Thursday, 18 March 2021

Belswick 29 - Climbing Mt. Heresy

Last time in Belswick, our adventuring party joined the Eagle Lances of the Rock, a mercenary company that's fighting off the invasion by nasty, possibly heretical and definitely semi-French Arrayne in the south. To open a new route for the company, the party is to negotiate safe passage with the frost giants of the southern snake mountains. Off you trot.

Player comments in red, DM's notes in...teal?

Player-facing map of this path crawl. All connections take one day to walk (unless the random dice gods intervene). Dotted lines are hard-to-find paths, zig-zags are extra-hard climbs that take a Constitution save to avoid getting a point of exhaustion. The party mostly took the left-most branch (the Hinterlands), veering into the central path (High Mountains) by crossing from the Old Gate to the Ruined Tower. There are much more of those secret passages on the map, but they'll have to find those on their own :)


WHO WOULD ACCEPT THAT KIND OF SUICIDE MISSION?

  • Guy Montfaulc, diviner wizard and occasionally afflicted with psionic blackouts ever since his youth
  • Shams Metalgrog, dwarf and arcane knight looking for reasons to stay on the surface and not join her race's Downward Crusade
  • Barak Sapat-Gromesh, holy warrior of the ...god? saint? Gormesh, and scout for Tyaak's Free Lances of the Rock. Rides a massive dire boar named Zendod, Orcish for "fluffy".
    Shams: I love how there's an orc word for "fluffy". That changes my whole way of looking at them.
    DM: versatile beast, that one. Riding animal, totem beast, bedroll, emergency ration...

  • Pyrrha 'little red', wild girl of the small remnant of people that still follow the old ways. Big rages, summons flint weapons from the ground and flings dangerous magic around when "playing with people"
  • Ungulu the Vulture, birdling cleric of the Order of Light and member of the Inquisition. Very interested in heresy perpetrated by the new religious order of "Zulin" in Arrayne

 

WHAT DID THESE LOONS GET  UP TO?

A good old-fashioned pointcrawl, that's why! I mapped out the region, gave them the choice between three routes to the Frost Giant fortress, and entrusted my fate to the dice. Out of the hill road (long, boring), the high mountains (short, dangerous) and the hinterlands (middle length, weird), the players choose weirdness. They buy rations and trust to their survival skills to find food and water.

Every day, the group elects someone to lead them, who then rolls for weather conditions and random encounters. Chaos, take the wheel:
Pyrrha: mini-map and random encounter rolls were a treat! Too bad that we didn't roll any of the really kooky stuff, but this still was a very interesting trip.

  • Barak leads the group out on the road to the Quarry and further into the hinterlands, gets them lost a couple of hours out of mercenary HQ because of cruddy encounter roll. Extremely steep climb means half the party is exhausted. Worse still, it started raining like hell because of crappy weather check. Only one character has thought to bring a tent. 
  • Ungulu sneaks out in the middle of the night with his acolyte Harald. Catches a wild beast and sacrifices it to definitely not the Authority, asking to speak with "his brother". Such power is granted, and the normally almost entranced "Harald" becomes more animate, speaking to his brother of "the pain that this half-life causes him". Ungulu promises to sacrifice more often so he can talk to Harald more. He is warned that the price will increase. Just this once, he will agree to bleed himself, and Harald slowly carves the sign of a key into his brother's palm. The party notice when Ungulu and Haralad come back all bloody from their "prayer" (lucky perception roll!) but their religion check is low enough that they don't know what the key symbol means. Probably nothing bad.
    • Barak: no-one is who they seem in this party. What the hell is this guy's deal!
    • DM: mad props for Ungulu. He's scary even for an inquisitor, he's got a dark secret and he's not afraid to show that at the table. Very fun to see the party come to grips with that.
    • Pyrrha: the way he goes through characters (Mike the Druid - Sydney the Sorceror - Morrti the Artificer - Ungulu the Inquisitor), he has to, or those secrets never make it into the session ;) But definitely a highlight: very dark, foreboding and emotional.
  • Next day the weather is better, and the party makes it to their first marker on the map: the Quarry. Here the blue-lipped workers are hard to distract and hard to stop talking when they start. The foxling overseer is happy to sell the party canvas for tents at a mark-up if they help make dinner. He gives them directions: continue to the Dwarf Farm, detour to the Cloven Oak (a lightning-struck tree), or take a short cut into the Raging Gorge in the high mountains. The group rests up and decides to go for the Cloven Oak.
    • Barak takes the opportunity to tell the story of his patron saint Gormesh, who preached to the Orcs and was struck by lightning but finished his sermon before exploding. He'll tell it daily or more this session.
    • Barak: Man I love playing this guy and coming up with his one-liners. Bless me with your lightning!
    • Pyrrha: keep the Flemish accent!
  • The climb to the oak is pretty doable, and the party meets up with the purple-robed beetlefolk acolyte Hannah of the Order of the Scroll, who is gathering old folk tales and who wanted to see the lightning-stricken oak. Apparently it's almost the anniversary of an old lightning spirit casting its might at the tree, and she'll hang around a couple of weeks to see if anything happens.
    • The party wake up at night to an atmosphere charged with electricity, and see Hannah performing a ritual with copper at the cloven oak. Shams gets her to confess that she's not tale-gatherer but a minder of this sleeping godling: she has to finish the ritual and ground the tree before the godling can awaken!
    • Touching the tree, the party get the idea that a proper offering might bring...attention. Shams places her family greatsword in the cleft, Guy sets a child's doll, Barak leaves a trusted handaxe,...and Pyrrha, Harald and Ungulu all climb into the tree. Pyrrha wants to use her magic power to draw the lightning, Ungulu wants to give of himself to bring Harald back to life. Hannah is FRANTIC at this heretical ritual, but cannot stop the group.
      • Ungulu: let's face it, Shams intimidated the shit out of her. Who is that dwarf really? One moment she's having her familiar heal the wounded, then it's browbeating beetlelings. I thought I was the scary one.
      • DM: he is. Fuck does that vultureling inquisitor scare me.
    • Lightning strikes! I roll a sick amount of damage and call for saving throws: everyone lives, but the tree-dwellers take a solid 40-something lightning damage. All the gifts evaporate under the discharge...including Pyrrha's magical abilities! Her spells, cantrips and especially her power to call weapons out of the earth are gone. In return, everyone has resistance to lightning for a month. And Harald? Harald looks a bit more present, a bit more focused. He's still pretty quiet...probably because he chooses to now. There's a bit of lightning deep in his eyes.
      • Ungulu: thanks so much to Guy for using his daily prophetic insight to improve my aweful dex save. Sadly even the higher result wasn't enough to avoid getting fried.
      • Pyrrha: my previous character Tilly the Dealmaker would LOVE to find out that the group has been indulging in a little heresy on the side.
      • DM: yeah, we should play a one-on-one session soon and find out how "retirement as an abbot" is treating Tilly. 
  • The group continues south, finding a short cut (lucky encounter roll!) as the weather turns fair. Shams leads the group past a still (moonshine made by the farm hands) and takes a small keg for a couple of gold pieces. She then takes the group to the Old Gate past the Dwarf Farm. Here the group finds five orcs in a hunting band, who are pretty sick after pestering an old lady at the Crystal Lake one day out. The party shares their own food and makes friends.
    • Pyrrha: Poor Shams. "I don't know what to do with my life anyway - oh hey, alcohol!"
  • On the next morning, Guy decides to lead the party not ahead to the Waterfall but into the high mountains, where he has spied a Ruined Tower through his familiar's eyes. Halfway the grueling climb it starts to rain again, then hail and lightning break loose: clearly they're in danger! Guy pulls up a magic dome of force that will keep out pretty much anything for eight hours. Barak stares at the lightning - did he tell the group about how his patron saint handled lightning? - and Pyrrha marvels at the dome and her own complete lack of magic.
  • The next day, the group completes the killer climb up the mountaint (by amazing rolls, no-one got exhausted!) and meets a bunch of...woodsmen? at the top, sheltering from the last of the storm in the Ruined Tower. "'ello? Oo are vous?", their leader calls out.

    "Shit, did we cross into Arrayne?"
    DM: We'll find out next session!

...DM, while writing up this log: fuck, only NOW does the little part of my brain that runs Hannah the Beetle realise that she saw a heresy-hunting Inquisitor participate in a witch rite to get power from some old god! I'm sure that won't come back to haunt the group.

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