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Beginner campaign in Darkon (possibly one-shot) 
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Evil Genius
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Post Re: Beginner campaign in Darkon (possibly one-shot)
Darkon Campaign: The Agency


I'm just going to post the continuation campaign here, for simplicity's sake. Spoiler-tagged for easy readability through collapsible menus, rather than a massive wall of text.

Campaign plot arc:
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  • Adventurers serve l'Agence d'Affaires ("the Agency"), an organization in Darkon. The Agency will serve as their "mission assigner" structure. The adventurers have little choice, since three of them are missing their memories and the fourth is the Agency employee responsible for the other three.
  • The PCs who were recovered from outside of Darkon are missing their memories and all bear scars of torture at the hands of an unknown Falkovnian tormentor. The investigation into their lost histories is one plot arc, culminating in their confrontation against their tormentor.
  • The Agency is embroiled in border espionage against the Falkovnians, who are massing for their first invasion in decades. The Falkovnians have a dangerously efficient new head of intelligence, and he is coordinating a tightly-controlled partial invasion of Darkon. The invasion's main aim will be to discredit the Eternal Order, install pro-Falkovnian Darkonians in cities, and turn Darkonian public opinion against Azalin. The PCs can aid Darkonian nobles, Eternal Order, and the Kargat to disrupt the invasion and restore public confidence in the rulership.
  • The Agency's leadership grows fragmented as tensions rise from without and within. The PCs will have to pick a faction and weather the political storms. If things get really bad, they'll have to either leave the Agency or rebuild it. (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) If they can rebuild the Agency, and if they can figure out their pasts under the Falkovnian regime, they may have a chance to strike back at the Falkovnian intelligence leadership. (Smiley's People)
  • Even after the Falkovnian expulsion, Darkon's own leadership faces several internal projects with potentially dire consequences. The projects will happen in three stages: material, computational, and dimensional. This will derive in part from the Grand Conjunction adventures as well as the Grim Harvest adventures.
  • This campaign is intended to challenge conventional concepts of "good" and "evil", and to encourage the PCs to focus instead on motives, causes, and consequences. Divine, cosmic, or karmic retribution is a futile hope - it is the actions of individuals that move the world. The "villains" are also intended to be a deeply ambiguous group of people - Drakov's methods are roundly condemned, but as the campaign progresses, it is my intent to raise the awkward question "what if he was right all along?"


Players: I have the same three players who played as San, Remke, and Azederac above - but they have all generated new "Mindlost" (i.e. Darkon-amnesiac) characters to play as. A fourth player (an experienced GURPS player who has played in non-Ravenloft campaigns with me before) has also joined, and he's playing as a non-amnesiac Darkonian. Their PCs are:
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  • "Alcibiades": True name unknown - Mindlost. Falkovnian ranking officer, recently recovered from the border and held in debriefing in Darkon. Suspected in police work, which explains why the torturers seemed to have left his physical torture relatively light - he still wakes up with joint pains in a contorted position, as though he's been forced to sleep in a box too small for his frame for long periods of time. Has flashbacks of long interrogation spells. Keen minded investigator, good at figuring out what people are trying to hide - especially in lower-class locales. Believes in the economical use of force, making him a relatively humane Falkovnian officer by comparison. Not a huge combat build, but decent enough with a sword. (Note: Falkovnians in this campaign are branded with a hawk's head symbol at age 10, on a shoulder determined by their gender.)
  • Nadezhda ("Nadia"): Full name unknown - Mindlost. Half-Vistani woman with a hostile and distrusting nature. Bears significant marks of physical abuse from her time in Falkovnia (nails still growing back, wrists and ankles routinely ache). Believes herself to be in grave danger from Vistani agents, but cannot remember from whom or why. Specializes in thrown weapons, with a practiced three-knife-burst attack to get herself out of bad situations. Knows a few naturalistic Vistani encantations (Ritual magic structure), which are cast at Normal Mana levels, but which degrade at -1 per day of non-travel (Static Burn).
  • "Lyra": Full name unknown - Mindlost. Foreign woman with severe behavioral problems, approaching idiot savant levels. Fails to grasp dangerous situations, deals with obstacles with a misplaced childlike optimism. Casts arcane spells (usually at -5 for Low Mana) with a focus on mind-altering spells and confusion magic. Speaks to an invisible friend "Barbara" or "Barbary" (actually her snake familiar). Suffered the worst torture at Falkovnian hands - she has occasional crippling headaches, bleeding gums, and joint agony.
  • Alen Vaughan: Darkonian native (as far as anybody can tell) and Agency employee. Detailed to Nartok Keep, under nominal command of Baron Eduard Curwen, but reporting to Captain Vasily Szekler, another Agency operative. Mission profile initially is to run counterintelligence ops at the Falkovnian border, and to assist in retrievals of "knowledge resources personnel" (i.e. refugees with inside knowledge of Falkovnia). A diplomatic speaker, he is comfortable among the powerful folk of Darkon. Secretly plies a secondary profession in "personnel redistribution" (i.e. kidnapping and assassination): he possesses a hidden sword-cane and a cigar-case blowgun. The Agency provides him covertly with paralytics and toxins.


NPC list (work in progress, listed first by location, then in order of appearance)
Falkovnia:
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  • Königführer Vlad Drakov: ruler of Falkovnia, a strict totalitarian military dictatorship. Citizens of Darkon and other neighboring lands (Nortenmark, Maresotes, Cosabel, and Praquadie) despise him for his history of military invasions; in those nations he has a reputation as a monstrous brute.
  • Falkführer Vigo Drakov: head of the Kerkerministerium (prison ministry), this is the most unpredictable and violent of the Drakov sons. Although the rest of the Drakov sons run their own nepotistic arms of government, to varying degrees of competence, Vigo Drakov is so depraved that it's widely rumored his placement with the prison ministry was effected to keep him relatively far from the public eye. Vlad Drakov occasionally taps him for useful gladiatorial candidates, so the various Erlösunghäuser ("redemption houses") prison camps help to keep Vigo in some form of political relevance. He visits Erlösunghaus 189 to check up on his protegé, Beredostich, and any promising candidates he may have.
  • Mikhail Drakov, Mircea Drakov, Vlad Drakov the Younger: sons of the Königführer Vlad Drakov. Highly-placed leaders in the Falkovnian leadership apparatus.
  • Kara Drakov: one of the few publicly known daughters of Vlad Drakov. Rarer still, holds a high rank in the Falkovnian army.
  • Hauptmann Lars Beredostich: Internment camp warden at Erlösunghaus 189, located some 10 miles south of the Darkonian border. Personally responsible for Mindlost PCs' torture, seen mostly through flashbacks and nightmares. An extremely cruel and sadistic warden to the captives, he nonetheless is a loyal (and some might say, caring) colleague to "true Falkovnians", even to his subordinates. His deceased father, Oberst Jürgen Beredostich, was a well-respected colonel in the Falkovnian army, adding to his lower-ranking son's political frustrations.
  • Falknerin Beate Arnitz: promising female falcon trainer, involved in developing new battleground tactics for preybirds. Her career stalls after she makes political enemies, and she is reassigned to the sinecure post at Erlösunghaus 189 under Beredostich. He tries to help her rehabilitate her career, with only limited success.
  • Klaus Abendschwur: personal adjutant to Beredostich.
  • Bukcsa: an ogre mage - a large, intelligent, cruel inhuman, captured by the Falkovnians and interned in Erlösunghaus 189 for gladiatorial purposes. Escapes into the wild with the grudging aid of Alcibiades and Gondegal. Hates all humans, but hates Beredostich and Vigo Drakov in particular. Alcibiades helps him escape by severing one of his hands; he returns to menace Beredostich with extremely brutality.
  • The Thirteenth Directorate (der dreizehnte Direktorium): Falkovnian intelligence organization and subsection of the Nachrichtendienst (intelligence ministry). Has some power of intercession over Beredostich, regarding prisoner treatment.
  • The Deliverers: rebel group operating along the Darkonian-Falkovnian border. Known collaborators with Sir Gondegal.
  • Aarunder and Javethro: cleric of Ezra and ranger, respectively. Work for the Deliverers, but occasionally ally with the Agency to smuggle Falkovnians into Darkon.
  • Sir Gondegal: an outworlder and rebel leader of a low-level insurrection against Drakov.


Il Aluk:
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  • Darkonius Rex: Nominal ruler of Darkon. A distant figure and reticent patron of the Thaumatorium in Il Aluk, whose licensed Thaumatorium wizards sometimes refer to him as Azalin, i.e. "Wizard Lord".
  • Baron Karl Ranherdt: Ruler of Il Aluk. Passes legislation in an attempt to control trade in addictive drugs in the capital city, with mixed results. Apparently a friend of the Agency, below.
  • L'Agence d'Affaires ("The Agency"): nominally a trade guild spread across several domains. The PCs are picked up at the border by a semi-philanthropic, semi-pragmatic drive by the Agency to rescue amnesiac refugees and secure cheap labor. Founded by Renard Landert, deceased husband of the current owner, Shayla Nin.
  • Vesildur Ermoroud: Thaumatorium mage and Agency member. Provides magical equipment for the Agency, and a minor link to royal connections.
  • Leadger Wynn: Mysterious eccentric living below the botanical gardens in Il Aluk. Provides toxins, potions, and herbal concoctions to the Agency. Communicates only through written notes.
  • Kellsin Cotter: Agency officer. Sometimes known as its thief requisitions expert. Not above a bit of illegal activity, up to and including smashing a drug ring and taking it over for himself.
  • Rafiq al-Bahrani: Agency officer. In charge of shipping goods.
  • Ranu Malingahan: Agency officer. In charge of ties to churches.
  • Byron May: lutist, conductor, and composer at the Regina Mirabilis Music Hall. Also rumored to be something of an expert in astrology. Strong physical resemblance to Isaac Newton.
  • Daverty: dock worker, drug addict. Brother to an unseen sister, Casey.
  • Giren Shawmercer: foreman of a dockside construction site.
  • Bogdan Tireš: Vistani darkling outcast with a very specific thing for Nadia.
  • The House of Auspicious Meetings: famous Il Aluk courtesan's quarters. Trademarked by the phrase "What is the keenest pleasure known to the mind?"
  • Giancarlo Gallietti: chemist working at The Preacher's Pestle apothecary shop.
  • Thesseldarmenias: Ellyll cult leader of the Waveshapers.
  • Breshgard: Waveshaper captain.
  • Zaskin Pheldras: Kargat operative managing the Waveshapers.
  • Walter: water elemental.


Rivalis:
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  • Shayla Nin: Head of the Agency. Lives at Fotherings Estate, a mansion at the outskirts of Rivalis, a day's ride west of Il Aluk and roughly the same distance north of Nartok Keep. Her bodyguard is a tall, solidly-built, dark-skinned man named Massisi.


Nartok Keep:
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  • Vasily Szekler: Captain in the Darkonian Army, assigned to Nartok Keep permanently. Resembles Tom Selleck. Agency member. Cabinet member.
  • General Burkhart Volker: Darkonian Army head. Dignitary in Nartok Keep, reassigned there in recent months in preparation for possible Falkovnian hostilities. Passng resemblance to William Hurt, with a beard. Cabinet member.
  • Captain of the Guard Sinclair Piergate. Civilian police chief in Nartok Keep. Resembles a younger Al Pacino, with a moustache. Cabinet member.
  • Baron Eduard Curwen: Baron of Nartok Keep. Resembles Kevin Spacey. Cabinet member.
  • Calbie: A very large woman quartermaster and armourer in Nartok Keep.
  • Ardellia Borlest: Violinist and composer in the Fiddler's Finger pub, one of the (few) night spots in the fortified city. Former Agency member, occasionally does them a favor.
  • Percival Sedgewick: bard friend to Ardellia Borlest. Won a bet against her and forced her to write a dubious song as a forfeit, which was almost immediately censored by Church and Baron. Also accompanied: Vesper Trill, Maryam Kevat, Rue Chatelier.
  • Pap, Smee, and Gevinn Narfeblis: father and two sons comprising a company of gnome cargo haulers.
  • Dedrick Lacon: A transcriber, noting down the impromptu performances at Fiddler's Finger.
  • Gladwyn Voss: Pub owner, runs the Axe 'n' Ale. Uses dubious employment practices to exploit Mindlost and Mindled workers.
  • Lt. Sierby: Darkonian officer.
  • Ofc. Laslo: personal attendant to Vasily Szekler.
  • Colonel Gilbresh: border commander, reports to General Volker.
  • Khalid: Vesildur Ermoroud's man in Nartok. Serves the Thaumatorium but also has dealings with the Baron and his Keep staff.
  • Khabakov: Nartok guard officer.
  • Archimandrite Paglinescu: Eternal Order temple leader.
  • Colonel Leopold Neiß: Free City administrator.
  • Marta: Alen's housekeeper.


Velnarest:
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  • Lord Szelenaz Vorjek: Faded nobleman, nominal administrator of Velnarest town, near border.
  • Marcus Redralen: Arriviste challenger to Vorjek's authority.
  • Shay Stearns: firebrand, leads Velnarest's nominal "constabulary" (young hoodlums). Later relocates to Nartok.
  • Lukas Nardev: deceased Eternal Order priest. Casts a long shadow, even in death.
  • Damin Ludgate: Nominal police presence in Velnarest. Sent there by Nartok and Vasily Szekler to investigate the murder of an Eternal Order priest, Lukas Nardev.
  • Vierpalt ("Slick stone" in dwarvish): dwarven proprietor of Velnarest's main tavern. Prefers the term "zverg".
  • Bec de Corbin ("The Crow's Beak"): rival guild and bandit group, not above stealing from the Agency. Notable members include Dale "Innit" Reeve (bandit leader), Molly (lady of negotiable virtue), and Krager Braddock (lieutenant). Dale Reeve has a troubled past with Beredostich.
  • Okun: farmer on the outlying lands to Nartok.
  • Borji Weigh: Blacksmith. Kind to children and Lost Ones.
  • Leila: Short-haired woman, chain smoker, wearer of dark clothes and percher in branches. Knows where to get the really good stuff.


Elviran Vistani family:
A hapless family of Vistani facing prosecution from their own relatives, their situation is so dire they actually fled into Falkovnia.
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  • Elvira: raunie of the Elviran family line, maternal aunt of Hyskosa.
  • Hyskosa: Dukkar and soothsayer of the Elviran family line. His portents and predictions are unsparingly dire, and this has made him several enemies in other Vistani tribes. Although he is in his late thirties, he seems much older and is in frail health.
  • Soldanni: Hyskosa's brother. Mid thirties, in much stronger physical condition. Not a seer, but canny and knows his outdoorsman skills.
  • Snezhana: Elvira's daughter. Taciturn blonde in her late twenties. Dotes on Beshaley.
  • Tsuritsa: Elvira's daughter. Careworn dark-complexioned woman in her late thirties. Takes care of her mother.
  • Dulcimae: Hyskosa's sister. Beautiful dark-complexioned woman in her early twenties. Her pending marriage to another Vistani was what triggered their expulsion and exodus - Hyskosa refused to give his blessing, foreseeing tragedy if she married her promised. This caused an outcry at the festivities, and Hyskosa was stabbed, near-fatally, in the melee.
  • Beshaley: Snezhana's son, Elvira's grandson. In his early teens, but already saddled with the cares of the man of the family. He is harsh-tongued and resentful, speaking boastfully and criticizing those around him, especially berating the female members of his family. In reality he is devoted to his family and terrified of his responsibility for their wellbeing, knowing his own inexperience and age.


Neufurchtenburg, Nortenmark:
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  • René Bois-Gilbert: restauranteur and barkeep. Has to keep the Falkovnians happy in his cafe. Possibly while fighting off the attentions of three of his comely serving girls and the clueless suspicions of his wife.
  • Klaus Schönberg: Doctor of Chemistry (with a specialty in Metallurgy) at the Gymnasium Neufurchtenburg. Married to Klara.


The name list above is drawn from NPCs and organizations encountered through to the session dated 2014.02.04, and will be subject to revision as new characters arise and old characters are clarified.

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Last edited by HuManBing on Tue Feb 04, 2014 11:24 pm, edited 11 times in total.



Thu Mar 14, 2013 6:29 pm
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Post Re: Beginner campaign in Darkon (possibly one-shot)
Introductions: Nartok Keep and the village of Velnarest 2013.03.09

Meeting up and kitting out
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The four PCs were introduced to each other - three Mindlost and one native Darkonian. The three Mindlost PCs had no real knowledge of their pasts, and only had assumed names (Alcibiades, Nadezhda, and Lyra). Their guide and supervisor, Alen, is a full-time employee of the Agency, which has saved the three of them from the borders.

The Agency had them come in for briefing: the PCs have incurred significant debts to the Agency, which will require that they pay off with labor and their expertise. The Agency stressed that many other organizations operating along the border would resort to prostitution and slavery, and the Agency instead has a structured plan to allow their refugees to "pay off" their involuntary succour. They outlined the debt (roughly six months' wages for a common laborer) and they outlined the mission structures (roughly five of which would see them in the clear and paid off). Alen, the full-time employee, was assigned as their caretaker and guide.

The PCs got to report in to quartermaster Calbie, a very large woman who kept the armoury at Nartok Keep. Alen had requested an intricate assassination aid nicknamed "the hand of death" - it was a glove for his off-hand where the fingertips came off to reveal pads which could be dipped into poisons. Drawing a dart with the glove would poison it automatically. Additionally, the Agency's herbalist (a reclusive individual named Leadger Wynn, operating out from underneath the Il Aluk botanical gardens) had provided him with a few vials of paralytics and lethal poisons.


Mission parameters and meeting the bard
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The first mission was a callback to the Velnarest one-shot adventure (albeit this time with different characters): the mines in Velnarest have reported iron deposits, and Nartok Keep is interested in bringing back a sample to see if it's forge-grade stuff. The PCs will be required to travel to Velnarest, speak with the local landowner Lord Vorjek, and bring back a shipment of the ore. They also had to rendezvous with the Temple of the Eternal Order and Damin Ludgate, a Nartok Keep investigator who was heading the investigation into the Temple priest's unusual death. The PCs had a book to return to Nartok Keep so the Thaumatorium mages in Il Aluk could inspect it. The PCs have been assigned the Narfeblis gnome family, Papa ("Pap") Narfeblis, Smeerven ("Smee") Narfeblis, and Gevinn Narfeblis. They bring four hefty ox-carts, each with lockable axles to ensure as much as possible that the shipment of ore arrives safely. The PCs are to run escort missions.

The plan is to set out at first light (no sane Darkonian citizen ever stays out after dark) and ride the three hours to Velnarest, then hitch up the ore in the carts and turn straight around. The night before, the PCs spend time at the biggest pub and soldiers' fraternizing place, the Fiddler's Finger pub. Headlining musician is Ardellia Borlest, a talented singer and violinist, and daughter of the eponymous Fiddler who founded the tavern. The PCs joined in with the singing and wassailing, and a few Darkonian guardsmen tried to buy drinks for Nadia (who was too taciturn to accept) and Lyra (who was too clueless to recognize flirting when she saw it). The PCs met the Narfeblis gnome family and made contacts with them. Additionally, they saw a keen-eyed scribe, Dedrick, scribbling down as much of the impromptu musical performances as he could. Most of the musicians paid him little heed, but Ardellia Borlest actually made a point to come down from the stage and go through the transcriptions with him, helpfully pointing out mistakes and correcting the script.

One fun game had the bar customers adding lines to a song, passing from one to the next: (taken from "Gin Soaked Boy" by Divine Comedy)

"I'm the darkness in the light (ba-ba, ba-ba bada ba) [change singer]
I'm the leftness in the right (ba-ba, ba-ba bada ba) [change singer]
I'm the rightness in the wrong (ba-ba, ba-ba bada ba) [change]
I'm the shortness in the long (ba-ba, ba-ba bada ba)"

And so forth.


To Velnarest, meeting the Shay bandits
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In the morning, the PCs set out for Velnarest with the gnomes. Lyra, upon hearing that somebody had to watch the rear, guilelessly turned herself around in her saddle so she was "watching the rear". The rest of the party wondered at this. A heavy mist rolled in from the southeast (the distant Shadow Rift was a constant source of roiling mists and vapors). After a few hours, they pulled up as four mounted silhouettes came out of the mist ahead of them. It was the Shay bandits - Velnarest's youths and occasional waylayers, highwaymen, and self-appointed constabulary.

A tense conversation followed, with the leader, Shay Stearns, demanding to see what was in the cart shipment. The PCs successfully talked their way out of it, after a not-so-subtle display of weaponry, and the Shay bandits let them pass. As they parted ways, Shay told them that the death of the Temple's priest, Lukas Nardev, had caused many of the villagers to flee the village and try their luck in the towns and cities. (Nardev was actually killed by the players' earlier PCs in the one-shot adventure - instead of hitting them with a powers check or anything else similarly heavy-handed, I decided to just let the negative effects of that action play out organically. The villagers are scared and aimless without a spiritual guide, and now the constabulary is after the old PCs.)


Velnarest, post-Lukas Nardev
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Upon arriving at Velnarest, the PCs checked in with Vierpalt's Tavern. They went up to the Temple to find Damin Ludgate there, and he provided them with a large chest which contained the Dangerous Book (all the PCs left it alone, but Lyra was intrigued). He also gave them a small box with one of the fingers of the dead priest, for testing (on suspicion of poisoning). The rest of Lukas Nardev's body had been buried with full Temple honors in the sanctified Order graveyard on the grounds.

At the mines, Lord Vorjek and Marcus Redralen, rivals for control of the village, were at an impasse. Vorjek wanted to honor his contract and mine the iron ore, but the work is difficult and the seams are elusive. Redralen had found copper seams instead, which were more accessible and more lucrative - he was willing to ignore the contract with Nartok Keep and go ahead and mine the copper immediately for sale to purchasers he'd already lined up in Il Aluk, Martira Bay, and Nova Vaasa. The PCs got to see the "old money" in the village trying to hold onto its promises and contracts, whereas the "new money" was already chasing up the next profit. Alen managed to defuse the situation by separately telling each party to write him a letter of explanation to the Keep, which he would take to Baron Eduard Curwen who would sort it out. The two letters pretty much cancelled each other out, and the Redralen work crew finished a handsome lode of iron ore.

The party rested overnight, at which point somebody broke into the stables at Vierpalt's and took the chest. Alen asked around in the morning and found out where the Shay bandits made camp near Kheltris' heath (where Jean-Pierre and Tervinost were laid to rest). He went up there with his allies and spoke to some of the boys, telling them that they were missing a chest with a book inside, and if somebody can find it, there would be a reward.

Presently, as he knew it would, the book returned in the hands of the Shay boys who claimed a reward.


Returning to Nartok, waylaid
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On the way back to Nartok the second day, the party was waylaid by bandits from both sides of the road, loosing arrows at their horses and carts. Nadia and Alen took to the forest on foot, and managed to bring down two enemy archers before fleeing. The gnomes took a few minutes to calm their injured horses and to turn the carts around. Meanwhile, in the confusion, Lyra managed to get the book's chest and obey its orders, casting a spell she did not know to free the book. The book opened itself to a page with a forbidden spell and bade her to cast it. Lyra, eyes sparkling, did as she was told. The party raced to try to stop her, but couldn't quite get there in time before she mouthed the final words and made the final gestures.

Luckily for everybody involved (except for Lyra, perhaps), the spell fizzled. She didn't have enough mana in the surroundings to cast it normally, and the weakness of the magic around her forced the spell to fail. The rest of the group tied her up and threw the spell book back into the chest, locking it. (And marvelling at how she managed to somehow unlock the chest with no key.) They tried not to think of what horrendous dark magicks she narrowly missed casting.

(It was a spell called "Ecstasy". Yes, I'm one of those GMs.)

In the rush, Nadia took an arrow full in the back, and had to be carried from the road and thrown into the cart. The game session ended with them making their way to a parallel road track and then begging for an evening's rest at a remote farmstead.

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Last edited by HuManBing on Wed Apr 17, 2013 8:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Thu Mar 28, 2013 8:16 pm
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Post Re: Beginner campaign in Darkon (possibly one-shot)
Good stuff! Not much to say at this point, but I'm reading, so keep writing!

I'm curious to see how your attempt at removing objective morality meshes with the idea of "a book of dark magics." In a non-moral world, isn't magic just magic?

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Mon Apr 01, 2013 3:48 pm
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Post Re: Beginner campaign in Darkon (possibly one-shot)
^To Qoute Shakespeare

Nothing is good or evil, but thinking makes it so!

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Mon Apr 01, 2013 6:26 pm
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Post Re: Beginner campaign in Darkon (possibly one-shot)
Gonzoron of the FoS wrote:
I'm curious to see how your attempt at removing objective morality meshes with the idea of "a book of dark magics." In a non-moral world, isn't magic just magic?


Much the same way as the U.S. government has prohibited the dissemination of nuclear codes. The codes are capable of destroying the human race if placed in the wrong hands. But it was never the codes themselves that were "evil".

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Mon Apr 01, 2013 8:19 pm
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Post Re: Beginner campaign in Darkon (possibly one-shot)
HuManBing wrote:
Much the same way as the U.S. government has prohibited the dissemination of nuclear codes. The codes are capable of destroying the human race if placed in the wrong hands. But it was never the codes themselves that were "evil".
OK, so what's so dangerous about "Ecstasy?"

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Mon Apr 01, 2013 9:00 pm
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Post Re: Beginner campaign in Darkon (possibly one-shot)
xD ah Morals and Ethics.....

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Mon Apr 01, 2013 10:17 pm
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Post Re: Beginner campaign in Darkon (possibly one-shot)
Gonzoron of the FoS wrote:
OK, so what's so dangerous about "Ecstasy?"


Yes, that's the joke. The rest of the party was bricking it in case Lyra cast something horrible, but in reality the book decided to start her off with a smile.

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Last edited by HuManBing on Wed Apr 03, 2013 10:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Tue Apr 02, 2013 11:02 am
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Post Re: Beginner campaign in Darkon (possibly one-shot)
Outlands, farmstead, and a score to settle in Nartok 2013.03.17

Stranded in the twilight, trouble with marauders
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Following from their retreat, the group doubled back a ways and then followed a roughly parallel (and much less-travelled) farmlands road. But it was meandering and narrow, and sunset came upon them at one malevolent stride. It was madness to travel during the night: after all, every invasion by the Falkovnians had been stopped by some horrendous lethal force that overtook them and overwhelmed them in darkness.

The PCs found one farmstead, and they knocked on the door to find the lone farmer living there - one Okun. He initially seemed hostile, an attitude which the alien appearance of the Narfeblis gnomes did little to dispel, but Alen's eloquent tongue was able to convince him they meant no harm. Alen also offered payment to doss down in his barn, which Okun hesitantly accepted. He told them, by way of information, that there had been gangs of armed men riding around and causing problems - the Shays and more lately a group called the Bec. After he saw how Nadia was wounded, with the arrow still in her back, he relented and allowed the women to sleep inside the relative safety of the house instead of the barn.

Alcibiades and Alen settled for sleep in the barn, among the hay and manure and farm animals. The three gnomes settled down too, after locking the cart axles (and leaving one of the two keys with Alen for safekeeping). They attempted to treat Nadia's wound with emergency supplies and some quietly boiled water, but there was little any of them could really do to help.

It wasn't long before trouble found them. A pother of hoofbeats and loud, drunken braying announced the arrival of three on horseback. As it turned out, they were some boys with the Shay gang, and they began a loud argument with Okun, eventually strong-arming a ham from his larder and then coming to the barn. The gnomes took cover, and Alen and Alcibiades stood guard just inside the barn doors, weapons drawn. Alen motioned for Alcibiades to wait, that he would go first in any exchange of force.

Sure enough, the Shays drunkenly made their way to the barn doors and attempted to open them. A few hair-raising thumps, and one Shay lad decided he was going to take the lantern and grab a chicken from the coop. They puttered about idiotically for a bit and then circled back to the barn. Upon opening the barn doors, Alen struck from the shadows, hurling a dart poisoned with a paralytic from his Hand Of Death poison glove. The first Shay lad went down, causing a panic among the rest.

Alen and Alcibiades decided then to bust out and put a stop to this before somebody really got hurt. Alen successfully darted another Shay lad, causing the third (still on his horse) to wheel around and split for the hills. Unable to catch up with him, they merely took the two Shay lads captive and tied them up, gagged, to the barn post.

Lyra's companion, Barbara, came slithering out to the barn when the others were asleep, and the book whispered to her, promising friendship and aid and power.

In the morning, they left the Shay boys in the barn and told Okun about it. He was grateful and offered to let them collect healing herbs for Nadia from his expansive property if they wished. They thought about it, but decided speed was of the essence. They made it back to Nartok in good time, as the mists lifted.


Back in Nartok: an Eternal Order service, a ramparts execution, a view of the nobles from afar
VIEW CONTENT:
Reporting to Vasily Szekler, the PCs received payment for their efforts and a well-deserved congratulations. Szekler forwarded on the letters from Vorjek and Redralen to the Baron, accepted delivery of the book, and also accepted into evidence the ossuary with Nardev's finger for poison testing. He told the PCs to get some rest for the next three days. There had been an arrest made in town by Captain Sinclar Piergate of the Nartok constabulary, and it was wise to keep the Agency's activities low for the time being.

The party took Nadia to the Temple for healing, and they attended a midnight mass and sermon, which focused on the fleeting nature of life as a brief interlude from the darkness before and the oblivion thereafter. A life is like a bird, flying through a feast-hall. It came in from the windy night and rain, and it briefly knows a moment of warmth and light as it flies through the banquet. Yet, all too soon it reaches the windows at the end of the hall, and it returns once more to the storm without - the glimpse of joy and festivity vanishing like a dream.

After the sermon, the priest brought the wounded up to the altar, where they cast spells to draw the life from the clergy and bestow it upon the wounded. The clergy were visibly taxed by this, giving of their own health so others might live. Nadia was laid, feverish and ranting, upon the altar stripped to the waist and the priest let his own blood in an incantation that expelled the arrowhead gently from her back, leaving only a faint scar.

The next morning, the PCs went out to witness the executions: convicted spies working for Falkovnia, including two Darkonians, one very elderly Falkovnian immigrant (whose hawk's head brand on his shoulder had been covered with a tattoo as a long-ago pardon), and a defiant youth with a Falkovnian hawk's head brand. The elder Falkovnian muttered, wonderingly "but it was so long ago" whereas the younger one cursed him even as the sentence was read out. Present were Szekler, Piergate, and a few new faces - clearly dignitaries. A mild-mannered balding man in finery was clearly Baron Eduard Curwen. A barrel-chested, bearded gent in close-cropped hair was General Burkhart Volker, recently-arrived from Il Aluk with reinforcements to head off the Falkovnian border threat.

The sentence completed, the nooses around each neck were checked one last time, and the Darkonian guard carried out the execution. Each condemned was thrown over the keep walls, the fall breaking their neck with a swift hanging death. The Falkovnian agent was last - and even as they lifted him up, he called out a mocking salute in his guttural Trecht language: "Ein Mann, ein Ziel - ich warte!" ("One man, one goal - I'm waiting!")

The PCs all huddled together after that. It didn't help that it was a grey, miserable drizzling day. Alcibiades thought of his own Falkovnian hawk's head tattoo, and a chill ran through him.


Songs with Ardellia, the book wants to be friends
VIEW CONTENT:
Back at the bar, Ardellia Borlest (the redhead star violinist and owner of The Fiddler's Finger pub) was entertaining once more, singing a doleful tune of wasted youth as the PCs walked in. (Too Young to Die, Divine Comedy.)

Quote:
Too young to die, but too old to survive.
I've spent too long trying to write this song.
The tune is okay, but the words are all wrong,
Maybe it's time for a change...


Afterwards, much wassailing and drinking followed, with all of the party ordering ales on Borlest's treat, except for Lyra, who ordered a fruit and carrot juice. The upshot of this was that Lyra remained sober and (comparatively) sane while the rest of the party began to lose comfac of their mandulties.

Barbara the snake went back to the quarters, where the book whispered to her and told her to bring Lyra. Barbara went back to Lyra, who was the only person still not drunk at the table. Lyra snuck out while Alen, Alcibiades, and Nadia were desperately trying to think of a rhyme for the word "orange" before it was their turn to sing a verse. (Credits to Tom Lehrer.)

Quote:
Eating an orange
While making love
Makes for bizarre enj-
-oyment thereof...


At the quartermaster's, Lyra saw the book locked behind a grated evidence chamber. The slumbering massive form of Calbie lay nearby, the keys at her belt. Lyra immediately thought of an idea, and then almost as quickly dismissed it as too dangerous. She had a conversation with the book which was at the same time oddly creepy and also strangely endearing, where the book promised her it would only reveal its secrets to her, because she was special in a way nobody else was, and that sadly they couldn't be together because society would never approve of the nature of their working relationship. Lyra was very sad because she didn't think the book should be in jail just because it loved her and other people couldn't deal with it. In any case, the book told her it would go to Il Aluk soon, and be delivered to one "Vesildur Ermoroud", and they would try to bring her to Il Aluk too, where her talents could be brought to fruition.


Ardellia asks a financial favor
VIEW CONTENT:
Ardellia Borlest had a favor to ask of the PCs. A new pub manager, Gladwyn Voss, was severely in arrears in paying Ardellia and some of her bard buddies. They'd done a few gigs in his tavern and now he's several months behind in paying them. The PCs were to persuade him to come clean on his debts.

The PCs decided to sweet-talk Captain of the Guard Sinclair Piergate into posting a couple of off-duty guards at the pub in the evenings. Aden succeeded at this. He then went and did some sniffing around the pub, where he learned that Voss had been hiring numerous Mindlost refugees from the borders, and then staging a guard bust just before they were due to get paid. In the scripted panic, the hapless terrified Mindlost employees usually fled rather than face potential criminal charges, meaning they surrendered any hope of getting paid for their sad labors.

Aden confronted Voss with this knowledge and he swore that he simply didn't have the money to pay Ardellia and her chums. Aden called the guards over, and Voss quickly changed his mind. He had about a third of the money, which he had been intending to pay other senior creditors, but he could make that available within a day. Aden warned him he'd be back the following evening.

The PCs went back the following evening, and Voss had brought in some heavies to guard his tavern. Lyra's snake Barbara climbed up to the second floor along a water spout, and determined that Voss was upstairs in a bureau room, guarded. Alcibiades managed to start a fight with the staircase guard, bringing it back out to the pub, whereupon Lyra artlessly cast a Confusion spell, aided in no small part with the profuse availability of confusion chemicals stocked right behind the bar. (+3 to cast) After a moment of Lyra manically dancing in circles splashing grain alcohol everywhere, the rest of the clientele settled into mild blank nonplussedness and accepted this gamely, as did Lyra herself.

Upstairs, Aden took out the guard with a handshake from the Hand of Death, and then cornered Voss. The terrified publican opened up a strongbox and produced a piddling sum of money - it was, he claimed, quite literally all the money he had left in the world. Aden pondered this, decided that the man was telling the truth, and pocketed the lot. There was still a significant shortfall, but it seemed like there was no squeezing water from a stone.

Aden collected the rest of his crew (Lyra had to be carried out, Alcibiades had to be prised off of the throat of the hapless heavy assigned to him) and they repaired to the Fiddler's Finger. Ardellia was extremely grateful, even though they hadn't recovered the entire sum - it was nevertheless much more than she had ever thought to get. She assured them she would give them a glowing recommendation to Szekler next time he was in the tavern.


Destination: Falkovnia
VIEW CONTENT:
Finally, they met with Szekler, who told them what their next assignment would be. A group of Vistani of the Elviran family clan had fled internecine persecution at the hands of their fellow gypsies. Apparently, the situation was so grave that they actually fled into Falkovnia. Now trapped by the Hawk's men, they were in for a rough time unless Darkonian agents could spirit them out to safety. Their next mission would be to infiltrate across the heavily-guarded border, get to a prison camp located several miles into Falkovnia, and extract the Vistani. The family, according to the most recent reports, had four women: Tsuritsa, Snezhana, Dulcimae, and the raunie matriarch Elvira; but equally important were the three menfolk with the tribe: Beshaley, Soldanni, and Hyskosa.

The PCs would receive their gear and meet with their Agency compatriots, Aurunder and Jevethro, in preparation for raiding the Hawk's Nest.

_________________


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Wed Apr 03, 2013 10:26 pm
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Post Re: Beginner campaign in Darkon (possibly one-shot)
Dreams

Each of the Mindlost PCs has some nightmare disadvantages which occasionally result in bad dreams from their time in Falkovnia.

Lyra's dream
VIEW CONTENT:
She recalled seeing inmates lined up in stinking rags to watch the terminally ill, "dead men walking" prisoners leave the camp, little more than skin and bone and in some cases propped up by their comrades, with the blessing of Beredostich. Though the reason given was a mercy pardon, Beredostich dismissively said it was just to minimize the statistics of prisoner deaths in the camp - they could go to their rewards at home.


Alcibiades' dream
VIEW CONTENT:
He recalled light treatment by the Talon, at least until he stopped talking. Beredostich attempted to force him to confess through starvation and deprivation, to no avail. At one point, the warden put other prisoners on the line, including one convoluted threat to mutilate a child prisoner unless her adult father participated in a violative act against her adolescent sister. Alcibiades was told that his confession would immediately release the prisoners from their punishment. Alcibiades repeatedly dashed his head against the floor and passed out before he knew the outcome of that threat. He awoke to interrogation by Beredostich, who specified that he would divulge the rebel contacts (referring to Gondegal, though Alcibiades had no knowledge of that to divulge). Incensed by the PC's intractable silence, Beredostich pulled several of his toenails and beat him savagely enough about the head and face to cause him to leak cerebral fluid out of his nose. Throughout, it was evident that Beredostich wanted information about the Rebellion of the Lost King, which his hapless captive was entirely unable to give. He ended up nearly executing him out of pique, but for the intervention of shadowy bureaucrats from a "thirteenth directorate" who stayed his hand. The father prisoner was later found hanged , it is unclear whether he actually was forced to violate his daughter and if so, whether his suicide was a cause of that.


Nadia's dream
VIEW CONTENT:
She recalled the episode which gave her the current fear of dogs. She found a rotten fence post after a heavy rain, and she plotted her escape. One night she left her slop meal bucket untouched, leading the other women to scrabble for her food and sleep soundly from repletion and exhaustion. She hid a flat trowel stone and escaped via the stool trench, then dug up the post. She ran as far as she could, sometimes along streams, knowing the Falkovnians would be after her with dogs come first light. At one point, her head swimming with fatigue, she sat down by a tree bole. In the next moment, the sun was up and dogs were baying in the distance. She ram onwards, knowing it was futile, but her pursuer kept behind her for hours, as her feet bled sore and her stomach retched in terror - following her just for sport and amusement now, before they made the inevitable rush with jaws closing on flesh.


Clearly, this Beredostich was somebody about whom the PCs felt a strong and personal connection.

_________________


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Thu Apr 04, 2013 3:13 pm
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Post Re: Beginner campaign in Darkon (possibly one-shot)
Operation Harkov: a traitor in the ranks 2013.04.06

As tensions mount across the Falkovnian border, Darkonian intel in the Agency suspects a spy in Nartok Keep. Somebody is passing information about Darkonian troop strength, planned maneuvers, and morale to the Falkovnians. A number of Darkonians are involved or potential suspects.

The Falkovnian codename for the mole is "Harkov" (although he is not an Admiral in the service of the Evil Galactic Empire), and the PCs will be asked by Vesildur Ermoroud to find and eliminate Harkov before they are permitted to go to Falkovnia. Although the PCs have a Vistani family to rescue, and although they themselves have personal reasons for wanting to take the fight to the Falkovnians, the presence of a traitor overrides even this pressing matter. Any mission into Falkovnia is potentially a one-way trip into a waiting trap unless they can find and neutralize the Harkov connection first.

The mole hunt unfolds in several stages - here is a quick summary of the hidden facts:
VIEW CONTENT:
  • The mole Harkov is feeding the Falkovnians information from the Nartok Cabinet-level meetings. The Falkovnian High Command has formulated a plan (Unternehmen Katzenpfote - "Operation Cat's Paw") as the first step to capture (not destroy) Nartok Keep. In order to achieve this, the Falkovnians need Harkov to help them clear Darkonian resistance on the Arterial Highway and to hand over the city without a fight.
  • Harkov is a member of the Cabinet. The mole is placed with sufficient authority to command Darkonian troops within the city and more importantly to know of their movements without the city.
  • Harkov has already given information allowing the Falkovnians to strike at various watchtowers unopposed, which effectively blinds the Darkonian strategists as to border activity. As this adventure begins, the mole gives up Featherstone Heights Fortress, which deprives the Darkonians of their rural garrison. This is the first mole activity that the PCs witness. As the adventure progresses, Harkov gives up more and more information to the Falkovnians, allowing them to conduct hit-and-fade attacks across the border to whittle down Darkonian forces in the region. Once a week's worth of attacks have gone by, the Falkovnians will raze the last Darkonian fortress in the area and lead a direct assault on Nartok, seeking to occupy the city with Harkov's help and fortify it against further Darkonian resistance - specifically, the Creeping Death (the undead hordes that sweep the battlefields each night of the invasion, seeking to repulse the invaders).
  • Harkov passes information to the Falkovnians using a complex process. Cabinet minutes are encoded into seemingly-innocuous disjointed words. These are passed to an unwitting scribe, who further encodes them into musical notation. The scribe transcribes performances at the pub, encoding Harkov's message into the music. These musical scores are then sent with diplomatic and commercial papers to the border checkpoint, where they are passed on to Falkovnia for decoding by the Nachrichtendienst.
  • If Harkov is not stopped, the Falkovnian army will occupy Nartok and will thus be able to weather the nighttime Creeping Death attacks from the safety of the walled city. The undead hordes cannot or will not operate during daylight hours. The Falkovnian army will spare most of the city's civilians, hoping to portray themselves as deliverers from the despotism of Azalin's regime.


Day Zero: Fall of Featherstone Heights Fortress - mole suspected

VIEW CONTENT:
On day 1, the regiment guards rotating out from the Featherstone Heights Fortress arrived back at Nartok at around 3 p.m. and their regiment replacement marched out at the same time. They arrived at the Fortress to find it already razed by the Falkovnians. They returned to Nartok Keep at around 7 p.m., just as the sun was going down, and they raised a general alarm (incidentally emptying out the Fiddler's Finger). Lieutenant Sierby, commanding officer of the regiment which discovered the razing, was brought to the Keep before the Council to give his report - Vasily Szekler brought the PCs along with him to the Atrium and Council Chamber. The PCs got to see Szekler as one Council member, along with the Baron Edwuard Curwen, General Burkhart Volker, and Captain of the Guard Sinclair Piergate.

Sierby reported that the Falkovnians struck the skeleton guard with an entire two or three regiments of their own just in the hour or so that the two Darkonian regiments were absent from the fort. The coordination of the attack (especially as it involved a four-hour forced march into Darkonian territory from the Falkovnian border) plainly implicated insider information. The Falkovnians had also carried heavy cargo, including pitch and oil, to raze the fortress.

Szekler confirmed that this was the fourth such attack in as many weeks, and that the previous attacks were all on watchtowers and lightly-defended outposts. But this attack was strategically significant - it deprives Darkonian troops of their main garrison position guarding east of the Artery Highway, leaving the outlying farmlands and villages southeast of Nartok Keep directly accessible to the Falkovnian border.

Afterwards, Szekler assigned his own guard, Laslo, to the PCs. He withdrew to the Cabinet meeting, which traditionally featured the Baron, the General, and the Captain of the Guard speaking without aides or other potential eavesdroppers.


Day One - mole hunt begins, suspects identified

VIEW CONTENT:
In the morning, Vesildur Ermoroud hailed the PCs through Khalid, his Nartok contact. Vesildur asked to be debriefed, and then he ordered Szekler into sequestration at the Innsmarch Stop, a few hours' ride to the north. The Agency had narrowed down the possible source of the leak to the Nartok Cabinet - and Szekler, as a member of the Cabinet, had fallen under suspicion as a potential mole. The Agency wanted to sequester him as early as possible to facilitate his exoneration once this investigation was concluded. Vesildur Ermoroud informed the PCs that a number of the attacks are made with clear insider assistance, and thus the Falkovnians are receiving intelligence from a Nartok contact. Several of the pieces of information are highly-classified military issues, and so are impossible for anybody outside of the Cabinet to access. He charges the PCs with inspecting the four suspects, using nonsensical or absurd code names drawn from a childhood rhyme to throw off detection: Ring (General Burkhart Volker), Rosie (Baron Eduard Curwen), Pocket (Army Captain Vasily Szekler), and Tissue (Guard Captain Sinclair Piergate). Just before Szekler was taken into sequestration by an Agency courier, he handed the PCs a scribbled note and his room key. ("Behind my couch. Ardellia Borlest.")

Inside Szekler's quarters, his uniforms were hung neatly with a few decorative weapons. Behind the couch was hidden a plank in the skirting with a hole, and which could be pulled away from the wall. There was a clean alcove with a lock-box inside (can be picked, fine quality lock). Inside were personal papers, including several letters written in a woman's hand (apparently in code), a few neatly stacked documents of commendations (1st prize winner of the Games Week pools, thanks for excellence in service, commendation for bravery under enemy assault), and finally a large bound tome.

Inside the tome were Szekler's notes, concerning various meetings and minutes. He also had coded abbreviations for the various items, which correspond to his own suspected themes. He had indeed stumbled across the code word "Harkov" (as reported back to him by some Falkovnian deserters and asylum seekers) and he had marked several operations with "HKV" to show his suspicions of sabotage: Brackenridge Lookout, Stapenhill Lookout, Vista Valley Lookout. All were the three lookout raids within the past four weeks. His final entry was the Featherstone Heights Fort razing, from the previous day. They also all bore the attendance rosters of the Cabinet - all four members were present for each one, meaning any of them could be Harkov.

The PCs mused about breaking into a Cabinet member’s quarters, but then remembered that if they were caught, they would likely immediately be accused of being Harkov and summarily executed, leaving the actual mole still in place. Familiars and animal companions were sent to investigate more thoroughly when Cabinet was in session. Volker had aides de camp and Curwen's family lived in the Baronial Wing, so Barbara the snake was unable to do much except count heads.

Down at the Fiddler's Finger, Ardellia Borlest was able to disclose to the PCs that she has been sleeping with Szekler for a while - the letters to him are indeed written in code, but they're merely lover's prose (one of the PCs took the trouble to decode them, and found out they were highly unladylike and left very little to the imagination). She complained that the Cabinet had been censoring her songs, especially Flock at the Meadhall (for being anti-Temple) and Plow My Own Furrow (for being anti-Temple and potentially anti-Darkon). The PCs asked her which of the Cabinet members were popular at the bar; she told them the Baron sends a seneschal frequently to gauge the mood of the public (and to make sure Ardellia isn’t crossing any lines with her songs). Szekler shows up occasionally but is completely businesslike around her. The Captain of the Guard Piergate shows up often and usually ends up surrounded by women. General Burkhart Volker never shows up - he travels around many cities and has made a reputation as a social recluse, and not even his staff or aides de camp are permitted to fraternize with civilians.


Day Two - Velnarest falls

VIEW CONTENT:
On the second day, shortly after sundown and the gates’ locking, a gang of Shay bandits rode in at breakneck speed to Nartok Keep and demanded to be let in. The PCs were called for, as the Shays knew them personally. Shay Stearns was there himself, and he told the PCs that the mines at Velnarest have been attacked, and one of the two feuding leaders (Redralen, the arriviste) was killed or trapped in the mines. Foreign soldiers - well over fifty of them - marched to the town and attacked without warning, killing or trapping about three dozen miners and collapsing the mines. They attacked only the iron mines, leaving the copper mines intact. They then left the Falkovnian flag standing as a mocking memento and faded back into the woods. The majority of the Velnarest villagers took shelter at the Vorjek mansion and did not leave for hours - they genuinely believed all of Darkon was under attack again from another invasion. Shay estimated that the time for a forced march to the Falkovnian border must have been at least five hours, and that's not accounting for the steep mountainside on the Falkovnian side of the border either. Again, the attack bespeaks a skillful level of coordination and insider information.

Captain of the Guard Piergate arrived and was completely astonished at the news - he had been to Velnarest a few times and did not even know there were operational mines there. The PCs checked Szekler’s notebook, and confirmed that Piergate was not in attendance at the Cabinet meeting about Velnarest’s ore one week prior, which is being treated as a military-eyes-only secret. Most damningly, the ore had been tested and found to be ideally suited for military-grade weaponsmithing and armory. Somehow, the Falkovnians knew that the ore which the PCs brought from the mines were indeed good for warfare, and their swift strike against the Velnarest mines showed how well informed they were, knowing this information even before the PCs themselves did.

_________________


Last edited by HuManBing on Wed Apr 17, 2013 8:44 pm, edited 5 times in total.



Mon Apr 08, 2013 9:57 pm
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Post Re: Beginner campaign in Darkon (possibly one-shot)
Musical interlude and incidentals:

Khalid, the servant of Vesildur Ermoroud, takes a liking to Lyra and wants to be her friend. He gives her a low-powered spell of her desire, and also fills her in on the geography of the place - explaining to her the Shadow Rift, Falkovnia, and Nova Vaasa - as well as the trans-Falkovnian nations to the west and southwest: Nortenmark, Cosabel, Maresotes, Praquadie. He also explains to her how occasional artifacts of weird shadow magic and nonhuman magic appear in the mists from the Shadow Rift, and that the Thaumatorium has undertaken to collect these things before they can do any mischief and bring them to Darkonius Rex for safe handling.

Throughout the adventure, Ardellia Borlest sings a few songs at the Fiddler's Finger which give a sense that all is not well in Darkon. Although she rallies the troops with "Who do you think you are kidding Mister Drakov?" (as per Dad's Army), and she is well-received with "Songs of Love" (Divine Comedy), she is only able to sing the first verse of "Plow My Own Furrow" and she refuses to sing "Flock at the Mead-Hall" (adapted from "Eye of the Needle", Divine Comedy). The Baron has heard some of these songs via his seneschal and censored a significant number of them.

The unexpurgated versions of these songs, however, can still be found in the diplomatic courier bag with the Temple. They're supposed to edit them but they have grown lazy in recent days.

Ardellia's songs (most of which are rewritten tunes from the Divine Comedy, with GM singing and on the piano)

Flock at the Mead-Hall
VIEW CONTENT:
(The Eternal Order teaches that life is like a bird flying through a mead-hall in the night, with darkness and wind before, then a brief spell of warmth and light, and then exiting out the window into the darkness and wind again - see the sermon from prior session. This song is sung over a Darkonian hymn about the Grey Realm in the manner of a call-and-response structure, further deepening its opposition to the church. Adapted from "Eye of the Needle" by Divine Comedy.)

Tonight at the mission, they preach of the Grey Realm,
Demanding contrition, and faith.
So that's what I'm doing, but nobody answers,
I pray till I'm blue in the face.

The tone of the priest is severe and judgmental,
Perfectly keeping the theme of the temple.
And all through the sermon I study the people,
A flock of birds seeking the light of the mead hall.

They say that it's wrong for the faithful to seek it,
But sometimes I long for a sign. Anything.
Something to wake up the whole congregation
And suddenly make up my mind.

The tone of the priest is severe and judgmental,
Admirably keeping the theme of the temple.
After the sermon I stare at the people,
A flock of birds leaving the warmth of the mead hall.


Plow My Own Furrow
VIEW CONTENT:
(Ardellia Borlest's most heavily censored, and significantly misunderstood, song. The title was given to her by Sedgewick, an insouciant bard friend after she lost a bet, and it was generally expected that she would write a bawdy song, possibly about solitary female agriculture. As it turned out, she wrote a deft political piece denouncing the Agency, the Temple, and the entire Darkonian kingdom in succession. Rarely performed in full, because the church and baron have complained. The Agency doesn't like the first verse either but are powerless to stop her from singing it.)

I packed up my knapsack and left the old farm
I promised my parents I’d come to no harm.
I went to the city and there made my way
In a guildhall of traders as a serving maid.
I fetched and I carried, I watched and I learned
And slowly but surely I rose through the firm.
But then I discovered my colleagues one day
Massaging the figures for personal gain.
I said “I’ll not wallow in this house of shame,
I’ll plow my own furrow, I’ll go my own way.”

I went to the Temple and knelt at their feet
Attending the sermon of Grey Realm’s deceit.
Salvation eternal for those with the King,
Damnation infernal for those left in sin.
Try as I might I could not understand
Why our kind monarch’s all-merciful hand
Should cast away those whose only mistake
Was never to know of this faith-amongst-faiths.
The beacons you follow can lead you astray,
I’ll plow my own furrow, I’ll go my own way.

I fled from the kingdom’s religious doctrines
And crossed to the Mercenary’s rigid regime.
Saluting the rebels camped high in the hills,
I asked Sir Gondegal whom I should kill.
I crept into town with my bayonet drawn
And into the home of the Stadtführer Vaughan
I stood by his bedside and raised up my blade,
Then I looked to the crib where his little one lay.
You murder tomorrow by killing today,
I’ll plow my own furrow, I’ll go my own way.


Songs of Love
VIEW CONTENT:
(Ardellia wrote this while recovering from a hangover induced by drinking too much at Szekler's departure. It is an eloquent distillation of the tragedy of the human condition: of having nothing to do and nobody to do it with.)

Tall uniformed blokes, in uniform coats, with uniform stance
Mill round the girls at the bar, who've come from afar, to wassail and dance.
While I'm here with my chin, on my violin, and bow in my glove
Composing my songs of love.

Pale protruberant priests, stay far from the streets, preparing their rants
Their flocks gather round beers, appraising the leers and weighing their chance.
While they discreetly engage, I'm here on the stage, performing above
My solitary song of love.

Fate doesn't hang on the wrong or right choice.
Fortune depends on the tone of the voice.
So sing, while you have time, let the sun shine down from above
And fill you with songs of love.


Then this young man with an unhealthy tan puts a drink in my hand and says I understand you're in search of a place to continue the chase of the heavenly taste I suggest in that case that you all come with me to my place by the sea where the glasses shall be overflowing with free alcoholic delights and free love if you like for what point has this life if you can't realize your dreams?

_________________


Last edited by HuManBing on Sun Apr 14, 2013 10:40 pm, edited 2 times in total.



Tue Apr 09, 2013 10:27 pm
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Post Re: Beginner campaign in Darkon (possibly one-shot)
Operation Harkov: locating the leak - 2013.04.13

Day Three - finding Harkov's courier

VIEW CONTENT:
Each day, the merchants plying their trade on the Artery Highway leave in two batches: one convoy leaves at daybreak with the heavier loads (usually nonperishable and destined for lands beyond Falkovnia), and the second convoy leaves at noon with perishable and lighter goods destined for Falkovnia itself. The second convoy has a diplomatic courier with the Temple of the Eternal Order. Most documents are Temple tracts, in Darkonian, Paradel, and Trecht (they don’t bother with Dvoryrech, knowing that the Falkovnian nobility are unlikely to subscribe to a foreign religion anyway). A significant number are contracts and futures agreements. A small sheaf is musical notation.

The PCs examined the latter, and found Dedrick's transcriptions of Ardellia Borlest's songs (and they remembered Ardellia Borlest continually having to correct Dedrick’s mistakes). They were unable to read the music, but they remained convinced that this was somehow connected to the bigger picture. Alen Vaughn, in his capacity as a spy and occasional assassin, had developed an eidetic memory through years of practice. This meant that his intentional memory could be much more profound than most people's (although, unlike photographic memory, it does not guarantee retention of incidental details). Looking through the papers, Alen found the transcriptions of Ardellia Borlest's songs and took a long hard look at them, storing them in his deep memory for copying out later by hand.

They got to his quarters as quickly as possible, and he copied out each sheet as quickly as his memory could allow. At one point, he stumbled when copying out "Plow My Own Furrow", because he knew how the music was supposed to go, but he was certain that the music written by Dedrick was incorrect in a few locations. He cleared his mind with a successful Meditation check, and confirmed with his memory that the transcription was indeed flawed in a few places - intentionally or otherwise would be the main question. Each manuscript was signed "Dedrick Lacon" in the lower right hand corner, attributed to "Ardellia Borlest" in the upper left as composer, and the packet of papers was addressed to the proprietor of the Amazon's Girdle pub in Lekar.

They burned a business card of Vesildur Ermoroud's (the Agency's Thaumatorium connection) and discussed this with him. It looked like they were close to finding Harkov's method of communication with the Falkovnians, but they needed more proof. Vesildur ordered them to feed the papers into the flames, and they did so. After retrieving the papers and looking through them, Vesildur said the available information was so scant he wouldn't be able to discern any coded message in a meaningfully short time. He charged them with either locating the cypher (which would presumably be in the possession of Harkov within the city) or with intercepting more transmissions from the past - ideally including transmissions from the past few weeks.

The PCs asked with Ardellia Borlest about Dedrick Lacon, the transcriber, and she agreed that he often made a lot of transcription errors, but that was hardly unusual. After all, a violinist can play notes much more quickly than a scribe can write them down. At least he didn't mind her coming down to look through his notes and suggest corrections - most scribes don't seem to care, and most musicians don't either. The PCs asked where Dedrick Lacon worked, and she said he worked out of Alcamer's Printing, on the second floor above a tailor shop, during the day. He did his music transcribing service for a few extra coins at the end of the day, and it helped spread her name across into neighboring kingdoms too, so she wasn't complaining. Dedrick also did a few poster and sign designs (being much the same thing as a medieval equivalent of a graphic designer) and Ardellia said he had once been approached to do a sign for the Fiddler's Finger when she took over, but his design was dropped because she had failed to specify which finger it should feature and he had taken creative liberties in deciding for himself - the scamp.

The PCs found Dedrick at the publishing house and just observed him quietly for a while - he seemed like a conscientious worker and his supervisor gave him a good amount of leeway in his work. At the end of the day, as most of the tradesmen were leaving their offices and getting ready for a pint at the pub, Dedrick met with a few friends from the tailor's, and went to the civic post office. There, the post officer looked through the "L" slot and found a few letters for him. Dedrick looked through them until he found one, and then he told his friends he'd go home first and catch up with them at the pub. The PCs followed him and observed which apartment he lived in. When he returned to the pub, Alen and Nadia picked the lock of his apartment door and went inside. Alen's first action was to take a mental snapshot of the placement of everything in the studio, to make sure he could replace it as needed. Then he found several stacks of chronologically-arranged music sheets. More importantly, he found a stack of letters - each with a nonsensical mishmash of common words in no apparent order or meaning: "horse", "apple", "tree", "five", and so forth. The most recent letter was still partially folded, and its torn envelope was laid to one side, addressed to Dedrick Lacon, but with no return address, no sender, and no seal. The envelope was simply gummed to seal it.

Alen took the top five papers from the music sheet pile and memorized each one, then took the top six papers from the letter pile and did the same. He then randomly chose ten more sheets from the letter pile and ten more sheets from the music pile, and memorized those. After a final rearrangement to make sure it was all as he found it, he and Nadia made their way back outside, walking back to their quarters. Alen then spent the next three hours transcribing all of the memorized sheets as best as he could remember them, making sure each misplaced note was where it was. That done, he contacted Vesildur Ermoroud and discussed this with him. Ermoroud accepted the thirty-odd papers through the fire and said he would have his students work on decoding them through the night. The Agency needed them to try to find out as much as they could from Dedrick - but not to let him know he was under surveillance. If Dedrick really was the conduit for the leak from Harkov, then the Agency could potentially hijack the source and feed the Falkovnians misinformation if Dedrick and Harkov remained unaware of their discovery.

Alen and Nadia rejoined the others at the Fiddler's Finger pub, where Ardellia was holding the stage with a sultry performance of My Melancholy Blues (by Queen), an anthem to the replacement of an absent lover with copious ingestion of alcohol. Clearly, Vasily Szekler's absence from the city was hitting her fairly hard. They hung around with Dedrick, and found him to be a likeable enough chap, looking to make ends meet by scribing down the most popular Darkonian songs and sending them to other pubs around the Core. Although he was only seated at the lowly benches at the front (instead of the dining tables to the center or the elite booths at the back), Ardellia made sure that his scrivener's place was reserved and ready for him at the bench. She understood he had come to her pub to make a few extra coins, rather than spend a few extra coins. Dedrick seemed particularly taken with Nadia, whose awkward flirtations with him evoked an equally endearing awkward response of shy liking. They agreed to see each other again at the pub the following afternoon at 3 - he would get the evening off from work and come to meet her early. Alen watched closely as Dedrick shifted between musical scores (sometimes he would be halfway through a transcription when the song ended, and would have to hurriedly switch to another song immediately as it began).

Alen noticed something very unusual. At various points during the evening, the audience set up a chant of "Plow your furrow!" to Ardellia, calling to her to sing her controversial banned song (I'll Plow My Own Furrow, see above). Ardellia, knowing the limits of her bardic privilege, sensibly declined each time. However, even though the song remained resolutely unplayed during the night, Dedrick did start and complete one full transcription of the song in his pile of songs. Alen noticed this and took the effort to look at the score, memorizing it as best he could. He left the pub and got his papers out, transcribing the music score, then notified Vesildur Ermoroud once again and passed him the sheet music.

Vesildur had news for him - they had figured out part of the code and it seemed that the plain words in the letter were abbreviated and transcribed into the score as intentional errors. By some luck, the writer of the letters had carelessly repeated a cypher, and Ermoroud was able to deduce some related information incompletely. He confirmed that some of the most recent letters from Harkov had numerical values that coincided with the four successful Falkovnian ambush points: at Vista Valley Lookout, Brackenridge Lookout, Stapenhill Lookout, and the Featherstone Heights Fortress. This confirmed that Dedrick - knowingly or not - was the courier for Harkov's intelligence to the Falkovnians. The PCs again had the choice of either confronting and arresting Dedrick, or keeping him in the dark and trying to smuggle false misinformation to the Falkovnians through Dedrick.


Day Four - feeding misinformation and closing in on Harkov

VIEW CONTENT:
Alen's current transcript of "Plow My Own Furrow" perfectly matched the most recent letter, giving Vesildur a good idea of what information was heading to the Falkovnians by diplomatic courier. It would be too late to stop that message going out (without alerting the Falkovnians that their leak had been discovered) but Vesildur suggested they sneak further misinformation to Dedrick in the morning. He instructed the PCs to meet with Khalid, his Nartok Keep subordinate, and get equipment from him. Khalid gave them with a document tweezer, for rolling up and removing a letter without breaking open the envelope, and then for rolling up and planting a replacement document later.

One final upshot of this was that Vesildur had all the evidence he needed to eliminate Vasily Szekler ("Pocket") from consideration. Additionally, the circumstantial evidence suggested that Captain of the Guard Sinclair Piergate ("Tissue") was also blameless, as he was neither present when the Cabinet discussed the Velnarest village ore, nor did he know that the village even had any functional mines until after their destruction. That left only "Ring" (General Burkhart Volker) and "Rosie" (Baron Eduard Curwen) as suspects... and the majority of the guilt seemed likely to fall on the Baron - as the messages to the Falkovnians were still originating from the city even when the General was physically out in the battlefields preparing for a Falkovnian attack.

Vesildur informed Alen that he would approve the release of Vasily Szekler immediately. Vesildur also provided Alen with a false musical document to plant in the diplomatic courier to Falkovnia, for delivery the following day. Alen snuck the doctored musical score into the diplomatic courier in the night. The final test was for them to forge a Harkov letter to Dedrick for the next day, too. Vesildur dictated the child's-book vocabulary words, and Alen forged them into an exact replica of the Harkov letters using his forgery skill.

In the night, the Mindlost PCs had more nightmares about Falkovnia, but we'll list them in a separate post as they're quite involved.


Day Six - more misinformation and following Harkov

VIEW CONTENT:
In the morning, Alen was up early, and found that all three of his friends were suffering terrible pains recalled from their time in the military dictatorship. He hurried out to meet Khalid, and found Szekler waiting for him in the antechamber. After a firm handshake, they went to another room to contact Vesildur Ermoroud, who told them that they were expecting a crisis to occur today or the next regarding the Falkovnian plans. They should be alert for anything out of the ordinary - although they couldn't arrest the Baron on their current evidence, they could certainly keep an eye on him.

Alen and Lyra went out and bought some blue and black cloth to disguise Alen as a postal worker (who had a sash, suitable for holding their post bags, featuring the Darkonian azure-and-sable national colors). They worked to sew up the sash, and Lyra kept the post workers busy with simpleminded chatter while Alen slid behind the counter and picked up all the letters for Dedrick. Finding the one with no return address or sender, he palmed that into his sleeve and took it away. He tweezered out the letter and put in into his sleeve, then replaced it with the doctored code dictated by Vesildur. Now the Falkovnians would get two erroneous misinformation letters.

The rest of the day was spent preparing and following the Baron around. This proved relatively easy, as Rosie did not leave the safety of his quarters at all, except for a brief spell in the early evening when his palanquin was spotted on a high balcony on the Keep.

Nadia kept her date with Dedrick, and the two went on a stroll around the Keep as he pointed out places he and his friends hung out when they first arrived here, in their teens. He had grown up in a small village further north, the Innsmarch Stop (incidentally, the same place where Szekler had been sequestered during the investigation). The two shared an awkward shy kiss and then he stopped at the post office to pick up his mail. Seeing the unsourced envelope, he excused himself graciously and said he had some work to do, but would catch up with Nadia at the Fiddler's Finger if she was free later.

The evening passed much the same as others - Dedrick transcribed, PCs were present at the Fiddler's Finger, and Ardellia Borlest sang. This time, she sang "The Perfect Love Song" (Divine Comedy).


Day Seven - preparations for a crisis

VIEW CONTENT:
On the final day, at about 9 a.m., a squad of reinforcement soldiers arrived at the north gate from Innsmarch Stop to the north, announcing themselves as the 28th Infantry Guard under Captain Khabakov. With the Baron's approval, they were received at the Keep for a debriefing and to coordinate orders.

At 10 a.m., a rider arrived at the south gate, breathless, with a message for the Cabinet. Szekler was there with the PCs on the scene, and they heard the bad news. At the break of dawn, the Darkonian fortress guarding the border near the Arterial Highway came under sudden and protracted bombardment by Falkovnian artillery. They counted at least three score siege engines on the other side of the border, launching freshly-quarried boulders. Evidently, the Falkovnians had worked through the night to transport and deploy the siege engines. The Darkonian fortress could not scramble its own artillery fast enough to prevent the destruction of all four towers and a good amount of the southern barbican. As the Falkovnians packed their siege engines, an enormous army headed by cavalry punched through the broken lines and fortifications of the Darkonian border guard. An infantry skirmish line marched up behind the cavalry and engaged the Darkonians in their disorganized formations. At that point, Colonel Gilbresh ordered a covered retreat, with casualties and supplies brought back towards friendly lines. The rider had been dispatched to ride to Nartok with all possible speed to report the news.

The numbers involved proved that this was no border skirmish. For the first time in decades, a full-scale Falkovnian invasion of Darkon was underway.

In the growing panic, the PCs decided to take a gate each and watch for anything strange. Conventional knowledge had it that, even though General Volker was in the field with most of the Darkonian ground forces, the remaining garrison forces at Nartok would be able to withstand any personnel-based attack. The Falkovnians could not prevail over Nartok without siege engines, and siege engines could not be brought up to Nartok in time before sundown.

And sundown was when the Creeping Death had always struck the Falkovnians, sweeping them from the field and leaving only corpses and smashed engines in its wake. It was a grim strategy, but the citizens of Nartok had no other choice - in the face of a bloodthirsty and brutal invader, they could only hope to hunker down in their fortress and wait for some unknown and ineluctable force of unnatural violence to destroy the invaders for them.


Operation Harkov: Endgame - Harkov unveiled

VIEW CONTENT:
At noon, the Baron brought Khabakov and the 28th Infantry Guard to the south gate. After a very brief struggle, they overpowered the Nartok guards there and seized control of the gate barbican, opening the gates and lifting the portcullis and wedging them open with tools and weaponry. If there was any doubt as to Harkov's identity, this action dispelled it and proved the traitor in the ranks was none other than the Baron himself.

However, the Baron tipped his hand too soon - Szekler and Piergate were able to bring their own regiments to bear on the gate and to try to retake it. A stalemate ensued for roughly half an hour, after which time the lookouts at the southern wall called out that they could see an enormous cavalry force in the distance. The Falkovnian force had arrived, although it had done so after a significant delay - one that could prove fatal to their attempt to take the city by guile. [GM's note: it will later be revealed to the PCs that the Falkovnian army had encountered unexpected Darkonian defensive formations on their approach. The two misinformation letters sent back to the Falkovnians had misdirected them into the path of waiting Darkonian skirmish screens, delaying their arrival by a half-hour and forcing the Baron to unwittingly commit to his treason early enough for loyalist detection.]

Alerted to the treachery, the PCs managed to infiltrate the gate house - Alen did a bit of creative parkour from rooftop to rooftop to get onto the wall, and Nadia managed to exit the city walls covertly and make her way up the outer edge of the wall, hanging off the second level southern balcony of the gatehouse. Lyra joined the throng of bemused spectators, and Alcibiades waded in among the betrayers, barking out orders in Falkovnian - orders which they seemed to understand fluently. This confirmed the status of the 28th Infantry Guard as Falkovnian agents in Darkonian blue-and-black uniforms.

Lyra tilted the balance significantly by casting a Mass Daze spell, centered on a space just underneath the barbican's second floor. The ensuing five-yard-radius sphere of confusion caused significant distraction of the agents, allowing the Darkonians to regain control of the gate's aperture itself. However, the staircases up to the barbican's second floor, where the gate mechanisms were housed, presented a far greater challenge - in true medieval design, they were wide enough only for a single combatant at a time, and they circled to the right as you climbed, forcing the invader to fight with his sword arm partially occluded by the central pillar. In this case, the invaders were the Darkonians, and the defenders were the Falkovnian agents.

Alen and Nadia managed to clear one stairway, thus allowing Alcibiades to storm up it and give out countermanding contradictory orders in Trecht. Working together, they managed to neutralize the eight remaining 28th Infantry Guard soldiers, including Khabakov. During the fight, Nadia ran out of throwing knives, and was forced onto the southern balcony, where the Baron was hiding out with his personal bodyguard. Rather than face the bodyguard unarmed, Nadia leapt down from the balcony to the outside of the city, successfully landing on all fours without too much bruising. She would be out of the fight for the rest of the combat, as she hunted around the support buildings and stables outside to find a weapon, finally securing a workman's machete.

Alen and Alcibiades fought their way through the Falkovnians, who (disguised as Darkonians) were not armed or armored in traditional heavy Falkovnian equipment. With the Falkovnian cavalry's hoofbeats in audible range, Alcibiades and Lyra immediately began working on un-jamming the gate's chainworks and gears. Alen cornered the Baron on the south balcony, and he sent his personal retainer against Alen. The retainer and Baron tried to take out the gentleman assassin, who faced them capably with his cloak in one hand and his sword-cane in the other. The battle went back and forth, but Alen nimbly kept his foes behind one another, and eventually disarmed the retainer. The retainer roared and tackled him just as Alcibiades and Lyra finally fixed the gate and the portcullis came down with a great clatter and crash.

Alone and with only moments to go before capture, the Baron doffed his cape and climbed atop the southern balcony crenellations, and then jumped two storeys down. He landed awkwardly, bruising a thigh and possibly turning an ankle. But he hobbled up, safe on the other side of the gate, and fled from the city he had betrayed to meet the oncoming Falkovnian allies.

He never made it. Nadia emerged blinking in the sunlight from a stable, a machete in her hand, and she effortlessly ran him down and hacked at him until he collapsed screaming. She dragged him back to the city, leaving his bloodtrail in the dust, and handed him over to Szekler and Piergate. Despite the deep gouges in his arms and face from her furious hatchetwork, the Baron was alive - for now. He would face a dubious future, as traitor to his city, his army, and even his king. The question was: which justice system would get him first?


No rest for the vigilant

With the Falkovnians slowing their charge outside, Szekler thanked the PCs but warned them they had to get out of the city. Now that one crisis was over - the outing of the mole Agent Harkov - they had another urgent mission to complete as soon as possible: the extraction of the Elviran Vistani family from Falkovnia. There was no time to waste: they had one hour to collect all the belongings they wanted to take, and then they had to leave before the Falkovnian army could surround and besiege the city.

_________________


Last edited by HuManBing on Mon May 06, 2013 9:01 am, edited 1 time in total.



Sun Apr 14, 2013 8:57 pm
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Post Re: Beginner campaign in Darkon (possibly one-shot)
Dreams of Erlösunghaus-189

Nadia's dream
VIEW CONTENT:
Punished for her escape attempt, she was placed on mine crew - a job that would literally work you to death unless you were mercifully killed beforehand or "promoted" back to farming detail for good behavior. Nadia's work team supervisor was leading them all back, fettered and shackled together from an extended day's work to try to score good behavior points - when they heard hoofbeats coming. They managed to hit the ground and hide. Up the path, Beredostich and two footmen led four prisoners down to a clearing, far from the camp. The guards were speaking: apparently, there was a change in camp policy and executions could no longer take place inside, for fear of mass revolt by the prisoners. Instead, the condemned would be led away during the day and killed in a clearing, then brought back to be buried in the vegetable patches.

Beredostich unshackled all the wretches, and one scraggly prisoner began running for his life. Beredostich led his horse on a lazy, wheeling path past the prisoner, and then felled him with a blow from his spiked flail. The prisoner lay dazed, as Beredostich ordered his horse to "slowpace", trampling the prisoner's ribs and leaving him there to die of exposure or the guard dogs. Beredostich rewarded his horse generously with treats - clearly this was a specially-trained technique, as horses usually avoid stepping on prone humans. The other wretches merely stood blinking, and Beredostich rode them down. Two of them closed their eyes and accepted their fate mutely, but the third tried to grab the flail as it fell on him. Beredostich found this equal parts irking and amusing, and ordered his guards to stake the prisoner. They broke his kneecaps first, to prevent him running, then secured a thick stake in the clearing. Beredostich dragged him up onto the horse, and then the three of them maneuvered him with clinical precision over the stake and dropped him, unheeding the steady stream of pleadings, invective, and curses he leveled at them. Beredostich wiped a bloodied hand with disgust and dismounted, circling the skewered victim and repeatedly punching him as he slowly slid down the pike in agony. Eventually, camp superintendent and his guards collected their gear and headed back, with Beredostich commenting the dogs would eat well tonight.


Lyra's dream
VIEW CONTENT:
A new package has arrived at the camp. Big package. Big wooden box. Lemme see, lemme see! Oh, it jumps. Something's inside it. Something sounds really mad. Or maybe hurt. There are a couple of new people here too. One guy doesn't live here in the camp with us. Maybe he's from the city. He looks funny, he doesn't look like a soldier. Not like poohead Beredostich. He's a meanie. This guy looks serious.

They've opened the box! But only some of it. Only enough to let the guards stick their spears inside. They're pulling them out and smearing some green liquid on them and then pushing them back in again. Whatever's inside sounds really mad, but the box isn't jerking around so much anymore. Three more jabs, and then the box is quiet.

Oh, they're pushing the box over to The Pit. That's where you go when you've been bad. I don't like the pit, there are rats there, and if you look really closely on the walls you can see little flakes of other people's nails there. Now they're pulling back the leather rain cover from the pit. And opening up the bars on the box. And slowly tipping it over. Slump! Something big fell in! Something big and blue and with black fur or hair and muscles like you wouldn't believe. Looks like it could have been a horse, it was so big.

I wonder what games they're going to play with it?


Alcibiades (disturbing dream)
VIEW CONTENT:
Alcibiades was working in the hot afternoon sun, bending his still-healing fingers down to plant the seeds and check the sprouts. After the guy from the Thirteenth Directorate had spoken with Beredostich, he'd been put in a cell with invalids and allowed to heal up. That had been a blessing - invalids don't try to kick your teeth out to make raping you easier. Most of the guys just seemed broken, tired, waiting for the end. Alcibiades had regained the use of his hands and legs, and the hemorrhage of cerebrospinal fluid out his nose had stopped. Now he was just focusing on staying alive, staying on the right side of the rules, staying the hell away from Beredostich.

Hoofbeats on the dust of the camp grounds, and a shadow fell across him. This last part was going to be difficult. "Come into the shade with me," said the camp superintendent. Alcibiades stood up meekly and obeyed, keeping his gaze low. Beredostich had said into the shade - that probably meant beside the watchtower. Which probably meant he wouldn't try to kill him where he stood - with all the guards about who could rat him out to the Directorate. Right?

Beredostich had nothing of the sort in mind. He explained to Alcibiades: there was a new inmate in the Pit. Something brilliant, something utterly new. They were going to have a Falkführer visit the camp in a week. This Falkführer liked gladiatorial shows. Alcibiades was the single strongest man in the camp. Would he be so kind as to put on a show for the esteemed visitor? Beredostich could assure him a diet of red meat, buttered vegetables, and iced fruit drinks each day from now on - after all, a warrior must build up his strength. And he could give him a private hut to himself, with his own chamber pot and a bowl of fresh water to bathe with every morning and before lights out every night. And, if he pleased the Falkführer, Beredostich would see about getting Alcibiades a couple of female prisoners to share his hut, if he liked. That fiesty half-Vistani and that childlike charlatan mage might pique his interest. So, what did Alcibiades think - did they have a deal?

Alcibiades looked up at Beredostich, still silhouetted in the sun, and then up at the brilliant azure sky. Somehow, he had never thought it would come to this. But what choice did he have? He looked up at the superintendent and nodded. Yes.

They got him started immediately. Freezing cold water from the springs to bathe with. A guard came and shaved him, then gave him a bone comb to straighten out his filthy hair and beard. Food - thank the luckmakers, such food! Roast pork and gravy, sprouts with butter from the distance farmsteads, a crude earthenware mug of lemonade, so bitter it made his tongue smart... but it was a smart that came with a rediscovery of life, of sensation.

That night, he was lying on his pallet, trying to sleep in the sudden absence of groans, snoring, and whimpers of nightmarish hut-mates - when he heard a regular faint sound outside. It was the sound of something gently dragging itself over the dirt of the courtyard. Slowly, too, but why? Stealth? Had they brought something to kill him? He crept over to his hut door, careful to keep his body entirely inside. Prisoners had been lashed for less. There it was again: a quiet scrabbling, then a faint breath, and then a soft scraping as of pelt over dust.

Alcibiades thought about this for a bit, and then he heard the chattering. It wasn't Trecht or Dvoryrech or Darkonian or any of the languages he could speak. But it was definitely language. Of some sort.

Maranaxanfierborg... kruogrenatumtoorveh'... halaptheptupmarana... pallax... - all coming from the same direction of the scraping sound - outside his hut, close to the ground. And determined. So determined.

Alcibiades realized his throat was completely dry. What sorcery was this? "Hello? Do you speak Trecht?" he stammered out.

There was a pause. And then his words came back to him, mangled by an inhuman throat, misshapen through an unspeaking maw. "Helllllllah... dhu... yhu... sssssssssspique... Churrrrreeechhhhhhhte...?"

The horrible alien sounding words made the hairs on his nape stand up and his eyes widen. It was getting closer, and it was repeating the words in a growing sense of ... familiarity?

"Helllla-dhu-yu-spique-churekte... Hello-dhu-yu-speak-Trecht... Hello, do you speak Trecht?"

It gave out a keening high whimper that cut the air with its doleful otherworldly suddenness, and Alcibiades involuntarily ducked. It was the sound of something in terrible pain. Soon enough, it gave way to an irregular series of tormented, abbreviated breaths, coming like a carpenter's stubborn saw across poorly-whorled wood, before ending in a grating sound halfway between a fry and a death rattle.

The scrabbling sound got closer to his door, then thumped up against the doorstep. It stopped at that point, leaving Alcibiades sitting there with his heart in his mouth.

"We need... a truce..." the voice said. "Soon... we are to battle..."

And then Alcibiades realized what he was talking to. The Beast in the Pit - that weird, enormous, inhuman monster of mottled blue skin and jet-black fur, seen only in momentary glances from the barred windows. He tried to talk but no words came out.

"I could... snap your spine in my... jaws, like... kindling in the fire..." it continued, between the keening whimpers and the horrid death-rattles. "But why waste... a good neighbor...?"

Alcibiades finally found his voice. "What do you want me to do?" he asked.

"They will give you... an axe for felling trees..." came the reply. "They do not... truly expect you to prevail against my power..."

Another hair-raising shrieking whimper, suddenly abbreviated as though suppressed by an angry thought.

"I need you... to hack off my two hands... so that I can escape their shackles..." the voice said in a growl of monumental inner struggle.

Alcibiades was aghast. "You want me - to sever your hands with the axe?" he asked.

For the first time, the voice laughed, a noise which seemed to result in coughing up blood. Another whimper, hurriedly suppressed. "Don't worry... about me..." it said at length. "They'll grow back... just fine... they always do..."

Alcibiades realized at this point that he was sitting on his haunches on the floor. Also, that he'd pissed himself and his legs wouldn't respond. The warm evening air suddenly felt frigid on his clammy back. And also his cheeks, wet with tears he hadn't realized he'd shed. He wiped his brow with the heel of his hand and tried to keep it together.

"Do we have... an agreement...? Hold your axe... in your right hand... when you come to me... and I'll know we have a deal..."

Alcibiades nodded, clearing his eyes. "We have a deal," he said, in little more than a whisper.

"Good... good... I leave you now... this flesh is weak... You shall have to dispose of it..." A horrendous rattling choking sound, and then a thud as something finally expired outside his doorstep.

Alcibiades looked around and waited until the nearest watchtower changed guards. Then he peeked outside. To his consternation, he saw a dead guard dog lying in the dirt - if the guards found that outside his hut, he'd be dead meat. The Pit wasn't too far away - maybe he could drag it there and throw it in.

He crept out and put a hand under the dog's forelimbs, and picked it up, and that's when he almost screamed in horror.

It was only the front half of the dog.

The dog had lost the entire rear half of its body to the immense bite of some predator. A faint trail of blood marked its tormented path from the Beast's Pit to Alcibiades' hut, where it had dragged itself by some magical compulsion over the distance of several dozen excruciating yards by the strength of its forelimbs alone.

Alcibiades sat down heavily and screwed his eyes shut. {This can't be happening. This is impossible.}

Time passed. When he recollected himself, he realized he was sitting down with the mutilated animal corpse beside him. He grabbed the stiffening paws and half-dragged, half-carried it to the Pit, and then threw it in.

Inside, something stirred, immense and unknowable. There was the clink of shackles, and then a profoundly ancient voice murmured a few incantations.

And then the unmistakable noise of pattering paws, a whimper of an animal in fear or in pain. The dog, impossibly, was living again.

Alcibiades froze. What in the name of damnation was going on?

The whimpering continued awhile, and then with a fearsome suddenness, the Beast struck. It was all over in a second - the clanking of the chains, the crunching of bones, and the two, three consecutive gulps as the Beast devoured its hapless prey.


(Nadia's player freaked out completely at hearing this dream and she later described it as the best moment of horror roleplaying she'd ever experienced. I also later told CitiesOfGold about it and she wondered who in the world would play something like this for fun. Mission accomplished, I guess.)

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Wed Apr 17, 2013 10:02 pm
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Evil Genius
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Post Re: Beginner campaign in Darkon (possibly one-shot)
Elviran Retrieval 2013.04.13

Regrouping at Velnarest
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Pausing in their flight from Nartok Keep ahead of the invading Falkovnian army, Szekler and the party took in a breather at Velnarest. Or what remained of it, anyway. With the mines collapsed and the Eternal Order temple unfinished, much of the reason for the town's existence had simply vanished. As had most of the folks. Rumor had it that Lord Vorjek and a skeleton crew of loyal retainers were all that was left. Shay Stearns and his bandits had decamped to Nartok (and the tender mercies of the Falkovnians), Marcus Redralen was dead from the Falkovnian raid on the mines, and Lukas Nardev was dead from the previous PCs' adventure and no Eternal Order priest had dared to replace him.

One crusty resident wasn't leaving though - Vierpalt. The stubborn old zverg was still there, along with his human wife and his half-breed children: a lone outpost of Darkonian citizenry against the night. The PCs rested at his inn, which now resembled a boarded-up makeshift safehouse. ("Wipe your goddam feet on the doormat!" he snarled as they entered. They looked down and saw, with amusement, that his new doormat was made out of the Falkovnian flag left by the invaders earlier.)

Szekler outlined the mission. They would march by evening light to the badlands border with Falkovnia, where the Crowcrest Ridge made for a natural terrain barrier. They would rappel down the ridge, cross the stream at a shallow point, and then make their way back up the slope on the opposite side into Falkovnia. There would be a fortress and some watch towers at that point, but they were in disrepair and would not be a problem.

Afterwards, the party would make their way around ten miles into the Falkovnian hills, where they would converge on Erlösunghaus 189, a "Redemption House" (read as: gulag or concentration camp) where the enemies of the state were sent to languish and die from overwork. The PCs themselves were evacuees from the camp, and they had strong memories of Beredostich, the brutal warden. Their objective was to find and rescue the seven members of the Elviran refugee family, with the two essential personnel being the raunie Elvira, and her wasted sickly kinsman, Hyskosa. The Agency had a particularly philanthropic client who would pay extremely good money for the return of the family.

The family was: Elvira, Tsuritsa, Dulcimae, Snezhana, Hyskosa, Soldanni, and Beshaley. Once they are safely extracted, the party has to make its way back to the border and scale the cliffs to return to Darkon. Szekler had potions, concocted by the Agency contractor alchemist Leadger Wynn, which would allow them much greater ease of mobility while climbing, by temporarily reducing their weight. Wynn had also provided them with pills to stave off sleep. The timing is extremely sensitive: if they're still in Falkovnia when the sun rises, they risk capture and imprisonment or death. But if they arrive in Darkon when the sky is still dark, the Creeping Death may overtake them.


Over the Border
VIEW CONTENT:
The party made their way across the abandoned watchtowers on the Darkonian side and crossed into Falkovnia just as the sun was setting. There, they met with two allies - Aarunder the cleric of Ezra, and Javethro the ranger. Szekler had a few words with them, apparently about a separate job - they talked about taking a complex array into a lake and then weighting it down and lowering it to the bottom of the lakebed.

They made their way up the escarpment towards the Falkovnian side, but froze as they saw the fortress occupied, with lights in the windows.

They stopped for a while, to discuss a plan of action. Rather than detour all the way around, they decided to keep going and just go slowly and quietly, hoping to avoid detection. About ten minutes into this, the wind shifted, and a fog bank came in from the not-too-distant Shadow Rift - an immense help. Szekler also gave Nadia a few symbol discs and told her to place them around the foundation of the fortress. She did so, taking about half an hour to circle the place quietly.

They went on with their mission, finally arriving over hill and forest at the valley where the Erlösunghaus 189 lay, watchtowers glowing with torchlight above the barbed wire fences.

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Last edited by HuManBing on Fri Jun 14, 2013 9:28 pm, edited 2 times in total.



Sun May 05, 2013 11:49 pm
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