“Pick an orc, any orc” (DM Expository): The New Theskemplars, Episode 6.5

[DM recap of the end of Episode 6] The dragon, sensing it has been bested, musters all its strength to perform the remarkable feat of flying away to safety considering its handicap.  However the attempt is feeble and it crashes back to the ground a dozen yards away.  The swarm of heroes bear down on him and snuff his remaining life.  Looking around the battlefield filled with orcs and the dragon corpse, an eerie silence gives way to cheers of triumph indicating the fight is won.  The Black Eagle mercs spark a glimmer of excitement in their eyes as they realize the possibility of a dragon horde nearby, with their arrangement giving them a healthy cut.  A search of the area and huts fails to reveal any cache of such treasure, either being hidden far away or non-existent for the young wyrm.  However one abode displays a piecemeal collection of magical weapons, likely obtained by the various caravan raids the tribe executed.  Seven weapons of moderate power exhibited with pride are seized and the discussion on how to divvy them up immediately ensues.  An agreement on the mercs splitting the value of one of three offered is reached and the debt is absolved.  The remaining nine warriors administer last rites to the departed, and return to town. [end DM recap covered in Episode 6]

The next morning the streets are abuzz with the tale of how the Black Eagle Mercs and some local help overran the Tor’dūk Orcs and slayed a mighty dragon.  The party meets with Lord Bartan and General Grattz who bestow accolades upon the group for their efforts.  Gratzz quickly prepares the horses for departure and the heroes take their leave to meet with Orgor One-Tusk, leader of the Iron Blood Orcs.

Far from the Golden Road in a valley predominated by a fortified settlement, the group arrives and meets with the renowned Orgor.  [Picture attached]  His appearance and speech give body to his wisdom due to age and experience.  After further discussion of the area and current situations with the Zhentarium, Shadowmasters, politics, and various other threats gleaned no new information, the touchy subject of rehiring orcs arose.  Orgor admits their people were paid to remain behind in contemplation of future service, but the departure of ideals and arrangements of protection with the citizens of Phsant have long eliminated the possibility of reemployment, and the Zhents are wise enough not to even consider such.  However the Iron Bloods are far from the only orc remnants of the war.  Specifically he knows well of three factions which could pose a serious threat if approached and a powerful ally:

The Silvertooth Orcs are a large community of mining orcs located in the mountains and town of Blackhill.  They are employed by industrious capitalists of their own kind and others.  The mountains are rich with ore needed by the surrounding cities and valued highly by some traveling merchants.  These orcs are hard-working, strong, and have large numbers.  They are also considered civilized (as much as humans can consider them so).  Upon payment they often venture into Phsant to blow off steam in taverns and meet the numerous half-orc females who have established there to seek strong and civilized companions.  The citizens of Phsant welcome it to a degree but know exactly how far to push and let themselves be pushed to prevent a tense situation.  However recently the number of orcs returning to town regularly has diminished, and there are reports of some going crazy and attacking other orcs and humans, stressing the relationship.  Some have reported hearing voices in the mines and many are refusing to work (at least until forced to or financially unable).  The cause and scope of this disturbance is unknown without journeying to the mine-town.  Regardless they are a large number of financially motivated physically powerful outsiders that could be a target for persuasion.

The G’dok Clan are traditional orcs living in the Forest of Lethyr.  Secluded and self-sufficient, they honor their ancestors and the forest quietly within their own society.  Highly intelligent for orcs let alone all races, they have developed their own language not based on any version of orcish or other tongue that we’ve heard of.  Besides this they’ve further isolated themselves by moving deeper into the forest, until their virtual disappearance according to our scouts.  However there are traces of the G’dok still around, and odd events surround them.  Abandoned settlements have unusual definitively non-orcish architecture and aspects integrated into their traditional community.  Above all else recently a pile of over a dozen bodies were found all wearing unusual garments and notably disfigured.  The air of mystery combined with the possibility of outside forces at work could mean this clan has either already teamed with a known mutilating faction (the Zhents) or that they have discovered a place or object of power which could aid the same faction.

The Agaogamon Tribe is a small primitive clan of orcs that have devolved since the war.  They formed from the most violent, power-hungry orcs willing to raid any town or passing caravan for both profit and pleasure.  Fortunately they are a self-defeating society.  Located in the treacherous hills to the east, an Agaogamon member is as likely to be eaten by a predator as killed in a raid or slain by a clanmate for power or rank.  However they are known to have dealings with nearly all the major factions in the region, from the Zhents to the Reds to the Hill Giants and many others.  They often contract for power or simply for the thrill of slaughter, rarely for gold.  We’ve kept a consistent eye of them wary of their intentions.  Recently they’ve been seen with outlandish tattoos carved in blood into their bodies, and what appears to be self mutilation.  However our few encounters with the participating orcs we found ourselves outmatched, with their power greatly enhanced.  Who provided, what was discovered, or how they acquired whatever augmentation that occurred the Agaogamon Tribe has suddenly become a volatile threat in the region, and with their known previous ties to Zhentarium may dictate an investigation.

After further discussion of the location, history, and circumstances behind the target orc clans, Orgor makes a proposal.  You should investigate whichever of these tribes sound the most likely/dangerous/intriguing if they were involved in Zhentarium discussions, and the Iron Bloods will send large scouting parties to the other two.  Reconvene here if you so choose to hear their results when you conclude your journey.

[Our party chose to investigate the G’dok Clan, living in the Forest of Lethyr.  That will be covered in Episode 7.]

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“So, who’s this Torduk guy?”: The New Theskemplars, Episode 6

Having rested up from the confrontation with Shamock, we were now ready to head off on our previously intended mission: investigate the claims that orcs are working with Zhents in the area of Phsant.

We set off, mounted, along the Golden Road toward Phent, Dirk (the barbarian) also leading a cart of goods. Where’d he get the goods? What are the goods? We haven’t a clue. Not in a rush, we made Phent just prior to dusk and were able to get rooms atcheck into an inn, get some grub, and crash for the night, which passed uneventfully.

The next morning, we got back on the Golden Road headed for Phsant. Dirk’s cart full of goods were gone, but he didn’t seem upset…pleased, rather.

About midday, we were nearing the area of the Golden Road called Rock Ridge when we spotted smoke up ahead. Rounding a bend, we came upon a mass of orcs battling amongst themselves around a burning cart in the road. Initially, we couldn’t tell what was going on other than the fighting was definitely orc on orc.  Based on our first encounter with the undead orcs back in Telflamm, the knowledge of what Reshman had been doing, and their inability to positively identify any groups of orcs, Mord stepped closer and called upon the divine power of Lathander to destroy any undead orcs among the throng.  The bad news:  Mord looked a bit silly.  The good news:  we weren’t dealing with any undead.

We cautiously moved closer.  Mord noticed that two of the archers were firing on orcs that did not have the symbol that Emerine noticed. He skirted around toward the back of one of the archers and flung his shield, scoring a hit on the surprised orc, before running up and finishing him off with his mace. Meanwhile, Dirk had stepped up and cleaved another orc in half with his great axe, exchanging brief words in orcish with one of the orcs with a symbol. Emerine blasted another archer across the battle from us with Eldritch Fire causing him to burst into flame. As he yelped in pain, the orc Dirk had spoken with yelled out (in common) “Tell her he’s one of us!” Emerine gave the quick “Oops” and looked for her next target.

The rest of the battle took no time at all. Once the other orcs realized we had chosen to help the Iron Blood orcs (as we learned they were called), they fled, only to be chased down and hacked up by Dirk.

The leader of this group of Iron Blood orcs said “Torduk won’t claim their prey today,” indicating the remnants of the cart and whatever was in it. “Are you Black Eagle Company?” he asked. We told him we weren’t, not knowing precisely what we had been asked. A brief discussion of who we were and who they were provided a bit of the information we had been sent to learn, as well as the name of the Iron Blood leader, Orgor One-Tusk, who we asked to speak with.

In all the commotion of battle, someone else had arrived behind us, and while the most of us talked to the Iron Bloods, Bron headed back to speak to the newcomer. From their conversation, we learned that Bane (the newcomer) was a newly added Theskemplar…sort of. Hailing from Milvarune, this tall elf was serving a probationary role as Theskemplar. He and Bron brought the horses up and we headed to Phsant with the Iron Bloods.

The Iron Bloods took us into and through the streets of Phsant, a major city, straight to their Merchant Council. After a short wait, we were ushered in to a room with Lord Bartan Helfor of the Merchant Council, who introduced us to Captain Grattz, Orgor’s First Leiutenant.  Together, they explained that the Shadow Masters from Telflamm had sent messages to their enemies letting them know that due to recent events, they would currently be unable to provide the protection they used to and would not hold an enemy accountable for any actions during this period of reorganizing and rebuilding. These messages, of course, were directly related to the increase in banditry along the Golden Road with the Torduk Clan being much more active and bold in the areas near Phsant, in which the Iron Bloods had previously been able to patrol and keep a moderate peace.

We explained to Captain Grattz what we were here to do and that we needed to see Orgor. He offered us a deal: Help him investigate/eliminate the Torduk Clan and whatever was enabling them to operate more aggressively and efficiently, and then he’d take us to Orgor. Seemed we had no choice so we agreed. Captain Grattz assigned two veteran Iron Blood orcs to help us and show us where the Toduk Clan had last been camped. It was about that time that Mord asked “Who is this Torduk guy and how did he got all the orcs to follow him?” Dirk, Bane and Captain Grattz all got a good laugh over that before explaining that Torduk is orcish for Broken Wing.

We recon’d the camp and decided we didn’t have quite the numbers we needed for an assault so we headed back to Phsant and visited the Black Eagle Company, who we’d learned was a mercenary organization. We hired four of them to come along on our raid in exchange for 25 gold pieces per hiree paid up fron to the Black Eagle Company and the understanding that each of the mercs going with us got four percent of whatever loot we found. Agreements and handshakes done, we headed back to the Torduk camp.

Moving to positions to surveil the camp, we came across and ambushed two patrols of  orcs. As we surveyed the camp one more time to come up with a strategy for attack, we found out why they called themselves the Broken Wing Clan. In the center of the camp, was a dragon with one broken wing speaking to the clan. It was now very obvious why the clan was called “Torduk” and that he was in charge. There was a little posturing between Torduk and what appeared to be the lead orc as they briefly argued about who was more needed by the other. After the exchange, Torduk snatched a horse from a pen and headed off to a corner of the camp to eat it.

We split up a little and kicked off the assault with a Sound Burst on a group of three orcs. Combat ensued with us (Iron Bloods and Black Eagles included) quickly getting the upper hand on the Torduk orcs before Torduk himself joined the battle, a little earlier than we’d hoped. Luckily, though he joined the battlefield, we were able to dispatch a few more of the orcs before having to deal with him. About half of us engaged him, suffering bites, claws, tail whips, and wing buffets, while the other half cleaned up the rest of the orcs. Torduk was the last enemy to fall, and all we lost in the process was one of the Black Eagle Company.

We looted the camp which didn’t turn up much except for 7 magical weapons. We figured one of those weapons would come close enough to the total 12 percent of the loot we owed the mercenaries, so after identifying the weapons, we gave them three of them to choose from.

Time to head back to Captain Grattz and then go meet Orgor.

Enemies Slain/Overcome

  • 5 Orc of the Torduk Clan (at Rock Ridge)
  • 14 Orcs of the Torduk Clan (at their camp)
  • 1 juvenile Fang Dragon

Episode Loot:

  • +1 Morphing One-hand Weapon
  • +1 Scimitar of Slow Burst
  • Viscous Whip
  • Warhammer of Acidic Burst
  • Stygian Short Bow
  • +2 Great Axe
  • **Parrying Battle Axe

**We gave the Black Eagle Company mercenaries the choice of the +1 Morphing Weapon, the Viscous Whip, or the Parrying Battle Axe and they chose the Axe.

They’re Everywhere! They’re Everywhere!: The New Theskemplars, Episode 2

After leaving Vala and the city watch to clean up, catalog, and lock down Romaine’s shop, as well as escort Romaine to lockup, we reported to the city council to let them know what had transpired that day and to turn in our “badges.”

The next morning, we reported back to the council to see if they had learned anything yet only to find that Romaine was dead, poisoned in his cell during the night.  They had been able to identify the poison as purple worm poison -nothing so rare that it would identify the source.

The search of Romaine’s shop turned up only one item of interest -an unopened scroll case with a matrix of letters and numbers.  A member of the city watch also noted “Z, M” scratched into a wall near the shop.  We figured the matrix must be a key of sorts, if we could figure it out… which we did eventually.

With Romaine dead before he could be interrogated, and no concrete leads found in the shop, the council had no official mission for us.  We decided to do our own investigation based on the information we had gotten from Romaine about a shipment arriving, so we headed out to the caravan entrance to the city and hung out, waiting for the Zhents to arrive.  They weren’t too difficult to spot when their covered wagon came rolling up with someone in blue robes driving the wagon, a couple of white-robed, mage-looking types, and a couple more white-robed fighter types…they may even have been displaying a Zhent banner.  I can’t recall now.

As inconspicuously  as possible, we tailed the wagon as it made it way into the middle of Telflamm, straight to the House of the Master’s Shadow.  Blue robes hopped down and proceeded to knock on the door very loudly, repeatedly, for about five minutes before someone answered the door.  Blue robes demanded to see someone named Jalaunthen to which the doorman responded that he should keep his voice down.  After a few moments more of talk, another loud demand to see Jalaunthen, and another shushing later, the doorman told blue robes that he was to go to location Q at time A.

With that, blue robes drove his wagon to an inn.  He and his group all went inside.  We decided to search the wagon that they left unguarded.  Emerine cast a quick spell to unlock the wagon’s door then summoned a giant bee as a distraction so all those people around the inn wouldn’t see us entering the wagon…which we found to have no illegal items.

As we had wandered away from the wagon back around to the front of the inn, the Zhents, in their white robes, started exiting.  We paused, planning on following them, and were slightly put off when about nine or so of them exited the inn, then headed off in different directions.  As a group, we followed a few of them who headed toward the huge, open air market.  As they split up, we split up and followed them…all over the city…for way too long.

During this time, we (the players) broke the code which, of course, means the characters did as well.  One of the clues combined with the code, indicated a meeting at the Temple of Waukeen.  We headed there at one of the first of two possible times indicated by the matrix.  We found no one who looked familiar and no one in white or blue robes.  Mord asked one of the priests a few questions about any dealings with the Zhents, which the priest denied.  He seemed to be telling the truth, so after a quick look around, we left the temple, headed back to the market.

On our way to the market, we came upon one of the white-robed men we’d seen leave the inn.  We didn’t think he was one of those we’d already harassed so we approached him.  He looked slightly concerned to see a group of armed folks approaching him, but once it became apparent that we weren’t likely to hurt him, he became quite obstinate.  Only willing to answer our questions for more gold than he was being paid to wander around the city in the robe.  He didn’t even care that the distraction he was being paid to provide was benefiting nefarious organizations.  Tiring of his attitude and not willing to hurt him to get what information he might have, we left him and continued on to the market.

Evening was now upon us and the streets were dark and, for the most part, empty.  As I said, we spent an inordinate amount of time following the white robes, in addition to breaking the code.  Working our way through the marketplace, we headed toward the north west corner as indicated by the matrix.  Not knowing exactly what to expect, arrived well ahead of the time indicated.  I’m not sure what exactly happened, but when we arrived at a time we thought would be a little early, the alley was already lit, and we could see a couple of white robes as we approached.  We split up and took up positions on the overlooking buildings, and found Reshman, in his signature blue robes, standing in the middle of the alley, a couple white-robed guards and mages guarding the alley entrances…or exits.

It seemed we had just gotten in place when a couple shadowy figures sneaked up to overlook on either side of Emerine, while simultaneously a few of them stepped out of the shadows below, one Bron recognized as Sun, a Shadow Master mount, addressed Reshman and a brief discussion began.  It concerned a shipment that Reshman had been expecting that the Shadow Masters had intercepted and re-routed to Nyth.  Reshman found that humorous, boasting that the Zhents “own” Nyth.

About that time, another Shadow Master (who Bron recognized as Rozu) stepped out of the shadows and attempted to backstab Reshman.  He succeeded in starting the nights melee when he failed to kill Reshman.  Reshman blasted Sun and Rozu before relocating to a different location as the shadow masters who’d taken their places near Emerine started trying to pelt the Zhents with arrows.

Conflicted over which side to assist, we observed for a few moments before deciding the Shadow Masters were the lesser of two evils at the moment.  We joined the fray, three of us leaping down and engaging the Zhent agents in melee, while Emerine began blasting Reshman and his wizard cronies with Eldritch blasts.  Needing a little more help, Reshman summoned a few Dretches from the lower planes and they moved forward, serving mostly as fodder and a delaying tactic for him.  As we were getting the upper hand, and the shadow master archers and Emerine were taking their toll on Reshman, he summoned a giant centipede before fleeing –we’re not quite sure if he went invisible and fled or teleported away, but we didn’t see him again that night.

Eventually, we overcame all of the Zhent guards, wizards, and summoned beasties, capturing one of the guards.  He turned out to be a sell sword who quickly threw down his weapon and surrendered once he realized he was outnumbered and stood no chance of escape.  He bargained for his freedom with a promise to never aid the Zhents again and the location of a Zhent research base in near Flambridge.

Enemies Slain/Overcome:

  • 1 Zhent Guard (sellsword – surrendered, gave info for freedom)
  • 2 Zhent Mages (1 by us, 1 by Shadow Masters)
  • 1 Giant Centipede
  • 3 Dretch (1 slain, 2 fled)

Episode Loot:

  • Rod of Arcane Knowledge
  • 2x Studded Leather +1
  • 2x Rapier +1
  • Scroll of Color Spray
  • 2x Ring of Protection +1
  • Chrono Charm Necklace with Grand Master charm
  • 2x Great Axe +1
  • 2x Banded Mail +1
  • Gauntlets of Arrow Reflection
  • Medal of Steadfast Honor
  • Crystal of Security, lesser

Tactical Retrograde: The New Theskemplars, Episode 3

After a night of recovery from our battle with the Zhentarim, we met with the Telflamm Council to discuss what we’d learned and see if they had a more formal mission for us.  We told the council about following the Zhent wagon through the city, their use of common folk willing to do anything for a few coins, and the battle between the Zhents agents and members of the Shadow Masters.  A number of the council members argued that as a group, the Zhentarim can’t be prevented from trading in the city…only ones proven to be breaking laws.  One said that we should investigate and eradicate the Shadow Masters.  Finally, Pren, the head of the council, said that while he had to concur with the majority of the council members with respect to allowing law-abiding Zhents to continue to do business in Telflamm, he did think there was sufficient evidence for us to go officially investigate the disappearance of the shipment, including who was responsible, where it was taken, and what was going on at that location.

After accepting the mission, Pren told us that there was a fellow waiting to talk to us and ushered us into an adjoining room where we met with Mezan, a Red Wizard.  Mezan told us that (surprise, surprise) he, like us, was interested in keeping the Zhentarim from establishing a base of operations in the city.  He offered to help by telling us where Reshman’s shipment had been taken and to assist in countering Reshman’s spell casting in exchange for what was in the shipment and first choice of any other loot we found.  After discussion amongst ourselves, we decided to take him up on his offer.

We gathered our gear, got horses from the council, and headed out toward the Flambridge Research Base, where we wanted to go investigate based on the sell sword’s info and Mezan’s lead that it was where the shipment had been taken.

It didn’t take too long before we had reached the “rocks that don’t belong” at the end of the sell sword’s directions and began searching for some sort of entrance.  The three “rocks” were tall enough and leaning against one another in such a manner as to allow people to walk under and among them.  We all tried searching for a secret door, but couldn’t find anything so I started running around the area making a lot of noise until I tripped over a handle on a trapdoor right beneath the rocks.  [It’s amazing how poor a job we all do searching an area.]

I pulled up on the handle.  It rose enough to make a huge echoing noise below, but was locked.  I pulled on it again to the same effect.  A few second later, we were beset by mole-looking creatures that burst from the ground attacking us.  Mezan identified them as groundlings.  After a few moments of the rest of us failing to do much more than dance around the groundlings while sustaining light scratches, Dirk was able to dispatch them.

I bashed in the trapdoor and we proceeded down the slightly improved earthen steps to an intersection with short passages extending about fifteen feet to the left, right, and straight ahead.  Only the one straight ahead had any marked…with an ornate carving/pattern that included a three foot circle on the ground beneath it and incorporated three handles.  Somehow, we also noticed what looked like a hinge to a door in the design.  Since none of us has the ability to remove any traps even if we were to find any, I volunteered to give the handles a try.  One after the other, reaching from around the circle on the ground, I tried the handles, hoping that one of them would be the right one to open the door.  No such luck.  I got burned, frozen, and shocked.  “Maybe, it takes two handles at once?” I thought.  I stood inside the circle this time and pulled the handles that caused the burning and freezing…and got burned and frozen again.  Calling on the glorious light of Lathander, I was able to heal some of the damage I had just sustained.

In that moment of divine grace, it hit me that what better trap than to have a completely bogus device that simply dispensed damage while the real door remained secreted away around a corner.  We searched the right and left passages, found the door, and continued on.

The smallish passage led us to a very large room lit be multiple braziers.  Dirk went in first and took up a position in the middle of our end of the room.  I darted across the room to the other side and the rest of us spread out a little bit to prevent Reshman from hitting us all with an area effect spell with Mezan taking up a position slightly behind Dirk so that he could see Reshman to counter his spells.

Reshman began to monologue about how he had already had time to use the shipment to finish his experiments and we were just in time to be the first test for his newly created undead elementals which he summoned forthwith and commanded them and the other Zhent minions in the room to kill us.  Combat quickly went bad for us.  A Zhent wizard stepped forward and paralyzed me with a Ghoul Touch.  Dirk was able to step up and hit him, but was then set upon by two Wizards who began blasting him and draining him of strength.  Bron was being zapped by another wizard, we couldn’t seem to deal any damage, and Mezan was doing a pathetic job of countering Reshman’s spells.  Luckily, Reshman had only been targeting Mezan.

I had been able to see most of what had been happening so as soon as I could move, I shouted for us to pull back to the passage.  Over the next few moments, we were able to tactically withdraw while taking minimal damage and actually killing two of the wizards in the process.  I had also tried unsuccessfully to use the divine light of Lathander to turn the undead hybrids.  [I’m not sure if the hybrids were just too powerful for me or if the blending in of the elemental essence prevented them from being turned, but, either way, it can’t be a good thing.]

I had initially thought we could wait at the other end of the passage and attack the enemy while they could only fit through one at a time, but as while we had technically accomplished what we’d been charged to do, we decided to take Mezan up on his offer to teleport us to safety.

What we weren’t expecting was that safety was within a Red Wizard safe house in Nynth… (to be continued)

Enemies Slain/Overcome:

  • 2 Groundlings
  • 2 Zhent Mages

Video: “May It Be” by Enya

From the “The Lord Of The Rings:  The Fellowship of the Ring“, the video for Enya’s hauntingly beautiful “May It Be” is full of great clips from the first of the The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Accepted, I dare say, by most fantasy readers and authors as the foundation upon which the fantasy industry has been built, The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien is an epic struggle against the ultimate evil.

Dungeons & Dragons: The comic book

Note:  This post was originally published at the end of January this year on a different blog that I’ve closed.

Saw a post by Dungeons & Dragons on facebook the other day about issue number three of the Dungeons & Dragons comic book just be released.  I hadn’t heard that a comic book had been developed at all.  The comic book is written by John Rogers, illustrated by Andrea Di Vito and published by IDW.

I was browsing my local geek store, a.k.a. the comic store, this evening and decided to see if they had the latest issue of Dungeons & Dragons.  They didn’t have number three, but they had an issue #0 Cover A, #0 Cover B, #1 Cover B,and #2 Cover B.  Looking inside the cover at home (yes, I bought them all), it appears that they have about 5 different covers for each issue.

I haven’t yet read the comics, so I can’t tell you whether they are any good, but I’ll post a comment to this post after I’ve read them with my take on them.

Of note, the back of issue #0 (both covers) has two scimitars and the following:

     SALVATORE

       DRIZZT

        2011
If that’s a comic book, I’ve got to get my hands on it.