19 June 2022

Foreboding (and Hope?) regarding The Rings of Power series

I haven’t been following the various announcements concerning the forthcoming Rings of Power series lately, given my disappointment with the “time compression” that will be used for the series (that is, compressing about two millennia of events into perhaps a century or even a mere decade).


But I did watch the "Hopes and Fears" video from the “Nerd of the Rings.” I think that I largely agree with the mix of hopes and fears expressed by “the Nerd” (although I’m probably a bit more pessimistic overall). If you’re also a Tolkien fan, and both interested in and concerned about the forthcoming series, I recommend checking out this video.


(By the way, I’ve watched a few other “Nerd of the Rings” videos on various topics concerning Middle-earth. They’re generally of high quality and impeccably researched. I recommend them.)

25 May 2022

Goodman Games to release The Caverns of Thracia

After Goodman Games releases their updated version of Dark Tower (scans of the original plus a 5e or DCC conversion, along with "The Chosen Sons of Set" addition) they will turn their attention to another Jaquays classic: The Caverns of Thracia.

Here's the announcement from Goodman Games:

Goodman Games Announces Caverns of Thracia for 5E and DCC RPG

Continuing in the tradition of bringing classic adventures to new life for the next generation of fans of role-playing games, Goodman Games is proud to announce the acquisition of the acclaimed adventure The Caverns of Thracia from Judges Guild, and will republish it in fully converted 5E and DCC RPG editions with a targeted release date of 2023.

Coming on the heels of the acquisition of Dark Tower, The Caverns of Thracia is the second acclaimed adventure from designer Jennell Jaquays to join the Goodman Games stable. Both were originally published by Judges Guild.

The Caverns of Thracia is a beloved adventure module and rightly hailed as a classic. It was originally designed for parties of levels 2-6, and the 5E conversion will be balanced for similar play. The DCC conversion will also be for higher level characters. We will post additional information as the project continues!

Steeped in Greek Mythology, The Caverns of Thracia pits several factions against each other, with the PCs caught in the middle. The module is set among an intricate dungeon and lost city that were once the haven of lizard folk, before it was taken over by evil cultists. Now it is home to the slaves who have revolted against the cultists, and the lingering members of the cult trying to keep control for their own means. From angry Beastmen dwelling beneath the ground to a Cult of Thanatos living above them, dangers await around every corner and down each passage.

Jaquay’s use of factions and flexibility in running such a complex adventure has even garnered the nickname of “Jaquaying a dungeon”. Goodman Games plans to keep this tradition alive and well as we bring The Caverns of Thracia to a new audience. The details and historical background provided in the text create a rich setting from which you can build the foundation for many of your own adventures, and one that Goodman Games will use to enhance the setting in the updated release.

“My designs for Caverns of Thracia were born from the union of several themes: the three-dimensional nature of large cavern spaces, ancient Greek architecture, and a faction of beast men united together. Much of that can be seen in the cover art that I originally created for the adventure,” stated creator Jaquays.

“When I think back on my initial work on Caverns of Thracia, three images or concepts come to mind: the warriors in the cumbersome tubular Mycenaean bronze armor, the haunting figure of the death god Thanatos floating through the halls, and the rope bridges on level one that spanned the higher reaches of caverns whose floors were on the lower levels.”

This book will be a fully updated homage to the The Caverns of Thracia, crafted by Jennell Jaquays and originally published by the Judges Guild in 1979. Goodman Games will publish high-quality scans of the original first edition adventure module, plus commentary by tabletop role playing gaming legends and luminaries. Included will be a full fifth edition conversion of the entire adventure as well as a conversion for DCC RPG.

The temple and surrounding caverns and tunnels forms not just a fantastic adventure, but a mini-campaign with many hours of classic-style old school fun! Can you survive what waits inside The Caverns of Thracia?

For more information, please contact info@goodman-games.com.

07 May 2022

From Fort Endurance to the Village of Hommlet (Greyhawk Classics Campaign)

PART 2: FROM FORT ENDURANCE TO HOMMLET (Coldeven – Flocktime 578 CY)

[Part 1 here


2.1        Rest and recovery at Fort Endurance (Coldeven 8th – 14th)


Our intrepid adventurersErik (the mountain dwarf fighter from the Lortmils), Althaea (the high elf wizard from the city of Tringlee), and the brothers Godric (the human rogue from the Barony of Shiboleth) and Cedric (the human cleric of St. Cuthbert)—spend several days resting and recovering at Fort Endurance. During this time Cedric begins to teach the Draconic tongue to Althaea. Godric earns a couple of gold pieces by gambling with his special “lucky” cards.


The merchant Gareth Owlfeathers approaches the party in The Hideous Hydra during the evening of the 12th. Gareth explains that he is a merchant employed by the Gnomish trading house Zacklington Jewelry and Exotic Goods (based in Hookhill). While travelling from Hochoch through the Dim Forest he was waylaid by brigands. Sadly, most of the merchant’s goods were lost along with his two guards. However, Gareth escaped with some gems in his backpack, which he still hopes to still deliver to Zacklington. He now is looking for some doughty warriors to protect him over the remainder of his journey. Since the party has to travel in that direction anyway, after some discussion they agree to guard Gareth for the fee of 50 gold coins each.  


2.2       Treachery en route to Hookhill (Coldeven 15th – 21st)


The party sets off for Hookhill with Gareth Owlfeathers on the morning of the 15th. After a day’s travel the group reaches the edge of the Dim Forest. Gareth mentions a campsite nearby used by regular travellers, and the group sets up camp there for the night.


Shortly after midnight the party is ambushed! The wererat Illyana Tatranova seeks revenge—and is in league with the duplicitous Gareth Owlfeathers! Two other brigands join in the ambush. Gareth reveals that he is a spell-user and launches an acidic chromatic orb at Althaea. Illyana utters some eldritch words at Godric, but her enchantment apparently fails. In response, Althaea blasts Illyana with some magic missiles. Godric stabs Illyana with his magical dagger of radiant energy. But it is Cedric who manages to finish off the malevolent lycanthrope with a bolt of holy energy. Gareth is rapidly slain as well, and the two remaining ne’er-do-wells flee into the darkness.


The groggy Erik rolls out of his sleeping sack only once the conflict is over.


The party recovers two symbols of Syrul (one bronze and one iron) from the corpses of Illyana and Gareth. They also find a silvered dagger and another dagger with an opal in its pommel. Althaea places Gareth’s battered spellbook into her backpack for future study. 


[Symbol of Syrul]


The party completes the rest of their journey to Hookhill without incident, arriving on the 21st.


2.3       Hookhill to Thornwood (Coldeven 24th – 28th, Growfest festival [7 days], Planting 1st)


While staying at The Bored Basilisk in Hookhill, the party is approached by a charming half-elf. Sporting navy blue clothing, a grey cloak, and a closely trimmed blond beard, the half-elf introduces himself as Everetto. He claims to be associated with the Order of Istus of Bissel and produces the holy symbol of Istus—a golden spindle—in support of this claim.


[Istus and her golden spindle]


After buying the party a round of drinks (to the delight of Erik), Everetto explains that he has learned of their recent visit to the ruined Shrine of Istus from a travelling merchant. He asks the party for information concerning the shrine’s precise location. In return for this information, Everetto will give the party a set of maps that cover the Flanaess, as well as five rough cut diamonds (which he claims are worth about 100 gold coins each). So charismatic is the half-elf that the party readily agrees. Afterwards, Everetto produces a lute and sings the “Ballad of the Rain of Colourless Fire” for those assembled in the common room. At the end of the song there is not a dry eye in the place, and Cedric exclaims, “What a great guy—I really respect him!”


The following day the party visits the Zacklington Jewelry and Exotic Goods trading house. There they meet with Zack Zacklington, the gnomish head of the mercantile operation. Zack explains that he has no knowledge of Gareth Owlfeathers. The party sells two of their diamonds to the gnome for 50 gold pieces. Althaea and Erik purchase some silk rope, while Godric obtains some studded leather armour. Althaea also purchases some ink and paper and spends some time transcribing the spell “Silent Image” from Gareth’s spellbook into her own. She then tries to sell Gareth’s spellbook but finds no buyers in the town.


The party plans the next stage of their journey. Godric asks Erik about travelling through the Lortmil Mountains via a dwarven route in order to save time. Shame-faced, Erik confesses that he has been exiled from the clans there, and so the party must travel along the highways instead.


During their journey to Thornwood (the capital of the March of Bissel, also known as “Littlemark”) the party passes a dozen mounted Knights of the Watch.


2.4 Thornwood to Veluna City (Planting 1st to 15th).


Despite being the capital of Bissel, Thornwood is not much more than a fortified town. The party plans to spend little time there. Nonetheless, Erik discovers that the inn, The Tears of Luna, serves a potent liquor with the same name. Moreover, the innkeeper—the halfling Aldwin “the Tall”—mentions that the inn will offer free room and board for three nights to anyone who can drink six “tears” and walk in a straight line for four yards. Confident that he can succeed in this task, Erik chugs down the tears, begins to walk, and immediately stumbles about. Despite this blow to his pride, the dwarf is delighted with the drink and purchases a bottle for later “practice.”


After a couple of days of rest the party leaves the town, travelling along the highway that connects Thornwood to Veluna City. En route the party joins a band of pilgrims, followers of Rao (deity of peace, reason, and serenity) who are journeying from Keoland. Rao’s formal holy symbol is a heart-shaped mask with a calm expression, and is worn Brother Dolphus, a pale Suel priest from Niole Dra. The other pilgrims wear simple white hearts crafted of wood. 


[Symbol of Rao]


The party, and especially Cedric, learn more about Rao from the pilgrims, primarily from the erudite Brother Dolphus. According to the holy book of the followers of Rao—The Word of Incarum—in ancient times humans respected the wisdom and reason of Rao. Alas, the “Dark God” came and tempted humans with false promises. Rao took away the light of his soul when humankind turned away from him, and the world was plunged into darkness. Some humans repented, however, and Rao gifted the moons Celene and Luna to the peoples of Oerth to light their way during the night and to help guide them away from darkness and evil. Rao then sent his celestial champion, Incarum, with the Crook of Rao to drive away the fiends of the “Black Sun” (the Dark God). Rao returned the light to the day, but according to The Word of Incarum, true peace will not come until there is a night when neither moon appears in the sky.


Since Rao is an ally to St. Cuthbert (and, according to some legends, transported Cuthbert from another world to Oerth in ancient times), Cedric is keen to learn from Brother Dolphus. In return for a copy of The Word of Incarum, Cedric gives Brother Dolphus one of his copies of St. Cuthbert’s Sayings of the Wise Foole.


On the 15th day of Planting (the month that the Elves call “Blossoms”) the party reaches Veluna City.


2.5. Veluna City to Verbobonc (Planting 15th – Flocktime 2nd)


Veluna City is part of the Archclericy of Veluna, a theocracy devoted to Rao. It also is the largest city that the party has visited hitherto during their journey. Althaea finally succeeds in finding a buyer for Gareth Owlfeathers’ spellbook; she earns 400 gold pieces from the sale.


During an evening at The Purple Worm inn and tavern, the party is approached by a hill dwarf with rosy cheeks, a broad smile, and bright purple hair. The dwarf introduces himself as Yorvick, the “Master of Riddles.” He offers the following wager to the party. He will ask them seven riddles: for each riddle the party answers correctly, he will give them one gold coin; for every riddle that the party fails to answer correctly, the party will give Yorvick one gold coin. Moreover, Yorvick offers to gift the party a magical electrum ring if they manage to answer all seven riddles correctly.


Temped by Yorvick’s offer and confident of their collective wit, the party accepts. To the dismay of the purple-haired dwarf, the party succeeds in answering all seven riddles! The dwarf glumly turns over seven gold pieces along with the electrum ring. The ring has etched upon it the image of a shooting star or comet. Althaea casts “Identify” on the ring and learns that it grants the wearer darkvision. The rogue Godric accepts the ring, as it no doubt will prove to be a boon for his roguish endeavours.


The party then leaves Velnua City and spends the next thirteen days walking the well-travelled highway to Verbobonc. They arrive on the first day of “Flocktime” (which the Elves call “Violets”).


[Electrum Eel # 31. Temple of St. Cuthbert # 41]

The capital of the Vicounty of Verbobonc, the city of Verbobonc is even larger than Veluna City. The party stays at the inn The Electrum Eel [#31 on the city map] a famous—or perhaps infamous—hang-out of adventurers and sailors. While enjoying the service of the innkeeper Flavus, the party meets two mercenaries who recently have travelled from Hommlet: Gurth, a sturdy swordsman, and Twick, a tall but skinny archer. Erik buys several bottles of expensive Celenese green wine and shares the drink freely with the grim mercenaries. In response to this generosity, Gurth and Twick convey the following bits of information:

·       “The mercenary Zert is staying at the Inn of the Welcome Wench. He is between jobs, and his sword arm is for hire. He seems like a decent chap.”

·       “Some great beast is stalking travellers along the High Road. Travel it with caution!”

·       Burne and Rufus are nothing but lackeys for the Crown of Verbobonc. Once they complete their castle—'Burne’s Folly’—they will reveal their true motivations, and the village will be under the thumb of Verbobonc’s despotic rule.”

·       “Travellers give wide berth to the Ruined Moathouse. They report strange noises and lights at night. Perhaps that forsaken ruin is haunted!”

The party thanks Gurth and Twick for this information (but are uncertain as to how reliable it is).


On the second day of Flocktime, Cedric and Althaea travel to the Temple of St. Cuthbert in Verbobonc [#41 on the city map]. As a member of the Church, Cedric succeeds in gaining an audience with Bishop Haufren. Cedric explains his dreams of a rising evil, his visit to the Shrine of Istus, and his current journey to Hommlet. The Bishop is impressed with Cedric’s story and writes a letter of introduction for him to Canon Terjon. In addition to seeking out Terjon once they arrive in Hommlet, the Bishop recommends that Cedric contact the wizard Burne, who is a member of the Church. The Bishop also gives Cedric and Althaea four potions of healing to help them in their fight against evil.


Satisfied with their meeting, Cedric and Althaea return to The Electrum Eel. The party prepares to set out for Hommlet the next day.


2.6. Verbobonc to Hommlet (Flocktime 3rd – 5th)


The party departs from the fine city of Verbobonc during the early morning of the 3rd day of Flocktime (“Violets” according to the Elves). There is a light rain, but the weather otherwise is mild, and the party makes good progress. Godric and Erik take the lead, walking fifteen feet ahead of Cedric and Althaea. The day passes uneventfully, and the rain stops by the evening.


Midway through the following day (the 4th) the party spots a man lying on the road ahead. He appears to be badly wounded, with a bandaged head, and gestures limply at the characters, seemingly imploring them for assistance. While Cedric wishes to run to the man’s aid, his brother tempers his zeal and proposes scouting ahead first. Althaea agrees and proposes using her “message” cantrip to communicate with Godric after a few minutes to learn what he has found.


Stealthily maneuvering behind several trees off the road, Godric sneaks ahead of the group for about 40 yards and discerns four bandits hiding on platforms within the trees around the man lying on the road—no doubt ready to ambush any considerate travellers. Godric communicates this information back to Althaea, who in turn tells Cedric and Erik.


The party moves into action. Godric ambushes one of the bandits, while Althaea and Cedric target others with their spells: magic missile and holy bolt. Erik moves forward to the man lying on the road. Realizing that his ambush has been undone, the man on the road gets up and attacks as well.


Suddenly a large troll appears out of the trees and gestures menacingly at Godric! It is hit by a holy bolt from Cedric and disappears—thereby revealed to a mere illusion, much to the party’s enormous relief.


The bandits eventually are slain by the party, but Erik is held motionless by some kind of spell. Apparently, there is a mage amongst the bandits. With the death of the others, though, the mage seems to disappear—indeed, he or she is never spied by the party. There are signs, though, that the mage was not human, as his platform was much smaller than those of the other bandits. Althaea suspects a gnomish illusionist, although there is no evidence to rule out a halfling of dwarf (or perhaps goblin or kobold). In any case, the party recovers some coins from the bodies of the brigands.


On the body of the brigand who had attempted to lure the party into the ambush, Godric discovers an odd item: a smooth stone with the image of an eye and teardrop on it.

Weary and somewhat battered from the fight, the party makes camp. Worried about the mysterious spellcaster from the ambush, Althaea casts “Alarm” (as a ritual) to help protect the party as it rests. A light rain falls as the sun sets.


The next day the party attempts to track the spellcaster but fails. They cautiously continue their journey.


Near dusk of the 5th day of Flocktime the party reaches—at long last—the Village of Hommlet.







22 April 2022

Dungeons and Dragons news: Dark Tower, Honour Among Thieves, Spelljammer, and some other thing

There were a number of announcements today concerning the near future of Dungeons and Dragons (5th edition).


Among them: the title of the forthcoming D&D film. It’s Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. I actually like that title (despite the infelicitous removal of the “u” from “Honour”). I think a film focusing on thieves (and their associates) could be a lot of fun. Of course, as we all know, the first D&D film was a disaster (worryingly, I note that Courtney Solomon is one of the producers). And I don’t know anything about the other films. But perhaps this one will be decent? We’ll see. (Here is a recent brief description from the star Chris Pine.)


The Spelljammer setting is being “rebooted.” I’m happy for fans of the setting but I never got into it back in the day. That’s not a criticism – I wasn’t really engaged with AD&D during the 1990s. Later I got into Planescape a little bit (primarily thanks to the CRPG) but that’s about it for the 2nd edition settings. Perhaps it was, and will be, great. I might check it out once it’s available. Anyhow, here’s the ENworld page with three “preview videos.”


Also being resurrected is Dragonlance. Again, I’m happy for the fans. But I’ll be passing on this, as Krynn is my least favourite D&D setting.


Of greater interest to me is Goodman Games’ plans for Dark Tower (announced a few days ago). I don’t know whether I’ll take part in the kickstarter but I expect that, barring personal financial collapse, I’ll get this once it’s available in gaming stores.


[New "Dark Tower" cover from Sanjulian]

18 April 2022

Mythras News: Supes and Polynesia

There’s a new member of the Mythras RPG family: the superhero role-playing game Destined. It’s available now at the Design Mechanism’s new home store, and will become available at Lulu and DrivethruRPG on the 23rd of April.

Also, another Mythic Earth setting book is in production: Mythic Polynesia. I don’t know when it’ll be available, but the cover looks rather cool:



I’ve probably played more Mythras (including its predecessors RQ6 and MRQII) than any other role-playing game over the past eleven years. (By coincidence, I vaguely recall meeting Loz in early spring 2011…) I’ve played in the Young Kingdoms (Elric’s world), Mythic Britain, the Luther Arkwright multiverse, and (currently) Mythic Babylon. Soon I’ll be taking part in a Mountains of Madness campaign (converted to Mythras). I can’t recommend the game highly enough!

17 April 2022

No new Greyhawk setting book? Phew!

Every so often on the inter-tubes I encounter laments about the dearth of 5th edition (D&D) material for settings other than the Forgotten Realms.

Fair enough, I guess. But personally, I’m fine with the limited amount of material that’s been produced for the World of Greyhawk. There’s Ghosts of Saltmarsh, which includes some helpful material on southern Keoland, but not much information on the larger world. And there are some converted 1st edition (AD&D) adventures in the Tales from the Yawning Portal adventure collection. (The core “Saltmarsh” components, U1 – U3, of course, also are converted 1st edition adventures set in the world of Greyhawk.) 

Overall, I'm kind of grateful for the lack of “official” Greyhawk material. It means that WotC can't wreck the setting (a la 4e FR) or smother it with too much "official" detail (a la FR – all editions).

I prefer Gary Gygax's version of Greyhawk to later versions. (The original Darlene map alone is inspiring.) So, I am relying on the 1983 box set as my “setting bible” for my current campaign, adding things from later editions to taste. And I’m filling in the “gaps” and modifying things as I see fit (e.g., my “Mage of the Vale” is loosely inspired by the version found in Gygax’s “Gord” novels, and hence is entirely different from the "official" version). 

The 5th edition Greyhawk material that has been published has been quite easy to "plug in" directly, as are the 5th edition updates and expansions from Goodman Games, namely, Expedition to the Barrier Peaks and the Temple of Elemental Evil (the latter of which I’m using right now for my campaign). Of course, since most of that material was designed for 1st AD&D, much of it by Gygax himself, it’s not surprising that it all meshes readily with classic Greyhawk.

With PDFs (and in many cases print-on-demand books) available for pretty much all the older material, as well as the Greyhawk Wiki (and this resource that draws upon Gygax’s “Gord” stories), I frankly have more Greyhawk material than I know what to do with. 

By Boccob, when it comes to the Oerth, I’m laughing with good old Zagyg.

30 March 2022

Mythras and Against the Darkmaster News

I thought that I would pass along some news concerning two of my favourite role-playing games and the companies that produce them.


First, The Design Mechanism – publisher of the Mythras game and many excellent settings for it, including the delightful Lyonesse (which actually includes all of the necessary rules as well as the setting) – has a new online store. 

If you bought any PDFs at the old DM store it may be a good idea to download them before the end of April. 


The second bit of news concerns Against the Darkmaster, published by Open Ended Games.

There are a number of Against the Darkmaster things in the works, as outlined here. Of special note: a reprint of the core rules and a Player’s Handbook version of the rules. Given the overwhelming length (and weight!) of the core book, a volume with only the rules needed by players should be very helpful. Thankfully, the “VsD PHB” will be available in both PDF and print at DrivethruRPG.


23 March 2022

Fort Endurance and the Dim Forest (Greyhawk Classics Campaign)

I thought that I would share the summaries of the adventures in my "Greyhawk Classics" campaign. The characters are described in this earlier post. I'll set up an index for the campaign in the near future (similar to what I did for my "Spider Cult of Mirkwood" campaign).



1.1        Cracks beneath Fort Endurance (Coldeven 1st – 3rd) 

  •  In late Readying (the month the elves call “Yellowillow”) the adventures—Erik (a mountain dwarf fighter from the Lortmils), Althaea (a high elf wizard from the city of Tringlee, capital of the Duchy of Ulek), Godric (a human rogue from the Barony of Shiboleth, the southeastern part of the Gran March), and Godric’s twin brother Cedric (a human cleric of St. Cuthbert)—arrive at Fort Endurance within the Dim Forest. The fort helps protect the trade route connecting Hookhill (the capital of the Gran March) and Hochoch (a city on the boundary of the Gran March and the Grand Duchy of Geoff). For different reasons, the neophyte adventurers all seek the ruined Shrine of Istus, which is rumoured to be hidden somewhere in the southeastern portion of the Dim Forest. 
  • During the evening of the first day of Coldeven (the month the elves call “Snowflowers”), the adventurers break the ice in the fort’s tavern, The Hideous Hydra. They introduce themselves to each other and learn of their shared interest in finding the shrine (a remarkable coincidence—obviously fate brought them together!). Unfortunately, a brawl breaks out and the adventurers become involved—Erik enthusiastically, the others less so. They subsequently all are thrown in the “drunk tank” by the guards.  
  • The next morning the party is released from their cell by Rolf Ironfist, the clerk and advisor to the fort’s castellan, Sir Feric Vanick. (Rolf is a dwarf with a vivid red, carefully braided beard. He also is Erik’s cousin.) Rolf asks the party to investigate the merchant Garan’s shop, which apparently had been broken into a few hours earlier. The shop remains locked and there is no sign of Garan. 
  • The party investigates Garan’s shop and apartment. They find Garan’s body, a wing-clipped cockatrice that escaped from its cage, a hidden cache, and a secret trap door. The cockatrice (amazingly) is recaptured. After consulting with Rolf, the party opens the trap door and descends into a network of tunnels that permeate the rocky hill beneath the fort.
  • Over the course of their explorations, the party avoids some traps, fights some rats, discovers some secret rooms, and so forth. The rats, alas, infect Cedric and Godric with disease before they are destroyed. The party infers that the tunnels were used to run a secret gambling den during an earlier era. 
  • Delving deeper into the hidden warrens, the party discovers a Temple to Syrul (the Suel goddess of Lies, Deceit, Treachery, and False Promises). In the temple the party finds and fights Illyana Tatranova, a follower of Syrul. She seems to be unaffected by the party’s weapons! During the struggle, Illyana releases a mephit. Fortunately, the fiery creature is defeated by Cedric. Also released from a hidden trapdoor is a swarm of skeletal rats. The tiny creatures swarm Erik, rendering the dwarf bloody and unconscious. Godric also is knocked out. By means of magic, Althaea manages to overcome Illyana. Cedric returns to the surface while Althaea guards Godric and Erik.

[Symbol of Syrul]

  • Cedric informs Rolf of the party’s discoveries. Guards are sent below to recover the other party members and the malevolent Syrulite. Illyana, still unconscious, is imprisoned. The party claims her equipment, including a magical dagger. (The dagger releases a blade of radiant energy when activated.) 
  • Father Cormac, a priest of Fharlanghn, removes the disease from Cedric and Godric. (Father Cormac is a friendly human cleric of Flan descent, with wavy dark brown hair and a ruddy complexion. His holy symbol is a wooden disc with a curving line.)  
  • The exhausted adventurers then crash for the night at the fort’s inn, The Slumbering Serpent. 
  • The next morning the party learns that Illyana Tatranova has escaped from her cell! Father Cormac believes that she is a were-rat and escaped by changing herself into a rat during the night. 
  • Over the course of the day the party learns that Illyana frequently stayed at The Slumbering Serpent and would talk with merchants at The Hideous Hydra. They speculate that she would collect intelligence on travellers in order to decide which groups to rob later.  
  • The party also learns the location of the Shrine of Istus from Father Cormac. (He tells them that he prefers to keep the location a secret, given the power of its altar, but finds the party to be trustworthy, and is grateful for their help in discovering Garan’s murderer and in alerting the fort to the danger posed by Illyana.)

[Illyana Tatranova]


1.2.1     The Lost Shrine of Istus (Coldeven 4th – 7th)

  • Father Cormac tells the party some of the history of the Shrine of Istus. It was established by followers of the goddess of fate from Bissel and Ket almost three hundred years ago. About a century ago, it was overrun by orcs. Its location was not known by many, and knowledge of it was lost after its clerics were slain. As a wanderer, Cormac came across it several years ago, but was frightened away by the orcs and ogres that inhabited it.  
  • The fourth of Coldeven is a grey drizzly day. Undaunted by the dreary weather, though, the party travels southeast from Fort Endurance to the ruins of the Shrine of Istus. It is early evening when they reach the ruins. By moonlight they spot some humanoids lurching about. Deciding that it would be more prudent to investigate during the day, the party retreats into the forest and sets up camp for the night. 
  • The next day the party explores the ruins. Vile orcs and ogres are discovered! Unnoticed, Godric sneaks around to collect information. However, the other adventurers are spotted, and an alarm is raised. Althaea takes out some of the evil humanoids with a sleep spell. Eventually the party kills eight orcs. One orc manages to flee, as do two ogres. Cedric heals himself and Godric.  
  • The party decides to rest for the night before exploring further. They climb up the remaining intact tower located at the northeast corner of the grounds. Althaea casts “Alarm” at the base of the tower and sets caltrops at the top of the ladder. 
  • The next day the party further explores the ruins. Eventually they find the legendary altar of Istus. Behind the altar is a grey tapestry depicting the goddess Istus (a beautiful yet aloof woman of middle years who holds a golden spindle with three strands). According to legend, the holy altar will answer one (and only one) question for each person who touches it.    
  • Althaea has long been intrigued by the mysteries surrounding the Valley of the Mage. So her question is: “Why do the Valley Elves follow the human wizard who claims dominion over the Vale?” The altar’s answer appears in her mind as a kind of new memory: “The Wizard of the Vale is neither human, elf, nor half-elf, and the elves of the Vale follow him because he gave them succour in their exile.” 
  • Overly fond of strong drink—but at all not fond of hangovers—Erik seeks a Dwarven Helm of Sobriety. These great artefacts, creations of the legendary dwarf smith Laga Vulin, are said to cure one of any ill effects from poisons, toxins, or liquor upon being donned. So Erik’s question is: “Where is a Dwarven Helm of Sobriety?” The altar’s answer: “An unclaimed Helm of Laga Vulin lies magically hidden and locked within the Tomb of Serten, champion of St. Cuthbert, who fell in the battle of Emridy Meadows.”  
  • Cedric has been having dreams of a dark force, an ancient enemy of St. Cuthbert, rising again. These dreams have been tormenting him for almost a year. This was his reason for travelling to Fort Endurance and seeking the Shrine of Istus. So naturally he asks: “Where should I seek the rising dark force of Chaos and Evil that plagues my dreams?” The altar of Istus implants the following information in his mind: “Travel to Hommlet, near the city of Verbobonc; those who follow St. Cuthbert there will aid you in your efforts.” 
  • Godric has long been entranced by stories of the half-elven roguish mage Quesse the Quick (who travelled throughout the lands centuries ago). Quesse was related to Godric’s family through her human father. The mage eventually retired two centuries ago to a hidden manse. Although he did not choose to try to find the Shrine of Istus (that was his brother Cedric’s idea), Godric decides to take advantage of the opportunity to ask: “Where is the Manse of Quesse?” The altar’s answer: “Quesse’s home lies within the Gnarley Forest; the woodsy elves there know the way.” 
  • Happy with their newly acquired knowledge, the party explores further. They discover some things, including a magical key. Alas, they are attacked by a band of orcs and ogres (no doubt alerted by those that fled their earlier battle). Althaea creates an illusion of a berserker dwarf. The illusion pathetically fails to cause the humanoids to flee, although it does distract them. She also casts a sleep spell on an orc. Despite these arcane efforts, though, a terrible mêlée ensues. The ogres manage to batter Erik and Althaea into unconsciousness. Godric and Cedric, however, succeed in slaying the ogres. Godric notices another damnable orc fleeing into the forest.  
  • After providing some divine healing to Erik and Althaea, Cedric helps Godric set up camp in the main shrine, near the altar. They rest for the remainder of the day and throughout the night. 
  • Early the following morning the party explores a bit more but is attacked by a swarm of stirges. While the stirges ultimately are defeated, Althaea and Cedric are gravely wounded and fall unconscious due to blood loss. The adventurers rest again and then depart from the shrine.

  • Too weak to make good progress, the party camps in a shallow cave within the Dim Forest. The next day they complete their return trek to Fort Endurance. There they recover from their travails and make plans for a future journey.

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I'm a Canadian political philosopher who divides his time between Milwaukee and Toronto.