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[13th Age] Eyes of the Stone Thief (and prelude)

Kath

The Furthest Away
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I'm currently running a 13th Age campaign, which is set in the default Dragon Empire setting (with a few minor changes: e.g. the Emperor and Crusader are both female to better balance the icons).

The campaign began with the heroes investigating some murders in the small town of Eldolan (adapted from "Shadows over Eldolan"). They then saved an isolated community from attacking kobolds and the dubious protection of a cult of necromancers. Right now, the heroes are investigating disturbances at Fort Thunder, a bastion of the Sea Wall.
 

Kath

The Furthest Away
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The characters
Godwin, a human bard raised by orcs
Nuin, a human druid raised by dragons
Green Slug, a halfling monk who escaped from the Cult of the Devourer
Will Dawn, a human fighter in the service of the Empress
Darrell Oakdale, a human cleric who wants to bring balance to the pantheon
Brugh, a human barbarian smith trained by the dwarves
Merenthilimus, a human wizard and the only living descendant of the Blue
Chamelia, a dragonborn paladin

Thankfully, I only have to run for 3 to 5 people at a time. The attendance varies quite a bit, which makes things interesting to GM at times.

Most of the characters have a tie to the Stone Thief, as the eponymous dungeon will be a major part of the campaign once they're high enough level.

Godwin
One Unique Thing: The only human to be raised by orcs
Icon relationships:
* Orc Lord: 2 complicated
* Empress: 1 complicated
Backgrounds:
* Fits in easily (transcultural identity) +2
* Orcish cultural connoisseur +4
* Never did me any harm (tough upbringing) +2
Tie to the Stone Thief: The orc that drove me from my tribe now lives within the Stone Thief.

Nuin
One Unique Thing: The only druid raised by dragons
Icon relationships:
* High Druid: 1 negative
* Great Gold Wyrm: 2 positive
Backgrounds:
* Wanderer of the Red Wastes +3
* Raised by dragons +3
* Friend to travelers +2
Tie to the Stone Thief: The Stone Thief devoured my dragon foster parents and their hoard.

Chamelia Claw-Fingers
One Unique Thing: TBD
Icon relationships:
* Great Gold Wyrm: 2 positive
* The Diabolist: 1 negative
Backgrounds:
* Paladin of the Golden Order +5
* Trained demon hunter +5
Tie to the Stone Thief: ???

Merenthilimus the Magnificent
One Unique Thing: Only living human descendant of the Blue
Icon relationships:
* Empress: 2 positive
* The Three: 1 negative
Backgrounds:
* Trained theatrical illusionist
* Holidayed in the Elf Queen's Wood
* Graduate of the Spiral Tower
Tie to the Stone Thief: ???

Green Slug
One Unique Thing: Deprogrammed apostate (escaped from the Cult of the Devourer)
Icon relationships:
* Empress: 1 positive
* Prince of Shadows: 1 positive
* Diabolist: 1 conflicted
Backgrounds:
* The whole being devoured thing wasn't for me (helps to resist mind control etc) +2
* Sauntered out of the jaws of death +3
* Having fun until I get devoured +3
Tie to the Stone Thief: A former member of the Cult of the Devoured (the only one to ever escape)

Will Dawn
One Unique Thing: Cannot detect or perceive gold in any way
Icon relationships:
* Empress: 1 positive
* Great Gold Wyrm: 2 complicated
Backgrounds:
* Soldier of the Imperial Guard +3
* Giggolo +3
* As traveled as a Koru behemoth +2
Tie to the Stone Thief: TBD

Darrell Oakdale
One Unique Thing: Follower of the Light and the Dark (the only cleric to worship both the gods of the light and the gods of the dark)
Icon relationships:
* Crusader: 1 conflicted
* Priestess: 1 conflicted
* Lich King: 1 negative
Backgrounds:
* Acolyte of Light and Dark +5
* Survivor of the Lich King's horde +1
* Are you with me? (proselyting background) +2
Tie to the Stone Thief: The Stone Thief devoured the temple of the light gods he served at

Brugh
One Unique Thing: Only human trained by the dwarven mastersmiths
Icon relationships:
* Dwarf King: 2 positive
* Empress: 1 positive
Backgrounds:
* Smith trained by the dwarves +5
* Glistening +3
Tie to the Stone Thief: TBD, something to do with Stone Thief eating part of dwarven kingdoms or Brugh's original human home
 

Kath

The Furthest Away
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Session 1 - Shadows of Eldolan, part 1
PCs present:
Green Slug
Godwin
Darrell
Brugh

Summary
Pre-credits scene: In a shadowy crypt bedecked with the symbols of the Lich King, a robed human knelt and asked for the next part of ‘the ritual’. Another cloaked figure (with emaciated hands and a voice touched with the grave) told him he knew the price and the mission he had to complete...

Opening credits: As the map of the Empire whirls around, the camera zooms in on the small city of Eldolan, lying part way between the capital of Axis and the Archmage’s city of Horizon. Eldolan is a port city but is most famous for the school it houses. The School of Eldolan consists of three rival colleges – the Mithril Order, of alchemists and artificers; the Hall of Tyria, which trains bards and troubadours; and the Three-Step Court, which trains monks.

The party have been sent here at the request/order of her Imperial Majesty, to meet an undercover Imperial agent called Therilisa Stormhand. It’s late in the afternoon when the group finally meet up with Therilisa – but before they can even introduce themselves, the town square they’re in is overrun with zombies!

After the fight, Therilisa decides that this matter is more important than the original mission (of which she is closed lipped, only saying it would involve traveling to the holy city of Santa Cora). She tasks the party with quietly investigating and finding out who was behind this attack. She fears that the followers of the Lich King must have some greater plan in mind, if they dare to strike so boldly in the heart of the Empire.

After asking around, Brugh recalls hearing an earlier rumour that someone called Aerto was buying bodies in the docks of the city. Meanwhile, Darrell decides that the Temple district should be their first port of call, especially after one of the surviving townsfolk identifies one of the zombies as a man buried not two weeks ago! If the town’s graveyard has been compromised by the agents of the Lich King, there could be an army of zombies and skeletons in the making! Brugh also bumped into a wizard of the Mithril Order, and secured an initiation to visit their library (after identifying himself as a crafter using the secret signals).

The Temple District is dominated by a large and splendid temple to Lathander the Morninglord. Before calling in there, the group visited the somewhat smaller temple to the Raven Queen. The senior cleric of the Raven Queen, Orlessa, was just finishing a service to commemorate the dead. Initially, she refused to believe what the group said about some of the zombies coming from the graveyard, but Godwin’s charm and Brugh’s good looks won her over.

Following in Orlessa’s wake, the group headed to the crypt in the temple of Lathander (Koln, the dead man had been buried there; as the chief representative of the Raven Queen, Orlessa could access all the crypts in town). After some resistance from the clergy of Lathander, the group found Koln’s small tomb. While it initially looked intact, it was soon revealed that the symbols to ward the Lich King away were broken and that Koln’s corpse was gone! At that point, the horde of skeletons attacked...

After defeating their skeletal foes, it was revealed that a young cleric called Landa was in charge of this portion of the crypt. She vanished, but a careful examination of her cell revealed a book describing how to animate the dead – and a note saying:

Your efforts are appreciated Landa, especially with our lord’s most recent request. His power grows stronger with every passing week. Although I realize your stock might be running low, my work is coming to a crucial point and I need more freshly dead bodies. Hopefully the attack will provide those. Seek out our allies at the Old Brewery for further instructions.
 

Kath

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Session 2 - Shadows of Eldolan, part 2
PCs present:
Godwin
Darrell
Brugh

Summary
While still in the temples of Eldolan, Darrell was approached by both the clerics of Lathandar and the Raven Queen, who asked for him to make it publicly known that their church (and only their church) had supported him. Both sides offered a magic item as a gift to encourage him, and Darrell chose the armour offered by the Raven Queen.

Meanwhile, Brugh and Godwin asked about the Old Brewery and places to stay for the night. Brugh found out that the Old Brewery is a derelict building and rumoured to be haunted and the home of a vampire. While not entirely sure that this was true, the group decided against venturing to a haunted place at nightfall.

Instead, they headed to the docks to find somewhere to stay for the night. Their first port of call was the Squirming Mermaid tavern (which was recommended to Godwin by an acolyte of Lathander), run by the formidable Scarlet Ylas. While there, Godwin began performing and Brugh and Darrell started asking about Aerto (in the first session, Brugh overheard a rumour saying that Aerto was buying bodies in the Docks).

And so began a modest pub crawl. After the Squirming Mermaid the group headed to the Dwarves' Home Alehouse and then finally onto the Wild Wave Inn. In the Dwarves' Home Alehouse, Godwin was approached by an magically disguised orc he knew from his days back with the tribes. The orc (Greythroat) arranged to meet with Godwin the next day at the Mermaid to discuss something...

At the Wild Wave, the group finally brought their quarry to bear. The swiftly persuaded Aerto to help them with their inquiries (somewhat forcefully in Brugh's case), and the young man revealed that he was buying the bodies from a group based out of a nearby warehouse. He didn't know exactly what for, but had overheard one of them mentioning something about summoning!

Aerto led them to the warehouse, and then Godwin persuaded Brugh to let Aerto go, rather than leaving him outside chained to a fence. The warehouse proper was mostly empty, apart from a demon-infused guardian. Once that was dispatched, the brave trio found a passageway leading back into the cliffs (the warehouse was built against the base of the cliffs). Following the passageway led them to the demon-worshipping cultists Aerto mentioned. After several dashing deeds and bold moves, the trio defeated the cultists, rescued the drunk sailor they had tried to sacrifice and defeated a demon.

Some investigation of the cultist's belongings revealed several useful pieces of information. Firstly, while Aerto was working for the cultists, they knew he was also working for a group called the Seekers of the Lost, a group who worshiped the Lich King! The demon cultists had spied on the Seekers and Aerto, and knew the first name of their leader - Arlissan.

With that information, the trio left the warehouse and retired to the Mermaid for a well earned night of sleep.
 

Kath

The Furthest Away
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Session 3 - Shadows of Eldolan, part 3
PCs present:
???

Summary
In which our brave adventurer's investigate Arlissan, and find out that Arlissan Garados is the head of the Lamplighter's Guild in Eldolan. They subtly infiltrate* the Guild, and confront Arlissan, who is revealed to be a necromancer! Arlissan was quickly slain.

In the aftermath of the fight, the city watch later find a hidden tunnel from Arlissan's office. The tunnel leads to a small cave which houses the remnants of a necromantic experiment - probably one to create a Flesh Golem. Further investigation revealed the Aerto had fled the city, with a large cart, and was headed on the road towards Arlissan's family seat at Kernharrow.

* AKA, smash the door down and rampage through until they found Arlissan

(This session was written up a few weeks after playing, hence it being so short and sparse)
 

Kath

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Session 4 - Kobolds and Skeletons! part 1
PCs present:
Nuin
Merenthilimus
Darrell
Brugh

Theralisa dispatches Darrell and Brugh to find Aerto and bring him to justice, and asks Merenthilimus the wizard to accompany them. En route to Kerharron, Darrell bumps into Nuin in the town of Tor Daveth, who reveals that he's also headed towards Kernharrow, as there's some kind of unnatural disturbance happening there.

The group travel along the long and lonely road from Tor Daveth to Kernharrow, and their journey is far from uneventful. Their first encounter is with an arcane/necromantic ward or trap, where two carved skulls summon a group of earth elementals. Later on, the party find a riderless horse and later the deceased rider. They conclude that the rider was travelling towards civilisation with a warning - he carried a skeletal hand and a patch of kobold skin, along with an old-fashioned Imperial Army uniform.

Soon afterwards, the party found the kobolds who had slain the rider, and after a brief skirmish returned the favour. The kobolds were camped nearby, and Nuin found a pamphlet written in kobold, which appeared to support kobolds living apart from dragons (rather than being the usual combination of servant and snack).

The party finally reach the valley of Kernharrow as dusk falls. They can see that one half of the valley is wooded (albeit with smoke from campfires drifting overhead), and the other half consists of farmland and a small village with manor house. Several of the farmsteads have been burned down.

They head towards a likely looking farm, and thanks to Merenthilimus's mastery of arcane magic are able to convince the farmers that they're not kobolds. The farmer explains that the kobolds arrived recently and have burned down several farms, and are now occupying the worked out clockwork mines in the wooded half of the valley. The farmers went to Arlissan's manor house to ask for his aid and protection. The manor house finally responded, but not in a way the farmers liked - they sent out undead guards! The local priest of Pelor was taken prisoner, and a retired veteran living in the village rode off to seek help.

The group resolved to head towards the manor. Most of the servants are drawn from the villagers, and they'll try to sneak inside using their help.
 

Kath

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Session 5 - Kobolds and Skeletons! part 2
PCs present:

Nuin
Merenthilimus
Darrell
Brugh
Godwin

Following immediately on from last time, the group decide to head and negotiate with the kobolds.

They find out that the kobolds are fleeing from their former dragon master, and have come to the valley to build a new life for themselves. They blame the farmers for starting trouble, and generally seem in favour of killing or subjugating them. The party eventually manage to persuade them that this is a bad plan, and that both groups should work together to defeat the necromancers first. The kobolds give their sincere agreement to this, and call upon their reputation as lawful, honourable folks to back it up.

The group then head to the village, and make contact with the blacksmith Vinara (and an incompetent young guard, Catfish). They find out that the necromancers are planning to attack the kobolds, and encouraged Vinara to think of the possibilities now that the legal lord of the manor was dead (Arlissan was the lord, who was killed back in Session 3).

The party alerted their new allies, and both groups ambushed the necromancers and their small force of undead. The party targeted one of the lead necromancers, and quickly defeated him.
 

Kath

The Furthest Away
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Session 6 - Kobolds and Skeletons! part 3
PCs present:

Nuin
Merenthilimus
Darrell
Brugh

Following on from the victorious battle, Nuin, Merenthilimus, Darrell and Brugh headed after a fleeing necromancer (Godwin went with the kobolds to chase down another fleeing enemy). They finally caught up with their prey as she attacked an outlying farmstead, presumably seeking to add the murdered farmers to her small squad of undead. The party defeated her, and recovered her Gravedancer Slippers, and fed well on roasted cow that night.

Next, they finally headed for the manor house, a full session and a half after originally planning to do so. They found that most of the adults of the village had been conscripted into a new guard. They also found out that the local shrine to Pelor had been desecrated, and evidence that the 'priest' was using illusion magic and so probably wasn't who he claimed to be.

They found the villager guards outside the manor house, standing under a strange banner. Nuin scouted, and found a new route into the house (through a locked door, which Brugh overcame). After the villager guards were alerted, Merenthilimus barred the door behind them with his magic, and they ran deeper into the manor house. All the while, strange pulses of necromantic energy washed over them at intervals.

In the great hall, they found the missing flesh golem from Eldolan, and a series of intricate magical wards. The wards would activate when someone living walked over and armed and strengthened the golem to destroy the interlopers. Merenthilimus called upon his theatrical illusionist background to disguise the group as undead, and they were able to bypass the golem and the wards.

The door guarded by the golem led to the crypt, where they arrived to find the local priest had already been sacrificed. His death was used to call upon a terrible wraith, and the party were hard-pressed to overcome the necromancer and the wraith; his undead minions falling quickly to Darrell's divine powers. Meanwhile, Brugh took his long-awaited vengeance against Aerto.

The session ended with sounds of footsteps marching down the corridor towards them...
 

Kath

The Furthest Away
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Session 7 - Kobolds and Skeletons! part 4
PCs present:

Nuin
Darrell
Brugh

... the footsteps rapidly reversed, and soon all was quiet. The group spent some time exploring the manor - Nuin found an diary of the lead necromancer and several tomes of necromancy, while Darrell laid the dead to rest, Merenthilimus sealed the portal opened by the wraith, and Brugh headed into the village. Brugh soon ran into the group of villagers who had been guarding the entrance to the manor - they were standing in a very military looking formation, with a strange banner fluttering overhead and bearing the sigil of the Lich King!

Realising something was up, Brugh blew his horn to summon his allies. The villagers moved to attack him and Nuin and Darrel, and they soon realised that the banner was a magically enhanced banner which was mentally controlling the villagers. The banner commanded the peasants to slay the heroes, but was eventually defeated (not before taking over Brugh for a few nerve-wracking rounds as he attempted to eviscerate Darrell).

Things were quiet in Kernharrow after that, and the group settled down for the winter. Nuin came across a lightning-struck oak, and took a branch from it to serve as his spear. Brugh worked to turn the remains of the wraith and the orb seized from Arlissan in Eldolan into a set of magical armour and to further enchant his warhammer. Darrell ministered to the villagers, and everyone worked to keep the fragile peace with the kobolds.

In late autumn, Theralisa arrived to congratulate the group on behalf of the Empress. She also invited them to the capital city, Axis, to be formally recognised by the Empire for their services. The journey to Axis was uneventful, and they soon settled into a fine inn in the volcanic crater housing the city.

While there, various minor events occurred: Brugh visited with the smiths of the Mithril Order and the dwarves; Darrell spoke with many clergy including Octavius of the Church of the Light (Axis didn't really have distinct shrines for the gods of light, just a shared worship space); and Nuin was invited to visit with Boldfriend, one of the dragons serving the empire (the empire's full name is the Dragon Empire, and many good-aligned dragons serve the Empress).

Finally, the heroes were presented to the Empress and publicly recognised as heroic adventurers (the Empire has enough problems with monsters, dungeons and the like to be quite fond of wandering heroes).
 

Kath

The Furthest Away
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Session 8 - Fort Thunder, part 1
PCs present:

Nuin
Darrell
Brugh

In the reception after the presentation, Theralisa spoke to Nuin, Darrell and Brugh to ask if they would render the Empress another service. The eastern coast of the Empire faces the monster-inhabit Iron Sea, and a wall has been built to keep them out. A year or so ago, one of the linchpin forts on the Seawall (called Proudfort) was destroyed in mysterious circumstances. The Imperial Service is concerned that whatever destroyed Proudfort may be threatening Fort Thunder, the second largest fort on the Seawall. The three agree to travel there via ship to investigate, as Theralisa has received odd reports from the fort about bulette attacks and troubles with a nearby dwarven encampment.

Before leaving, Nuin and his baby brother paid a visit to Boldfriend and his dragonborn assistant, Heartmind. Boldfriend was a blustering old war hero, who was delighted to see a young dragon for the first time in many years. While chatting, Boldfriend accidentally revealed a bit more information about Proudfort (causing Heartmind to wince at her superior's indiscretion) - it was apparently burned down by a powerful red dragon! Boldfriend warned Nuin to not mess about and run off straight away if he saw red wings overhead.

The three departed Axis the next morning on the Swordfish, captained by Kairaba an unusually nautical wood elf. The ship called in at Santa Cora, the centre of the Priestess's power and the Church of the Light. Darrell had been asked to call in here by Octavius, and met with a priestess called Aviana. She was interested in learning everything about the Raven Queen, as the Church of Light was close to uncovering lost relics that would make the Raven Queen a god of light, rather than of dark. Darrell answered her questions honestly, but tried to convince her that this level of syncretism was perhaps a bit too much.

The ship sailed on, passing past Vigil, where the Empire maintained a watchful eye on Omen, the island at the centre of Midland Sea and heart of the Lich King's power. The voyage was untroubled, even as they passed through the Koru Straights, where the Koru Behemoths plunged into the sea to continue their eternal migration. The final leg of the voyage was a quick sail through the Iron Sea, which lived up to its dangerous reputation as they were attacked by a group of aquatic sahuagin! Thanks to the heroes, the ship was unharmed and only a few crew were lost.

The trio arrived at Fort Thunder and were welcomed by the garrison (a group of mostly Kordian clerics, dispatched here by the Priestess). The garrison is commanded by Orbiana, who reveals that they have been attacked several times by bulettes, which are undermining the walls. The clerics know that a group of nearby dwarves are behind they attack, as they managed to capture a prisoner who confessed.

The group gain an interview with the prisoner, who is housed (along with his dog) in the finest chamber in the Fort. The prisoner speaks fluent dwarvish, but there's something vaguely off about him from Brugh's perspective. Nuin attempts to talk to his dog, who just barks angrily in return. Thoroughly suspicious, Darrell calls upon the power of the Raven Queen to determine if the prisoner is lying or not; in response, the prisoner refuses to speak at all.

Before leaving to speak with the dwarves, the group speak to a cleric of Ioun called Avianna who is also stationed here. She thinks that the prisoner's telling the truth, and is just scared of the magic Darrell called upon.

On the road to the dwarves, a parrot flies up and starts talking to Nuin. The parrot has been asked to keep an eye on the fort, and report any new arrivals to another druid nearby. Recognising Nuin as a druid, the parrot decided it would be faster to just ask him for information, rather than working it out by watching them. The parrot agrees to lead them to meet this other druid, who is based somewhere up in the highlands.

When they arrive at the dwarven mine, they find an odd mirror to the situation at the fort. The mine has also been attacked by bulettes, and the dwarves have captured a cleric who's revealed that the clerics are the ones behind the attacks. This prisoner (and his dog) are also being treated very well...

Thoroughly suspicious by now, the trio confront the prisoner. After a short conversation, the prisoner orders the dwarven guards to cut down the adventurers, and reveals itself to be a despoiler demon. The demon hadn't reckoned with Brugh's anger, and he cuts down the demon and it's bodyguard (a frenzy demon, who was masquerading as a dog). They explain what's happened to the dwarves (hopefully cancelling their planned strike against the fort), and set off to return to the fort and deal with the prisoner there.
 
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