared to engage with the forces of the Heldannic Knights in the fields outside the city of Landfall, the first city of the Alphatian Empire neglected by founder and conqueror alike looked a forlorn sight in the mornings rain, the few wizards towers that still stood barely contained the magic left to keep them standing, most of them propped up by practical if unattractive Thyatian style scaffolding, if ever there was a metaphor for Landfall...
The Heldannic Knights, the blacks and whites of their tabards and pennants turned browns and greys by the mud and the rain, had barely started the siege proper before their scouts had warned them of the approach of troops, but in that strange unnatural mist that had brought our heroes to the battle the Oceansend troops had advanced far closer than the knights were prepared for and as the mist lifted the besieging troops now found themselves surrounded.
The now familiar large Heldannic Knight in his black armour and deaths head helm rallied his troops, ordering some to defend against the city while turning the remainder to face the relieving forces.
The scaffolding in the city was suddenly alive with archers as arrows began to rain on the Heldannic army, even as they charged at the Oceansend forces they were cut down by bolts to the back, enraged the Death Knight lifted his right fist in the air and took to the air, an eldritch light surrounding his fist.
Kagaraot took one look at him and said,
"I'm going after that one"
A fly spell later and he was in the air closing quickly to do battle with the black clad warrior
The rest of the group piled into the main battle, seeking to drive a wedge to the gates and allow the forces within the city to sally forth.
The knights and their troops defended their siege equipment savagely, Fallon D'Azrael's elemental bow flashed fire amongst the wooden towers and catapults which were soon ablaze, Thoric used his ring of the ram to burst open the enemy barricades, Timbrull's trident of storms flashed lightning and thunderclaps among the enemy troops, and Bob called for the city troops to follow her/him to victory and freedom, inspiring stuff
Above the battle a dual of sword and spell raged, Kagarot's elven long sword blessed in the waters of the pearl and his wizardly arts, versus the nameless Death Knight's bastard sword (one-handed, the other hand is keeping him aloft, remember?) and his clerical spells, Kagarot let fly with fireballs and magic missiles, slashed and parried with his sword all as they circled each other in the air.
With their commander engaged and distracted the otherwise orderly troops of the Heldannic Knights began to fall apart even before Kagarot finally laid the death blow and the knight fell from the air.
The troops from the city mopped up the survivors, taking prisoners where surrender was given, a with a hurrah that filled the streets of Landfall, our heroes were welcomed in to the city as liberators, in city square they were met by Al "Big Al" Alto Guildmaster of the Teamsters and Dockworkers Guild and Chairman of the Board as the newly formed city council was called.
"What of the Governor of Landfall, Lernal the Swill?"
"He didn't make it."
"A great loss to the community, but hey, what are you gonna do?"
"We send greetings from our King"
"Never mind all that you guys were great today great!" pointing to Kagarot "and you...you...YOU! up in the air with that thing and then that thing with the thing and Oh! bada-bing bada boom, I want you all to meet a friend of ours"
Big Al gestured to a human, obviously a wizard, Alphatian by the look of him, dressed in sky blue robes stroking what was probably his familiar, a fox. Al continued,
"This is the great diviner Rupert of Murdoch and he has a proposition for you."
After some brief discussion of the age of the fox, Rupert revealed that he had developed a new spell, without boring them with the technical details it was essentially a combination of clairvoyance and clairaudience that could be cued to follow an individual around for a prolonged period of time, the sounds and images from this spell could be seen and heard by users of crystal balls or thru specially prepared pools of water, he had recently purchased the old gladiatorial arenas both here in Landfall and back home in Oceansend and he was planning to flood them in order to put on shows for the public, but what he needed were stars and he was looking at them
He went on to explain that the battle they had just fought in had already been broadcast across the Known World and beyond as a test for his new system, and even now there were wizards as far apart as Glantri and Alphatia who knew their name. Thoric "Redhand" seemed taken aback by this, almost afraid, but no-one noticed. Rupert wished to make the arrangement permanent in return for allowing him to cast the spell on each of them, they would receive a monthly wage, personal access to him as a wizardly advisor/mentor/trainer/someone to cast identify, plus the occasional quest, the group agreed after being reassured that the spells could be removed with a simple disspell magic, needless to say the group took the cash, and promptly forgot that they were being followed by invisible constructs which broadcast their every action to the world, also needless to say that no one in the group ever thought it was worth "wasting" a spell to disspell the flying disembodied eye/ear thing for any length of time, oh how they would wish that they had....
So while in Landfall they decided to peruse the local market for items of interest, as Landfall was essentially being run by the Guild, the market there was a little more exotic than in other cities, Thoric in particular was interested in buying some magical items so i threw a few little bits n pieces his way, first was a ring of invisibility which he adored and purchased immediately ( to this day ten years later, Thoric's player still hopes that that ring was in fact a ring of delusion and that everything that happened after he slipped it on for the first time, and ran away giggling, was merely a product of the rings curse, and that one day Timbrull will shake Thoric awake and say "Man we had a struggle getting that ring off you...why are you hugging me, stop crying, it's ok everythings fine now") the second item was a book entitled "Necrology for Priests" bound in human skin it contained recipes for the preparation of cadavers prior to animation to create any corporeal undead below vampire, what particularly interested Thoric however was the Priestly Find Familiar spell that was at the back of the book, it was written in Auld Dwarven (Thoric was actually pleased, the fool!) and needed a few items, the forelegs of a stirge, the wings of a bat, the skull of a rat, the tail of a scorpion, two pints of the casters blood nothing much, I felt a little guilty about how excited Thoric was getting over the possibility of obtaining a familiar and said
"It is bound in human skin..."
"I'm a dwarf, so not bothered"
OK don't say I didn't warn you
He had enough sense not to cast the spell in front of the others, but as soon as he was alone he gathered the items and performed the ritual, true to the spell the dwarf's blood boiled and foamed as it dripped on the bones, gradually forming flesh, until the little creature flapped to life.
"I shall call you Hwyrkur" said Thoric
"A fine name Master." the imp replied
"Look the others in the group might not understand..."
"Say no more Master, I shall remain invisible so no-one will know"
"Good Hwyrkur, we're going to be great friends..."
Remember that oath to never commit an evil act again? How's that working out for you?
Was I too harsh? it gets worse
Several levels were lost due to undead attack while the group were in Ravenloft, so the group decided to go in search of a priest capable of casting restoration, the nearest priest of a high enough level was in Alfheim Town so the group travelled there (I seem to remember them teleporting there but i could be wrong) It was during the process of restoration that Thoric broke down and revealed his shameful secret.
Years before back home in Rockhome, Thoric had been a very important man, and a much higher level, much higher. He had been a member of the Everast Clan, the royal family, a cousin to the king, and commander in the field of the entire dwarven army, next to the king he had been the most powerful dwarf in Rockhome, some said more powerful as he held the loyalty of the troops, many of whom were from clans that otherwise did not favour their Everast rulers. He had led a large expeditionary force into the mountains of Glantri to "bloody the noses of the Wizard-Princes" They attacked a wizards tower, soon gaining entry, the army overran the lower levels, then the horror began, for the dwarven army was in Boldavia and the wizard they faced was Morphail Gorevitch-Wozlany with his undead horde. Thoric had been unprepared for the necromancer's power and saw his army torn apart by it's own dead, many were captured, including Thoric, who could only watch as his comrades died, he himself drained to 0-level but kept alive, and imprisoned he remained until restoration would be of no use, at which point the vampire freed him, to tell his tale to the dwarves so they would know not to trifle with Glantri again.
Broken and sobbing Thoric returned to Rockhome, the only survivor of a massacre, he was accused of cowardice, only one who had fled could have survived, he was stripped of his rank, stripped of his career, thrown out of his clan, he was a dwarf without honour, without a name, his true name was Thoric son of Gloric but he had taken the name of an old friend when he left Rockhome, in the hopes that he could at least bring some glory to that name.
He had sworn to regain his honour, regain a name
And also now that he had seen one he had sworn to get himself an elven pony
"Can I get a pony? Please, please,please..."
As luck would have it Bob Dhu was also looking to get a steed, she was a maiden, pure and good, she was in the wood so i gave her the chance to acquire a unicorn, after explaining to the group that she was actually a girl, and the group telling her that they already knew, scouts were hired, and word soon reached her of a small herd of unicorns, hopefully one would imprint upon her, she consulted some elven sages, performed the cleansing rituals of her own faith and also those of Ilsundal and Mealiden the immortals of the elves in whose forests the unicorns dwelt, removed her weapons and armour and went into the forest alone, while the group stayed with the elven sages eating a simple meal, who nobody but the elves enjoyed.
Not half an hour after Bob had left on her quest a runner from a nearby elven settlement arrived clearly distressed, the village was under attack it seemed by a wild monster from the depths of the forest (vague feeling it was a manticore, not sure), Thoric leapt into action
"Elves in trouble! we must help at once!"
Kagarot and Fallon exchanged a look that said "when did the dwarf start giving a damn about elves and chased after, although Thoric's boots of striding made it difficult to keep up. In fact Thoric reached the battle several rounds before everyone else and started in with his axe immediately shouting
"Get the elf children to safety, I shall protect you!"
What ever the beast they were fighting was it was fierce, but Thoric fought more fiercely the rest of the group lending aid where they could, soon the beast was dead and the elves began to return to their village, rejoicing that the brave dwarf had come to their rescue, Elffriend they called him and lifted him aloft, after quickly sculpting a statue of himself, to rapturous applause he asked the crowd to quieten down,
"Now then," he said "about my elven pony..."
And so it was the the Knights of the Golden Dragon returned to Oceansend, not only with a unicorn, but also with an elven pony.
Now do you remember the conversation that Kagarot had with Maximillian regarding his heritage? Maximillian did, he had been testing the blood that the half-elf had given him and he could confirm that Kagarot was indeed the son of the King of Oceansend and an elf of unknown type, probably clan Chossum, if recognized he would become a Prince and second in line to the throne, after his younger brother Thrain, Kagarot was overjoyed he felt sure that his victories in the field would secure him recognition. Timbrull too was to be rewarded with a new ship and the title Admiral, he set to work on developing a new form of vessel which he called "a Gryphon Carrier", new ranks would be handed out to all the group at a ceremony.
That must wait however, for on the eve of the battle at Landfall, dozens of murders had been committed, the following night dozens more, the city soon discovered itself under attack by vampires. Realizing that the nest of semi-dormant vampires that they had destroyed was but one cell in a wider network the group immediately set to to destroy the vampire plague, well i say immediately, they did some other things first, but they hadn't long come back from Ravenloft, a few dozen fledgling vampires weren't going to be a problem were they?
Given the number of vampires they were facing the group decided to hunt by night, a curfew was in force so hungry vampires were limited in their choices. Using volunteers from the city guard as tethered goats, this method proved quite effective at first, they killed over ten vamps in the first two nights (Thoric however had developed an unhealthy habit of snorting the dusty remains). The numbers dropped off steadily as the week progressed and the group was no closer to finding the source of the plague. At the end of the week, as the group dispatched the first vampire they had seen in days, a voice spoke from the shadows,
"I've been watching you all week and it's clear to me that you don't have a clue what you're doing"
They whirled to face empty air
"Oh you've had some success dusting new-borns but if you came across a real vampire at the height of his powers...well you'd be dead, despite your gruesome little trophies"
The voice of course referred to the vampire teeth necklaces that the group had taken to wearing
"Reveal yourself!" cried Timbrull
"Uhm...no, but I will reveal the location of the master vampires' lair and their plan to destroy the city"
"Good, tomorrow I will come find you a lead you to the lair, bring equipment for vampire destruction and sewer exploration."
"Why not tonight?"
"You are a vampire, then?"
"Indeed but before that I was a patriot who believed in this city and I do not intend to let it fall, now goodnight"
"Wait, who are you?"
"My name is Nigel Shadowborn"
The group decided to trust Nigel and met at the arranged point after first having purchased some specialist supplies, he led them into the depths of the sewers, he was an accomplished magic-user as well as a vampire, and somehow he had not been drawn into the master vampires control, though he could not take action against them directly. He cast invisibility to undead on the party and they began their work.
Soon they came to a large chamber, coffins were strewn about the place in great numbers and vampires darted to and fro, but the groups focus was drawn to two areas first was a large altar where a vampire wearing the black armor of a Death's Head Knight was driving what appeared to be a magical stake with a diamond in the pommel into the chest of a vampire who immediately turned to dust, while the group looked on amazed but undetected, the vampire detached the diamond from the stake and handed it to a second knight/vampire who took it to the second strange thing in the cavern. As large as a small building and covered with strange runes seemingly etched in gold a geodesic dome with diamonds placed at strategic points with space for many more.
Nigel Shadowborn explained that the Master vampire was draining the souls from the vampires via the magic stake and storing them in the diamonds, the diamonds were then placed on the dome which would, when enough stones had been placed to power it open a brief but massive gate to the plane of Negative Energy (OK not setting correct I understand but I was using mostly 2nd ed rules by this point) which would kill and then make undead of all the inhabitants of the city, the master vampire being the most powerful undead in the city then rule over it in the name of the Heldannic Knights, the great nations, Thyatis, Alphatia they would quake with the terror of this weapon and quickly acquiesce to any territorial demands the Knights made, a terrifying plan, how would our heroes face it?