December, 1967 They say we had no idea they were coming. I say we've known about them for years. Hell, why do you think the Russians and us wanted to get up there so suddenly. They wanted a better look at the thing. Billions of dollars they spent to get a look at it first and now the whole world can see it for free every night. Sure the mustache, that's what my grand daughter calls it, caused a hell of a lot of panic. I'd never seen so many people packed into St. Catherine's that Sunday, but it also amazed and wondered. We, humans that is, suddenly weren't alone anymore. For a lot of people that was fine as long as they stayed up there, but then they decided to drop in and introduce themselves.
Not only did they decide to drop in, but everyone started losing it because it was the night of Christmas eve. "Angels," they cried. That was before the Christmas day massacre. I'm not sure what exactly happened, but whatever it was it pissed them off enough to vaporize anyone who got near their ship. That was it, people snapped. They packed up what they had and got the hell out of Dodge.
Chaos descended onto land, and I'm not just talking about the people. The landscape started to change and funny things started to happen. The egghead on the radio said that they use stuff from a perpendicular dimension and that it pokes holes in our dimension like a needle in cloth or something like that. She also said that those holes may continue to tear the more visitors we get. The tearing causes weird phenomena and the other worldly relics left by the visitors create a deadly attraction to people.That's why the government brass set up the End Zone.
As for right now, the city is quiet, which I'm happy with. It's a pain that Ivan decided to try and nuke a couple of the saucers after the massacre and now winter is a month longer. But every few weeks another ship comes down, not afraid of us a damn bit, stays for a week, and bugs off again. Then, as usual, you get the influx of people, like yourselves, who managed to slip by or pay off the military. The End Zone is a magnet for scientists looking to make a name for themselves, and criminals who want theirs forgotten. Spiritualists and treasure hunters looking for their salvation. But the End Zone is as deadly as it is tempting. A woman came by few weeks ago showing off what she thought was one of those perpetual batteries you've probably seen and in the process it blew her head and arm clean off.
As for me, I was born in Detroit, I was raised in Detroit, and, by God, I'm going to die in Detroit. My only hope is that there's still a spot left for me when the time comes.
Once upon a time, not so long ago, in a place not so far
away a young seafaring lad met a beautiful enchantress. The enchantress was so
beautiful that to gaze upon her was to forget all else. But, when separated from the enchantress
the spell began to fade. The enchantress’ mother, the Old Sorceress, knew that
in order to aid the enchantress and trap the handsome young seafarer she would
have to use another spell.
The Old Sorceress made plans to give the seafaring lad some
magic fish that would take away his memory of his home and his previous life.
So, the Old Sorceress invited the lad to come and dine with them saying “come
in sailor and have some fish”. The ladate his fill, and his memory was lost, except for thoughts of the
The seafaring lad and the beautiful enchantress were wed and
raised a family. The enchantress passed on to her children the secret of the
magic fish, and the spell continued to work.
The secret of the magic fish is now being passed on the
grandchildren and the great-grandchildren of the Old Sorceress. The magic fish
is being prepared so often that more and more innocent lads are coming under
its spell. Soon the country will be populated with nothing but love-sick lads
under the spell of the magic fish.
GM Note: The Hounds of Mirkwood is my first The One Ring adventure which did not come out of a published book. While not a published adventure, it is heavily inspired by the early event of the Darkening of Mirkwood and Ruins of the North books. Below is what unfolded at the table, with commentary about process or intentions noted just like this in italics. The Adventuring Company
Ash - Woodmen of Wilderland
Bell - Hobbit of the Shire
Mozart - Ash's hound of Mirkwood
Toefur - Dwarf of the Lonely Mountain
GM Note: These characters were pregenerated characters that I had previously used in a convention game run at AcadeCon. These are experienced characters with approximately 120 advancement points and 25 XP each. Each of these characters had special "power" cards which summarized character abilities. Since some of the players were new to this game, I found these cards very helpful in ensuring players did not stall out hunting their character sheet for things to do.
While in the House of Beorn, the company met with Gandalf the Grey and was ask to deliver a letter to Radagast the Brown in Rhosgobel, a settlement on the edge of Mirkwood. When the company arrived at Rhosgobel, they found the normally open and welcoming gates mostly shut. Once inside the walls of the settlement, they found the Woodmen around were uneasy or anxious. They discussed this with Radagast in his dwelling and learned that currently that the Men of Tyrant's Hill have sent an envoy here to discuss an alliance and that the envoy's arrival coincided with the disappearances of a number of the Woodmen and their hounds. The people of Rhosgobel are currently distrustful of the envoy, and blame them for the disappearances.
GM Note: When the discussion with Radagast occurred, the subject leaned heavily on the hounds. The players did not know people were also missing until about 3/4 of the way through this discussion. This was intentional, as I've found that most of the players will have an emotional response to saving an animal over people.
The letter the company delivered from Gandalf to Radagast recommended that the company could help solve any issues that may currently be plaguing Rhosgobel. With that, Radagast recommends the company act as a third party scout to search for clues about the missings' whereabouts, as any run-ins between the Woodmen and the Men of Tyrant's Hill could boil over with the current tensions. Level heads must prevail.
Investigation around the town uncovered that three Woodmen and six hounds had gone missing over the course of three weeks. The Ash decided to visit the residence of the most recent person to have gone missing, Brennan, and try to find a scent to track. Brennan's home was currently occupied by his 16 year old daughter, Morrow, who obliged the Bell's request allow them to sniff around the house for a trail to follow. During this time, Toefur met with the Tyrant's Hill envoy, Torrel. Torrel explained their presence and position regarding the proposed alliance stating that, as a force from the South grows stronger, his people can not keep up the fight and protection they've been providing without support.
GM Note: The plot of this adventure will be to investigate the disappearances of the men and hounds while also trying to discern the motives of the Men of Tyrant's Hill.
The next day the company set out with Mozart tracking the scent of Brennan and his two hounds, Rose and Thorn. On day 10 they discovered a spot in the woods where a struggle seemed to appear and trace amounts of blood was discovered. They followed this for a further 3 days and discovered a small camp. Believed to be made by the Men of Tyrant's Hill, the camp was in disarray as if a fight had taken place there. Items of note discovered included symbols or tools that matched those of the Tyrant's Hill envoy, a set of leads tied to a tree which had been snapped or torn apart, and a note in a locked box presuemably written by someone named Mogdred. The note found instructed the reader to continue their duties to stop any orc they find moving North, but if negotiations turn sour, that protecting the Woodmen should no longer be a priority. Also discovered was what appeared to be drag marks heading out of the ruined campsite.
The company followed the drag marks for a few hours. As they did, the forest around them began to become filled with spider webs. This continued until they came upon a large spider's web with several wrapped bundles clinging to it, one of which was moving. If Toefur's less than graceful trek through the previous spider webs didn't draw any unwanted attention, the Ash's attempt to climb the web certainly did. Soon a series of spiders descended upon the company. The battle was short and sweet, until the great spider arrived with her horrible shrieking and corrupting bites. Though, she too was soon dispatched.
GM Note: I wanted this fight to be more difficult than it was, especially since the characters are fairly experienced. I originally chose spiders from the Heart of the Wild book, but completely forgot that I wanted to use them until after the fight.
After the fight, the company took the time to lower the bundles from the spider web and discovered that the wiggling bundle was one of the missing hounds, Thorn. While Thorn was being treated for being malnourished and poisoned, Ash also discovered that she had bandaged wound along with the spider bite. The other bundles contained the bodies of the three Woodmen, four of their hounds, four Men of Tyrant's Hill, and three other hounds (later identified by Radagast as hounds of Tyrant's Hill). As Toefur attempted to relocate the bodies to a better place, he noticed that the three Woodmen all had stab wounds in their backs along with the spider bites. Ash noted that the weapons used to cause this damage were probably crude and of orc make.
With Thorn in poor but improving shape, the company traveled back to Rhosgobel to inform Radagast of their findings. While he seemed concerned about the note found at the campsite, the concern wasn't what everyone else was thinking about. He informed the group that the letter they received was a powerful thing before saying goodbye.
Afterwards, the company returned to Morrow to inform her of their findings and return Thorn home. After being offered a place to stay from her, Toefur decided to visit Torrel again and discuss their findings. When informed of the fate of his kinsmen, Torrel formed a hypothesis of what happened, indicating that his people were waylaid by spiders, which caused orcs to slip through, who murdered the Woodmen and their hounds who were subsequently found by the same spiders. When presented with the note, he made no attempt to deny its contents. He confided in Toefur that the Men of Tyrant's Hill cannot keep what evil grows in the South at bay if they cannot find support from those whom they protect. He reminded Toefur that the letter he holds is a powerful item.
From there, the party decided that they should have a word with the Woodmen and discuss what else may be happening behind the scenes.
GM Note: This is where the first adventure ended and we proceeded to a short fellowship phase.
The Tau’s first encountered Petrollix during the Third Sphere Expansion. When the Cru’stea sept’s water caste landed to start diplomatic processes with the natives, they discovered Petrollix already contained a healthy settlement from the Imperium of Man.
The Imperium had found that Petrollix’s sprawling dried oceans contained a large source of fuel and energy resources. Imperial mining and refinery colonies tasked with satisfying Imperium’s thirsty consumption were set up in these dried ocean beds which began the process of pumping the world dry of its abundant resource. They soon set up the Master Refractor, an enormous energy generator which harnessed the energy from the planets core.
Over the next few years after the start of the water caste’s diplomatic conquest, the men of the Imperium on Petrollix became convinced that they have been abused and forgotten. The ethereal leading the water caste, Aun’qi, and his message struck to the heart of many of the men. The Tau’s mission of the Greater Good saw many men pledge their support to the Tau, but those who did not subscribe these ideals soon presented an armed resistance. The Cru’stea’s fire caste deployed to the surface and quickly squashed the resistance. With the resistance quelled, Aun’qi claimed Petrollix for the Tau Empire, renaming it Path’tal.
Now the Cru’stea sept has a firm grasp on Path’tal and set up a stronghold here. The Earth caste with the assimilated humans, known as gue’vesa, began utilizing the existing extraction and refinery facilities for the Greater Good of the Tau Empire. The rich resources were a boon to the upstart Empire, and the Imperium of Man could not stand for it.
The Imperium soon returned in force to attempt to take Path’tal back from the xenos. The Cru’stea’s air caste intercepted the Imperium’s retaliation force before they could reach the planet’s surface and won major victories which cause a heavy amount of debris to fall to the planet. Those soldier lucky enough to get there boots on the ground were met with fierce resistance led by commander O’tria. A Tau victory was immanent.
In a final desperate act, the Imperium turned their focus towards the Master Refractor. Their hopes were to destroy it and destabilize the planets core. If it didn’t out right destroy Path’tal, it would knock the planet out of alignment and the resulting radiation would make it uninhabitable. The Imperium made a fierce attempt at the Master Refractor, combining all of its forces into a single pointed force to spear through the Cru’stea defenses. O’tria split her forces into 3 units, one taking the head of the spear while the others flanked in a pincer maneuver and crushed the Imperium’s last hopes and driving them off Path’tal for the time being.
This is a quick journal and recap of the Pagoda of Pao Long mini campaign. The campaign is being run in D&D 4th Edition with 3rd level characters. Three of the four players in the game have no experience with D&D 4E. Any DM commentary on the game will be made in italics.
Cast of Characters
Arizona the Wood Elf rogue (Brian)
Lucky the Deva panther shaman (Bronte)
Norga the Half Orc warden (Jackie)
Zohrramacus the Human Wizard (Curtis)
Cast of NPCs
Edith Goldhart - Previous adventuring companion of the party who fell in love, got pregnant, and is currently holding her wedding.
Edward McGowan - Tender poet and soon to be husband of Edith.
The session started with a quick narrative recap/montage of their first adventure together a year and a half ago. Zohrramacus the Great had supposedly secured an entertainment gig for a royal child's birthday which was supposedly good paying. The party were crossing through a jungle when they encountered a valley of thick black vines. In this valley they found a cave inhabited by a pygmy race. Trouble was caused by Lucky's spirit companion Ducky, a giant ghost duck, and the party had to dispatch of the little cave people. Shortly after doing so, they learned that this kingdom of pygmy people was actually the location of the gig Zohrramacus had acquired. They looted what miniature treasure they could before leaving but, before they were able to spend any of it, Arizona was held up in an alley and robbed for all they had earned.
I first learned about this "montage" device from the 13th Age GM Resource Book included with the 13th Age GM screen. I've found that it's an easy way to add background and bonds to the party in a way that keeps everyone entertained still. I've used it at the start of games and also when the party is traveling between far locations. It lets character come through a bit more than traditional "roll and role" gaming in my opinion.
Of Brides and Poets
The adventure opened up in a cathedral on a very rainy day in the town of Pendelmore. Edith Goldhart is standing eight months pregnant at the altar in a wondrous white wedding gown. The party, who previously adventured with Edith in the past year and a half, sit in the pews as guests waiting. When the groom never shows up, Edith starts to get angry, moves too the party and starts venting. Norga and Arizona don't remember much about Edith's soon to be husband. Zohrramacus on the other hand, who may have tried to court Edith, has studied the groom and knows a thing or two about Edward, a poet.
It is suggested that maybe Edward had gotten cold feet or nervous about the wedding. Angry, Edith offers the company extra wedding cake if they can bring him back to her (in one piece so she could wring his neck herself). After accepting Edith's offer, Lucky suggests visiting the local poet's cafe to see if they could find Edward or anyone knowing his whereabouts.
The group was initially refused entrance for not having the proper attire (beret and sunglasses) and suspicion of plagiarism. Arizona gave the cafe owner a made up tip about future fashion trends in exchange for being allowed in. They learned that Edward had performed there the night before and wrote a poem about how his bride-to-be would look brilliant when adorn with Silver Flurnas, a rare silver tulip-like flower. Norga recalled that the Silver Flurnas are very rare and nearby only found in the courtyard of the Pao Long Pagoda.
The party traveled through the heavy rain to the west side of Pendelmore where the Pao Long Pagoda stood. Zohrramacus recalled that the Pagoda was built 700 years ago to seal a crack in the material plane to the Shadowfell. The structure now stands sealed and abandoned, surrounded by a 30ft high wall with a large locked gate. The rogue made short work of this lock, pocketing it as a reward. While investigating the muddy courtyard, Lucky found a disturbed patch of Silver Flurnas, muddy footprints with traces of green slime, and a busted umbrella which once belonged to Edward. Norga noted that the green slime was probably from the local sewers and the company went to investigate.
Arizona noted a manhole with fresh mud not far away from the Pagoda. When they lifted the manhole, they noticed that the sewers below had a light in them. After climbing down the ladder they were confronted by a enclave of goblins with a campfire going. Between them and the goblins, the heavy rain waters were causing the sewers to move with great strength and planks of wood were placed across this torrent. The goblins sprang to attack after the party failed to give the password they demanded. The small horde of goblins consisted of 7 goblin grunts (lvl 1 Minions), 3 goblin archers (lvl 2 Sharpshooters), and 1 goblin hex caster (lvl 3 Controller), while a large sleepy crocodile waited for anything unfortunate to slip into the sewer torrent to come its way. The party had a difficult time overcoming these baddies, with most of the pain being caused by the 3 isolated archers. The warden was peppered many times with arrows and got knocked unconscious twice. The rogue also took his fair share of arrows, leaving him badly injured and weak. After most of the goblins were dispatched, Zohrramacus parleyed with the final goblin archer who let them know they were hired to make sure nobody who didn't have the proper password could go by. They also learned that earlier that day, the man who hired them came through with a group of people, one of who matched the description of Edward, and gave the hexer a small payment (which turned out to be a gold ring missing a gemstone).