January 14, 2019

Ben-Dagra session 2: We're all gong farmers, seriously, I promise

Emmett the Astrologist
Calhidon Starstrider, Elf
Liu-Chang Xhan, warrior and duck wrangler
Bavon the butcher cleric
Sneed the Thug

Months pass after our previous adventure, but we each pick up on rumors of nefarious opportunities from our combined contacts.

We learn of the House of the Green Crane, containing some sort of magic key and treasure in the highest room of the tallest tower. It's in an ancient mansion in the Gold quarter belonging to a long-defunct family. Fallen into disrepair and haunted by ghosts.

Sneed taps his patron in the Gold district to learn what he can, and his contacts tell him that the bottom floor has been taken over by wastrels who use it as a gambling lounge and den of iniquity.

Emmett immediately starts thinking of plumbing. Bavon offers to help however he can.

We approach the mansion. It's a huge, sprawling complex.

Main entrance on the east. Dilapidated entrance on the west that appears collapsed and impassable.

We push our way inside. Smell of body odor, drugs, alcohol....sex and candy? Guttering candles and lamps. It's a large floor-plan broken up into smaller apartment/storefronts, similar to a flea market.

Food sellers, gambling stalls, flesh sellers, drugs. Arranged into two rows of ramshackle booths.

At the far ends are a pair of doors. Guards stationed on each side.

Sneed slithers over to booth near the end and strikes up a conversation with the merchant there. As he pretends to have a conversation, he makes a sign of recognition in the language of the Thieve's Cant, trying to see if either of the door guards responds. One of them nods, and the other opens the door and enters into the room beyond.

Sneed takes this as a sign and approaches the guard, lying that he has business with him. The guard is suspicious, but lets him in. Sneed gestures for the rest of the group to follow him.

We enter a medium-sized meeting room. Tattered finery. Several imposing men.
A man in silk finery sits on an elaborate chaise lounge, and introduces himself as "Jakol".

"Why are you here?'

Sneed - "Sir, when I entered, I was assailed with the most foul stench of filth. I have brought with me the best gong-farmer in town to inspect your 'waste situation'".

Emmett, the gong farmer and recent wizard  regales Jakol with lots of plumbing jargon and contract violations, before offering to take a look upstairs for Jakol.

Jakol says that the upstairs is full of bloodthirsty ghosts, and every year or so, some dumb group of adventurers goes up there and never returns. He tells us, "Fine, go up there. But if you return, I want a full share of the spoils."

Sneed briefly considers forging some documents that would leave Jakol empty handed after all this, but decides against this course of action.

Bavon offers Jakol a blessing from the cow god in exchange for 1gp, which Jakol agrees to for some inexplicable reason.

We embark.

Twisting hallway ending in stairs leading up into the darkness. Musty odor. Slightly colder temperature. Is dark.

The elf lights a torch and draws his copper sword.

Emmett casts Akeem's Mystical Mask to see in the dark, but miscasts. Black fungus grows up all around us, covering the walls and flooring.

We enter a big room covered in dust. There's a rug in the middle of the room. Bavon pulls it, thinking it would make a great blanket. He uncovers a pit in the floor and bells dangling that would have alerted Jakol's thugs if we hadn't already gained permission to enter this place.

Calhidon kicks open a door into another room full of debris and masonry. Bavon digs through the rubble and pulls out a skull with a silver circlet around its head. Then a shadow pulls it back. Bavon says, "never mind, you can have it."

The shadowy claw shoots out and rakes at Bavon with its icy talons, savagely murdering the beef acolyte.

Sneed dashes in and drags the cow priest out of the room, toward safety.

Emmett casts sparks of magical energy into the shadows, but it fizzles out.

Liu-Chang lunges with his spear, jamming it into the shadow. The creature gives off a gibbering squeal. When he pulls the spear back, the silver circlet is dangling off of it. We hear a distant "quack".

Calhidon releases his falcon into the shadowy gap in the rubble. Seconds later, shadow entrails start flying everywhere, then everything goes still and silent. Calhidon sadly lowers his drawn bow.

Liu-Chang dumps a vial of holy water down Bavon's throat, praying to the gods for help, but the gods do not hear.

Bavon barely stabilizes from his mortal wound. He has black rake marks on his torso. Liu-Chang hands Bavon the circlet and says "I believe your god wanted you to have this." He puts it on and miraculously it isn't cursed.

We hang out for an hour to let Bavon recover from his ordeal. Then he places his holy silver symbol over his forehead and his wounds seal up.

Calhidon presses on and kicks in the next door.

Collapsed shelves. Broken glassware. Emmett finds a secret door that leads into a hidden chamber. We hear a sound like the intake of breath with lots of reverb. Dust coalesces in the center of the room, into the shape of a shadowy humanoid figure.

Sneed tries to sneak past, but the specter locks its white eyes directly on him.

Liu-Chang flourishes his spear fancy, but fails to hit.

Bavon casts Protection from Evil, but fails and almost throws his holy symbol in frustration.

The shadow floats directly at Liu-Chang with its claws and maw, but the duck monk ducks deftly.

Emmett fires his bow. Misses.

Calhidon unleashes his falcon, but it just passes through harmlessly. On seeing this, he casts Magic Shield on Bavon and fails.

Sneed dissolves into the shadows.

Bavon tries to Turn Undead. The shade draws back in horror and flees from the effigy of the Bull. It hisses and gibbers angrily from the corner, then disappears into what appears to be a wall. Calhidon inspects the area and finds a hidden door into a broken-open crawlspace.

We pursue and find a room with a floor that is canted at an angle. 6 small humanoid dust creatures emerge from the ceiling, floor and walls, and pounce on us.

Calhidon's falcon whiffs, and he fires a useless shortbow arrow.

Liu strides into the center and does a whirlwind maneuver.

Sneed slinks into the shadows behind cover.

Bavon beseeches his god to blow a strong wind into the room and disperse these creatures. An enormous wind rushes through, blasting the creatures free of dust, leaving only these emaciated, mummified angry monkey things full of teeth and eyes.

The creatures attack in a frenzy, landing hits on Calhidon and his falcon.

Emmett cuts himself like 1999 emo kid and and recovers his Magic Missile, casting it at the critter that attacked Bavon. The poor critter collapses into a puddle of hissing and popping acid.

Calhidon's falcon rips and rends while Calhidon fires his bow at a different critter. It continues to fight, despite being impaled by an arrow.

Liu swings his spear like a hockey stick, trying to slam one critter into the other.

Sneed pounces out of the shadows and back-stabs one of the uninjured critters, landing a solid hit. He immediately tries to take another attack, but gets too excited and overextends, but manages to regain his footing without stumbling.

Critters attack, hitting the falcon, the elf, and Liu-Chang.

The falcon and the elf retaliate. One of the critters drops, with an arrow through it.

Sneed flanks the critter attacking Emmett and stabs his dagger through its neck and up through its little skull.

Bavon heals Calhidon.

Critters attack, hitting the Elf and Liu. Liu drops.

Emmet casts a cloud of scintillating light shimmers, crashing into one of the critters, dropping it.

We finish off the remaining two dust imp.

Bavon rushes over to Liu and lays on hands, helping him almost fully recover. His god disapproves.

December 17, 2018

Ben-Dagra session 1: Gold Pit of the Forgotten King

Presented as written by the party chronicler, the best thing to ever happen to my game group. Enjoy!

Dubious noblemen, so many bulls, and a mighty duck

We begin in a hookah lounge tucked away in the Weaver's District. The subterranean looms hummed below, tended by their monstrous Weavers.

This is our hangout. A spot to unwind and grab a drink to dull the memory of our daily toils. Recently some uppity nobleman showed up and started buying drinks for everyone. He's been doing this for weeks. Rubbing shoulders. Making friends. Assuring us that he too is a member of the middle class.

Tonight he finally revealed what he's up to. He gathered a bunch of us around, presumably the most trustworthy among us:
* a dwarven stonemason
* Felix the halfling trader
* Morton the gravedigger
* another gravedigger from a different guild
* a butcher who always carries half a side of beef with him
* an elven falconer
* a cheesemaker
* a squire training under a possibly fictitious knight
* a minstrel and a jester, sister and brother
* an animal trainer
* Elmer, the urchin
* a cutpurse
* a dwarven ratcatcher
* Liu Chang Zhan, rice farmer and Anatidaeomancer
* Sneed the beggar (and spider bite survivor)

The noble introduced himself as Darius Hamenoy, and rambled on about his impeccable pedigree while the rest of rolled our eyes, yawned, drank some more, and tended to our duck(s). Finally he got to the point. He apparently was sifting through his opulent library and opened up a dusty disused tome, and a parchment map fell out. It appeared to be a map to a fantastic lost treasure buried in a tomb of antiquity. He called it "The Gold Pit of the Forgotten King". Or was it The Forgotten Pit of the Golden King? Dammit. Maybe it was the Forgotten Gold of the King Pit. I don't know, I was drunk.

In any case, Lord Darius of Hamenoy proposed that we set off together to recover this treasure. In hindsight, we probably should have negotiated terms, but I think we were all eager to escape our boring jobs digging graves, begging, cutting purses, catching rats, etc, so we agreed immediately, and set off on the following morning.

We journeyed into the Scabrous Wastes, following the cursed ridge for half a day's journey, guided by Darius's map, finally arriving at an unremarkable spire of sandstone. It just looked like any other part of the arid terrain, aside from a small crack near the base. Upon further examination we discovered that this crack was large enough to squeeze through.

Our brave squire donned his helmet, demanded a torch from some other weak fool, and squeezed into the spire. The butcher raised up a holy symbol and followed, struggling to get his side of beef through the gap.

Inside the spire, it looked more like a well. It descended about 100 feet, and had a cobbled spiral staircase leading to the bottom. Sir Brave Squire led the way to the bottom, where we found a tall arch of stone, but the entryway was a solid wall of stone. Upon the wall was the image of a monstrous fanged bull, with a large hole where the mouth should have been.

Lord Darius informed us that the map says only noble blood will unbar the gate, so he stepped forward and put his arm in the hole. It worked! Well, sort of. Chalk this one up to user error. With his arm in the hole, the stone mechanism slides open, but unfortunately crushed and ripped Darius's arm off his body. He collapsed to the ground, screaming like a nobleman.

Our elven falconer fashioned a makeshift tourniquet while the minstrel sang a soothing tune to the doomed Darius. Miraculously, the bleeding stopped, so we continued on with no effort to retrieve the poor guy's severed arm.

Ahead of us we saw an ascending tunnel. Motifs of warrior kings and bulls were painted on the walls. Something glittered on the floor ahead. Maybe a dusty gem.

One of our halflings and one of our dwarves rushed toward it – a footrace for riches....or death in this case. The halfling grabbed the gem, but it turned out to be a trap mechanism. A giant stone block dropped out of the ceiling and crushed the poor little guy. Then the block began sliding down toward the rest of us, smearing halfling guts all the way down the ramp.

Sadly, the animal trainer and Elmer the Urchin got crushed, but the rest of us managed to dodge out of the way.

Heartlessly, we continued on, opening a door into a hallway leading left or right. The squire immediately charged to the left with his longsword raised, leading us to another room with a treasure chest and a suit of armor.

One of our dwarves (they all look the same, right?) lit the two torches on the wall, while the cutpurse stuck a dagger into the chest, prying the lid open. Glittering gems, pile of coins. Cutpurse pockets it all. The squire examined the armor rack. It was a fine set of scale mail. A copper sword in a scabbard. The squire looked it over thoroughly, suspicious of traps after whats-his-face just died in the last room, but didn't find any pressure plates or anything else out of place.

He donned the scale mail and handed the copper sword off to some other weakling. The butcher and Morton the gravedigger grabbed the torches off the wall and we headed off in the opposite direction.

What we found was an enormous room. The floor was deep, deep sand. Morton tried to kick some away to see if there was a stone floor beneath, but it was just sand and more sand. While he was busy staring at his feet, the rest of the party was transfixed by the giant statue of an enormous bull dominating the center of the room.

The cutpurse scampered up ahead to check out the bull while the rest of us cautiously followed.

Then, an enormous worm rose up from the sand! And devoured the cutpurse's face! With its scything jaws! Then it dove back into the sand.

The squire rushed in, toward the spot where the cutpurse disappeared under the sand. Another worm leapt out and bit the squire. Apparently this also triggered an impact trap in his cursed armor, releasing spring-loaded spikes into his body and killing him instantly. But we had no way of knowing that, and just assumed that these horrific worms were going to devour us all.

Just then, another worm leapt out at our butcher, trying to bite him, but instead it bit into his side of beef. It then tried to rip and tear at the meat, but the beef was too strong. Too tough. The poor worm ended up ripping its own face off. The butcher stood triumphant in his beef jerky armor.

Morton and the other gravedigger rushed at the worm that just killed the squire, and stunned it with their trusty gravedigging shovels. Then, Felix the trader ran over and stabbed it to death. It lets out a sad whining whimper, drowned out by the annoying celebratory cheer that Felix let out.

With one worm defeated, we made quick work of the other two that couldn't handle our battle superiority.

Felix inspected the massive stone bull statue. One of its eyes was an empty socket. The other glinted with the yellow sparkle of a gemstone. Felix pried it loose. A decent-sized topaz gem!

We explore some more, finding a short hallway that got thicker and thicker with cobwebs toward the end.

Liu Chang Zhan, rice farmer and Anatidaeomancer, stepped forward and set his duck on the ground, commanding it to head down the hall. The little mallard waddled away obediently, triggering multiple pressure plates and dart traps aimed for a normal humanoid's chest height. The whole group celebrated.

The butcher set the cobwebs on fire with his torch, revealing another doorway at the end of the hall. The door opened into a big room covered in webs. On the ground were several low figures, disfigured mounds covered with webbing.

Two of us went to investigate. The first one turned out to be a dead man. Really just a husk wearing ancient fine robes, clutching some kind of staff with a topaz gem. Felix appropriated said gem immediately.

Morton grabbed his gravedigger's shovel and dug into another one. This one also contained a dead person. However, it shortly erupted into a million awful spiders that devoured his face, then disperse. RIP Morton.

Liu Chang Zhan, the rice farmer, poked and prodded another of the web mounds, triggering a poison needle trap, but he miraculously managed to dodge it.

And then, giant spiders attacked! They were hiding on the ceiling the whole time. Also, two of them are on fire. Just so you know.

Sneed the spider bite survivor threw his flask of oil, trying to catch the uninflamed spider one on fire, but the flask misses.

Butcher attacked one of the flaming spiders with his meat cleaver and crushed its "skull". He had to use two hands to pull his cleaver loose, and the spider turned over and curled up.

The Ratcatcher gave another spider a solid thwack, and the other Gravedigger smashed in with his shovel.

The Ratcatcher and rice farmer both get bit badly by the spiders.

Felix stabbed with his shortsword, hacking the spider's mandibles clean off. The lone remaining spider succumbs to the flames engulfing it.

We explored the rest of the room and found:
* An altar
* A cask containing a golden statue of a bull
* Another corpse wearing leather armor

We headed back to the sand room and opened up the door to the south. I was a creepy twisting hallway. Every few feet there were ancient rotting tapestries hanging from the ceiling, getting in the way. We pick our way through and entered another large chamber.

In the center of the room was an altar. The eastern wall was completely covered with large tapestries. The cheesemaker sneaked over and peeked behind the curtain to see a large stone cabinet. He slipped behind the tapestry unnoticed and tried to quietly open it. A poison needle pricked his arm, but he still managed to get it open. He and started shoveling as much gold and silver into his pouch as possible, even though his arm felt like it was on fire from the poison coursing through his veins.

At the same moment, we heard a shrill, piercing scream. Maybe a whine. Or a shriek. But it got louder and louder until finally a monstrous shade ascended from the altar.  The skull of a bull. Long waving shape that howled threateningly.

The Ratcatcher threw his net at it. To everyone's surprise, it did absolutely nothing.

The shade pointed a ghostly finger at the Ratcatcher.

Felix charged in screaming, leaping off the altar and plunging his shortsword into the shade. He just passed through harmlessly.

With zero effort at all, the shade killed the ratcatcher.

The gravedigger swung his shovel, but it didn't seem to do much.

Thinking fast, the Jester rummaged through his pack and found a vial of holy water. He tossed it at the shade, causing it to screech and wail. Then it "popped" and went screaming back into the void.

We found:
* An ancient scroll
* A goblet full of mummified organs
* Sacrificial tools inlaid with precious metals.

With the shade banished back to the void, we headed back to the big room with the bull statue. Two of us clambered onto the giant bull statue, and placed the topaz gems back into its eye sockets.

The sandy floor began swirling beneath our feet in a massive whirlpool, sucking us downward into the pit. Sneed barely managed to escape the vortex, which revealed a stepped terrace down to the bottom.

The bull statue was now sitting on a tall pedestal, the base of which had an archway revealing stairs leading down.

We descended into a chamber with spikes all over the floor. Long catwalks led to the other side of the room, but the ancient stone arches had crumbled in places, leaving gaps on the walkway.

We found some rope and tossed it across the gap, lodging it around a stone.

The Minstrel tried to cross, but fell down onto the spikes. Miraculously she managed to survive. She picked her way around, recovered the rope, and helped the rest of us cross the chamber.

We entered a great throne room. Arches flanked the aisle leading down toward a throne. On the throne sat the desiccated corpse of the Forgotten King.

As soon as we stepped into the room, an enormous black aurochs materialized behind the great throne, breathing smoke and flame, billowing out over the throne and the corpse of the king in a cloud of ash. Next thing we knew, the forgotten king was sitting astride the beast, charging toward us.

The Elven Falconer drew his longsword and ran forward, hoping to flank the beast. A gout of smoke and ash billowed out, the beast let out a mighty bellow.

The rest of us saw a vision of a thousand ghostly bulls rushing at us. The jester couldn’t escape. His soul was dragged away, leaving his lifeless body on the stone floor. Sneed was almost killed, but his soul barely pulled back from the brink.

The minstrel dove for cover behind a pillar and hit the beast with a thrown dagger.

Sneed swung his club at the bull's head, wildly missed, and ended up falling flat on his back, stunned.

Mortimer the Trapper stepped out and launched a rock with his sling, distracting the giant beast while the dwarven stonemason swung himself up onto the aurochs, positioning himself behind the Forgotton King. At the same time, the Elven falconer spun around and slashed at the aurochs, landing a vicious hit.

The forgotten king stood up and swung a giant axe at the elven falconer, landing a nearly mortal wound.

The minstrel punched. Sneed stood back up.

Mortimer fired another sling projectile, hitting the forgotten king in the forehead. The king shuddered, and for just a heartbeat the king and the bull of faded out of existence.

The Dwarven stonemason raised his hammer and smashed the king from behind. It crushed his skull. The aurochs faded out of existence, and the king's bones clattered to the floor, crumbling to dust.

With the king and his steed defeated, we looted the treasury.

November 26, 2018

The City Beneath the Burning Stars

Oh hey. I started a new DCC campaign so I better start dumping setting content.

A city in the wastes. Ben-Dagra. Ruled by a sinister queen called the Hag or Beloved. Protected from the blistering stars by the Witch Wall, which covers the rich parts of the city. The Hag is protected by a legion of faceless armored guards called the Bronzemen. In the northeastward of the city is a huge pit that slowly cuts its way through the only safe sources of copper ore on the world. This is the lifeblood of the city, without which no one would bother to penetrate so far into the Waste. The Hag rules the city, but the day to day decisions in each district are made by the judges. Each renders justice as they see fit. As such the legal system of each district is vastly different from the next. Some solve disputes by ritual combat, others draconian rules that ordain every interaction, all backed by sprawling jails. All infants are taken to the Children’s Quarter when they reach seven days old, by force if necessary, to be raised by the Copper Matrons, a cadre of identical automatons. They remain for seven years then returned. This ensures the Hag will always have leverage over large swathes of Ben-Dagra. This has led to a cutthroat tattoo industry as the scions of noble families are indelibly marked to ensure their identity and return.


The Gold District
The Perfume Quarter
Children's Quarter
The District of Weavers
The District of Priests and Lepers
The Tumbledown Quarter
The Tanner’s District

Districts at a Glance

The Gold District is where the richest and most successful of Ben-Dagra reside in opulent palaces and elegant spires. It lies beneath the Witch Wall and is inoculated against the depredations of the Hydra. The palace of the Hag is here, called the the Tower of One-Thousand Eyes.

The Perfume Quarter is a walled city-within-a-city populated by the lovers, concubines, and spouses of the citizens. It lies beneath the Witch Wall, and is safe from the depredations of the Hydra. It gets its name from the abundant spices and perfumes which fill the hanging gardens, rotundas, and pleasure dens.

The Children's Quarter is a collection of enormous squat orphanages connected by narrow alleyways. Chalk graffiti in rainbow hues adorn all flat surfaces. Order is maintained by the Copper Matrons, who care for and protect their charges with impenetrable metal bodies. Outside of designated meal and sleep periods the children move freely within the district, but are shadowed at all time by at least one Matron.

The District of Weavers is a riot of textures. Infinite variegated cottons, silks, and brocades. This is a center of trade for the city, bringing merchants of all types to ply their wares between fabric stalls. Turquoise Arbiters ensure that thieves and forgers face immediate final justice. Below the streets crypt-looms sing, tended by weaver morlocks.

The District of Priests and Lepers is home to the holiest and most destitute of the city. The Hag commands no worship but of her illustrious Self. She also recognizes that enforcement of this edict would empower any movement against her, so she has banned the practice of religion outside of this district. Shrines to a thousand small gods line the tight streets. Layers of shacks blot out nearly all of the sun and hellish stars leaving only the light of guttering votives to guide travelers.

The Tumbledown Quarter is one of the oldest parts of the city, and includes the original wall that surrounded it before the discovery of copper. Now it rings with the sound of pick and anvil as the myriad slave miners dig up the raw ore to be fashioned into tools by skilled hands. As the strip mine has expanded in pursuit of the twisting veins many buildings have canted as their foundations dip. Some have fallen into the pit entirely.

The Tanner’s District lies outside the city gates to keep the stench from overwhelming civilization. Planted beside a series of geysers, acidic pools, and mudflats, the tanners can render nearly any creature in usable material. The walls are porous but the eyes many.

The Hydra

Each district, save the Gold District and Perfume Quarter, are haunted at night by a creature called the Hydra. The Hydra slays indiscriminately, choosing a different building each night and slaying all it finds within. No one knows what the beast looks like, all die before sharing what they have seen. The Bronzemen are quick to secure structures targeted by the Hydra


A thousand Noble Houses, of infinite splendor and hue
A thousand Cults, of infinite panoply and ritual
A thousand bands of Robbers, plying dark alleys and sand wastes
Seven Justiciary, acting as sole law in their district. Upheld by a thousand scribes and functionaries.

April 08, 2018

Dikes Fall, Session 5

Tower of Babel by Brueghel
The party approached the central spire and see an enormous wooden gate. Mangus pushed the gate open "respectfully but firmly". Inside was a dimly-lit wide hallway, the pervading silence broken by the clip-clop of hooves approaching. Mangus growls.

"Who goes there?" a voice squeaks.

"Who goes there?" Mangus replies.

Detail from the Last Judgement,
Lucas Cranach the Elder
"Identify yourself, intruder!"

"It looks like a toad riding a centaur..." the Vamosh the elf whispers, using his infravision to pierce the dimness. What he sees is a horse with the dull face of a man, an enormous toad sits in the saddle atop the hybrid mount.

"I am Mangus, and I've come to collect your taxes."

"You do not collect taxes from the gnome princes," replies the man horse.

"Squeak!" cries its rider.

"We've come to claim this kingdom for the milk witch," Vamosh repies.

The toad draws its lance, and the horse sinks back into the darkness, preparing to charge. Vamosh casts Enlarge on Mangus, who grows by several feet and a hundred pounds. He charged in, feinting high, and then at the last second slashed at the man-horse's legs. The amphibious knight saw through the ruse and turned aside before its mount could be cut down under it. Annemarijn spews a gout of rainbows and glitter in the enclosed darkness. The toad squeaks and goes unconscious.

"My eyes!" The man-horse bellows, thrashing about trying to hit anyone nearby. The toad drools.

"Slay the mount, take the hostage!" Mangus growls. He can't land a hit on the chimerical beast. Annemarijn approaches with her club, but can't get close enough to land a hit. The man-horse flails wildly, missing Mangus but dealing a deadly blow to Annemarijn. Mangus does a spinning slash, severing the centaur's major arteries. It drops to the ground. 

"Oh man, it's getting cold. So cold..." It's horse-face mutters, voice fading. Annemarijn scooped up the unconscious toad, wrapping him in her cloak and binding him with 50 feet of rope. Mangus finds a finely filigreed key on the toad's person. After several minutes, the toad wakes up and squeaks.
"You show us how to get to the top of the tower and we won't hurt you," Mangus says, grabbing the creature. "Play any dirty tricks and you'll pay! understand?" The toad squeaked .

Moving on the party explore a stable, silent and empty except for some rustling in the back corner. The Elf investigates, and sees an enormous riding mole in the stall. They decide not to mess with it and leave the stable. Using the toad's key they open a locked door, revealing a spiral staircase. The sound of fluttering come from the near ceiling. Annemarijn holds her torch up to get a better look, disturbing a cloud of bat-like creatures with papery wings and the squashed faces of pug dogs.
a bastardry, by myself
Mangus fired a crossbow bolt, disturbing the colony of pug-bats, who descend with keening shrieks. One scratches the Vamosh with a tiny wing dewclaw. The Elf tries to spear it, but fumbles and trips over himself. Mangus attempts to slice one in twain but the pug-bat dodges. Annemarijn backs away to the doorway and bats one of the bats with her (wooden) bat. One beast tears into Annemarijn, causing her to collapse from the mortal wound.
Vamosh throws some scales on the ground and they animate into 2 giant crocodiles. Due to mercurial nature of the spell a burst of green light bathes the area with healing energy and revives Annemarijn. She reeks like a snake house but at least she isn't dead. The crocodiles snap wildly at the pug-bats but can't hit them. After a long struggle the creatures lay in bloody piles across the room.
"Toad! why didn't you tell us about these bats?" Mangus demanded, but it only squeaks in terror.

Leaving the spiral staircase for another time, the group explores another few chambers, including a room full of statues of men and beasts and chimera. Mangus steps back out of the statue room, but Vamosh goes in to explore. It's eerily quiet inside but otherwise nothing of note. They also find a storage room full of enormous spools of brass chain.
Later they find a room and hear someone snoring inside. Mangus opens the door and the group creeps inside. Mangus wants to murder the sleeping figure, but Vamosh says we should tie him up instead. Mangus tries his best to approach the figure but wakes the sleeping figure instead.It opens its huge
mouth and rasps, "What's going on? Squeaks! What's going on?"

March 27, 2018

Dikes Fall, Session 4

The Big Fish eat the Little Fish, Hieronymous Bosch
The party slow came back to its senses, stumbling around blind and confused for a moment, so they decided to make camp to recover. The unnatural orange light in the sky passed overhead and then night approached like a physical shroud. Mercifully the night passes without incident and the group enjoys fish-dogs roasted over the kindling remains of topiary children.

In the morning, Vamosh decides he wants to claim the land for the Elf King instead of the milk witch, so he begins making preparations to commune with him. The rest of the party wander the garden and find a small stone pedestal with a miniature coliseum on top. Inside was a menagerie of tiny, living animals locked in cages including a lion, bear, panther, crocodile, and an elephant.

From Thomas Bewick's Fables
After some discussion they decide to free the crocodile, it looks lethargic as it lazily suns itself in its cage. Mangus lifts the gate to the cage containing the crocodile, unleashing a magical curse that shrinks him to a tiny size and transports him inside the amphitheater beside the now open cage. The crocodile attacks! Mangus tries to maneuver around the long reptile and stab it in the head but it's too quick. It whips around and snaps at him, savagely tearing his legs. The wizard casts color spray, but the crocodile shuts its eyes and is unaffected. Annemarijn concludes that her spells won't work from outside the amphitheater.

Vamosh the Elf decides to go in, but fears releasing another beast, so he touches the crocodile cage to see if it will transport him inside. It works. Mangus leaps up and plunges right on top of the crocodile's mouth but it snaps at his feet and he does a little crocodile dance to stay away.

Annemarijn wants to help, but doesn't think it's wise for everyone to enter the miniature coliseum. She tries to think of a way to help and hefts the coliseum up at an angle to give Mangus and the Elf an advantage. The miniature is too heavy, but she does manage to give it a shake which causes the crocodile to stumble onto its side.

Jade crocodile, found on Etsy
The Elf seizes the moment and lunges at the crocodile, stabbing it through both kidneys with his spear, a critical hit! It starts gushing yellowish ichor from the wound and staggers in a daze. Mangus rushes forward and slices the crocodile with his longsword, slashing him along the full length of its body, finally killing it.

When the crocodile expired Mangus and Vamosh appeared back at normal size beside the miniature, and the crocodile was replaced by a small jade statue.

Vamosh went back to the standing stones and communed with his patron, the King of Elfland offering the domain of the gnome kingdom in exchange for assistance defeating the milk witch. He receives a vision from the king . He sees a symbolic representation of the king, surprised that such a low level servant has come with such a substantial offering. The King accepts, most pleased to accept the domain of the gnome brothers. The elf is handed an opalescent fern leaf. "If you plant this at the highest point of the tower, I will lay claim to this land, and personally handle the milk witch".

Awaking from the vision, Vamosh comes away with an intricately laced pattern of ferns permanently tattooed on either side of his forehead.

March 13, 2018

Dikes Fall, session 3

The adventure continues at the bottom of the Sunken Pit.

Rifling through the gnome's belongings, they find a pouch of 60gp, a heavy pick, and a light crossbow. They continue exploring and find a room with a sour smell, lit by a few guttering candles. An ancient, bent  woman steps into the light, candlelight barely illuminating her dusky skin.

Triptych from the
Garden of Earthly Delights, Hieronymous Bosch
"He was to give me part of his land,” the milk witch croaks. “And now I am left with nothing."

The party appeals to her sense of greed. With both brothers dead all the land could be hers. The gnomes have a kingdom deep below the earth, on the Other Side. It is a place she can’t go without an invitation, but the party can. If the group can lower the gnome's banner and raise the milk witch’s own she can lay claim to their lands.

“You can have anything within the castle but the demesne and castle are mine.”

They agree. To open the a way to the domain the Mangus retrieves the gnome’s body. The witch performs a strange ritual causing the corpse to warp and stretch into a portal almost but not quite entirely unlike a humanoid figure. The witch hands them a small packet with her banner and instructs then not to open until they’re in the tower. Then she’s gone, leaving only a sour odor of spoiled milk behind.

Beyond the impossible portal is a narrow stone passageway. As soon as they step through, the air turns hot and oppressively dry. The passageway is actually a narrow a ravine, or from above by a winking reddish glow. The ravine widens as it meanders through the cracked stone, revealing a fortress with two squat towers. Closer to the group is a high wall surrounded protecting the whole compound and encircling lush gardens. Mangus tosses a rope over and clambers up but falls into the garden. The rest of the party join the bruised and embarrassed tax collector at ground level. The party can spy four points of interest in the garden: a fish pond, a hedge labyrinth, a set of standing stones, and, distantly, the sound of animals just out of sight.

Detail from the Last Judgement,
Lucas Cranach the Elder
Suddenly the underbrush is filled with a rustling sound. A pack of fish creatures, running on pairs of long spindly legs, tear into sight yapping madly. "Sit!" Annemarjin yells, but it only goads the little fish-dogs into attacking. They skirmish for tense moments before gaining the upper hand on the fish-dog pack and driving the survivors off.

Vamosh goes to check out the standing stones and decides she wants to cast her Patron Bond spell there. They hear the sound of shoveling within the circle and go to investigate. It's a dwarf working on digging a hole for another standing stone coming later this week. He tells them that the masters are out, and only the staff are left now.

We go investigate the hedge labyrinth. Vamosh hears giggling from the other side of the hedge. It intensifies they approach the center of the labyrinth. In the center is a pergola on which four topiary children sit. As they come into view the and the laughter stops.
"I don't want to menace the hedges," Mangus grunts. There's a small chest beneath the pergola. Mangus does a quick assessment using his tax collector background and thinks it could contain 150 sp worth of treasure. He lights the wooden structure on fire. We hear a gasp as the flames consumes the pergola and topiary children. It doesn't spread to the rest of the labyrinth.

El Laberinto, Leonora Carrington
On their way out the pass through the labyrinth is barred by six more topiary children carrying bows. They have given up the pretense of being simple bushes and draw their bows. Opening fire they hit Annemarijn with a volley. Mangus lops the leafy head off of the children in the fracas. Arden tries to uproot one of them, but its roots are too strong. Annemarijn bashes with her club, but thorns sprout from her wooden weapon and nearly kill her. Arden stabs down into the ground, trying to get at the root of the topiary child. It drops dead at his feet. Annemarijn casts Color Spray with a boon from her fickle patron, imbuing it with ineffable cosmic power. All of the topiary children, and all of the party except for Vamosh and Annemarijn are dazed by the psychadelic blast of chaos, knocking them unconscious and blind. The Elf makes quick work of the disabled enemies, but the rest of the party lies dead to the world .

March 02, 2018

Dikes Fall, Session 2

Dramatis Personae

Vamosh Amuerte, elven glassblower
Mangus, tax collector and warrior-for-hire
Arden Diodross, guild beggar and sellsword
Annemarijn the Astrologist, herbalist and wizard
Section from The Dutch Proverbs,
Pieter Brueghel the Elder

The two survivors from the first adventure head back to town with the tavern owner's wife to collect their reward. Unfortunately, all the ale in the tavern has been transmuted into spoiled milk. Tavern owner's wife reminded the party that there's another gnome in the Sunken Pit, and he had a milk witch in his service.
They return to the Sunken Pit and quickly encounter the gnome, but rather than chasing him they tried to circle around and ambush him. They met a deranged dwarf carving a "stone child". He warns of death to the north. In another chamber they stir up a nest of rats. Arden attempts to scare them off with his torch, but almost drops it. Mangus charges in but the sword slips from his hand (because the grips are going bad and he needs to replace them). Annemarijn splats two rats with her club and Mangus stomps on another. The rest disperse and flee the room.
to explore the dungeon more and ran into the
Moving on, they found a door protected with a strange sigil. With some difficulty, Vamosh deciphered the script and identified it as a fire rune. Arden got a perfect hit with a slingstone to trigger the lock mechanism on the door and caused the fire rune to erupt in a massive draft of flames.
Finding a set of doors with a deathly smell coming from them, Mangus kicked open the door discovered two tall still figures dressed like mummers and the final gnomish brotherVamosh cast Enlarge on Mangus, who charged in. Arden impales one of the tall figures with his spear, revealing them as walking corpses.
Mangus stomped in and punted the gnome onto a set of rusty spikes embedded in the chamber's walls. The gnome screamed in pain and disbelief, "What have you done?" before bleeding out.
Arden lit one of the street performer mummies on fire, sending its ashes curling toward the ceiling. Annemarjin cuts herself in penance for her past failures to cast Color Spray again, but the last deathless thing resists. Mangus makes quick work of the last mummified street performer, and gives the gentlest fist bump the enlarged warrior can manage to Vamosh.

We ran out of time to complete the dungeon after defeating the gnome, the players opted to leave things hanging until we played again.