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

Hituro

Eager Critmouse
Validated User
It's been a real blast to run, in large part because my player are awesome (the whole bit with Green Slug founding the Cult of the Devourer was entirely down to the players).
I got that feeling — the heavy player-led aspect. It reads like a wild ride.
 

Kath

The Furthest Away
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Season 2, Session 31 - Third Time Lucky
PCs present:
  • Nuin (and his brother, Kalecgos, a young gold dragon)
  • Darrell
  • Brugh
  • Glorta
As they were swallowed up by the Stone Thief, Green Slug and Goghwim were separated from their comrades. The other four managed to remain together through the whirling maelstrom of stone, until they found themselves hurtling headlong down a stone chute. Brugh was able to slow his and Darrel's descent, while Glorta called upon the acrobatics goblins were known for to check his speed and Nuin simply turned into a bird.

Once they were halted, some stairs appeared under their feet, and they recognised their location - this stairwell led to the Mad Butcher's gauntlet and his pet hydra. Brugh, Darrell and Glorta carried on carefully, knowing that the stairs would give way again at a moment (which they did, several times), while Nuin scouted ahead. He found a large cylindrical chamber, partly flooded. In the water lurked the hydra, but he also sensed something in the darkness above him. Flying upwards he unexpectedly came face to face with a black dragon (the Butcher's new pet) which tried to eviscerate him.

Hearing the sounds of battle ahead, the other three moved onwards more quickly. A nasty fight against the hydra and the black dragon was fought, but the heroes were victorious. Glorta was disappointed to find no significant loot - the black dragon had a pitiful magpie's nest of a horde and that was it. Kalecgos was somewhat distressed by Glorta ripping the teeth from the dead dragon, and kept a wary eye on the goblin.

The carried onwards through the Gauntlet, undeterred by the traps sent to vex them. They passed through a long chamber with fat dragon statues and a clockwork mechanism connected to a pendulum axe. Brugh easily stopped the clockwork, and so they never found out what would have happened if it had carried on counting down.

Next they faced a vast cavern of lava, with a narrow causeway bridging it. Glorta knew there was a safe path across the causeway, but also knew that the path he remembered as safe was bound to have changed by now. Nuin called upon the primal powers of the earth, temporarily ripping them from the High Druid's control and granted his younger brother Kalecgos sufficient size to carry two of them across at a time. Flying with great agility between the blasts of lava, Kalecgos easily crossed the causeway, depositing Glorta and Brugh on the other side. A group of dumb-struck orcs watched them arrived, unused to seeing large gold dragons within the dungeon. Glorta spoke with them, using his knowledge of the Orc Lord's passphrases to dismiss them. Kalecgos returned with Nuin and Darrell, shrinking visibly as he did (Nuin needed to stop his ritual to ride across).

Next they found themselves in the outer parts of Grommar's forge complex, where Brugh had acquired Rusty last time. The forges were silent now, though an out of place statue of a marble tiger had been placed on one of the anvils. As soon as they looked away, the tiger statue moved to a new anvil, and into a more active pose. They moved through the room, keeping a careful watch on the statue (it moved again, when Nuin and Darrell happened to blink at the same time; after that, they established a blinking rota). As they left, Darrell offered a prayer to the tiger god, the Beast that Stalks in Shadows for their deliverance.

Finally they reached the central forge complex. Brugh called upon his mastery of dwarven law, and outlined the legal offenses the minotaur had committed, and levying his judgement upon it. While it lost them the advantage of surprise, the anger of the dwarven spirits in the forge complex weakened its defences. A fierce battle was joined, as the minotaur was aiden by the reluctant ghosts of the dwarves it had slain. Darrell sent many of them on their way with a prayer to the Priestess, but the remaining ones proved to be dangerous foes. In the end, they were victorious and the minotaur fell. Brugh quickly moved to remove the large sword from its chest, knowing it would reawaken soon if the sword remained. The sword was Grommar's last work, and capable of slaying anything. He'd intended to use it slay his own death, and that dread power remained within it. Darrell felt uncomfortable around the sword, knowing that the Raven Queen considered such weapons anathema.

Finally, Brugh forged his masterwork, a hammer capable of slaying the Stone Thief. The others kept guard, using a variety of ritual spells and scrolls to protect the room. The Stone Thief twitched as the forging was complete, knowing instinctively that a terrible bane against it had been created.
 

Kath

The Furthest Away
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Season 2, Session 32 - Third Time Lucky, Part 2

PCs present:

  • Nuin (and his brother, Kalecgos, a young gold dragon)
  • Darrell
  • Brugh
  • Green Slug
  • Goghwim
The party left the temple forge, and carried on towards the gizzard, where the Stone Thief digested the meals it consumed. The Butcher had one last trick left in store, and Glorta fell down a pit and was separate from the rest of the group. Meanwhile, Green Slug tumbled through a crack in the ceiling and was reunited with Darrell, Nuin and Brugh.

The four quickly crossed through the Gizzard, avoiding the patrols of blockhead servitors, and tracked back from a group of undead to find the entrance to the Ossurary, domain of the Flesh Tailor. Their plan was to kill the Tailor, and earn a boon from his enslaved dead. The army of the dead would allow them to defeat the orcs guarding the Deep Keep, and the lower levels of the dungeon.

Once inside the Ossurary, the four met up with Gohwim who calmly asked them what had taken them so long. The bard was also less keen on the 'kill all the orcs' plan, and suggested that he could try to negotiate with the orcs instead. The group decide to proceed with the plan to take out the Flesh Tailor anyway, in part because the boon would be useful, and in part because they didn't like evil necromancers.

They managed to navigate successfully through the maze of catacombs that made up the Ossuary, calling upon the guidance of Grommar's ghost, Darrell's knowledge of the ways of the undead, and Green Slug's familiarity with the Stone Thief. The entranceway to the Flesh Tailor's domain was blocked by yellow mold - a deadly fungus with spores that would kill within minutes if inhaled. The mold was created by the Lich King long ago, and the Archmage had destroyed it from the world above - but not from the deep reaches of the earth, or places under the Lich King's power.

Nuin called upon his connection to the druidic powers to sense where all of the yellow mold within the Ossurary was, and then managed to call upon a fragment of the Archmage's power to re-activate his long dormant spell. His ritual would destroy all of the yellow mold within the Ossurary. As soon as he began to channel the arcane spell, the Flesh Tailor noticed his efforts and sent his undead to attack.

A great battle was fought, with the Flesh Tailor himself taking to the field. The heroes were victorious, aided by the power of the Raven Queen and their knowledge of how to battle the Lich King and his servitors. As the Flesh Tailor fell, the horde of enslaved dead appeared and promised the party one boon in return for their freedom. Green Slug had called upon the hidden secrets of the monks to assume a spectral form, and one of the spirits pointed him towards the Flesh Tailor's hidden cache of treasure.

Moving rapidly onwards, they returned to the Gizzard and made their way towards the orc slave camp. Goghwim sauntered up to the gate guards, and managed to negotiate a meeting with their superior, Grimtusk. In return, Goghwim volunteered Kaylcgos to enter an arena fight against a demonic dog - something neither Nuin nor his brother were overly pleased with.

The rest of the group reluctantly accompanied Goghwim as they were led to the orcish arena (an imperial opera house the Stone Thief had swallowed some decades previously). They bit their tongues as they marched past the newly enslaved halflings the orcs were also escorting.

At the arena, Kalycgos and his 'handler' Nuin (plus Darrell) were lead down to the cages where the gladiators and arena animals waiting. Meanwhile, Goghwim and the others were led up to the circle and introduced to Grimtusk. Goghwim had met Grimtusk once many years ago, before leaving orcish lands, and the two greeted each other warmly. Goghwim explained that he'd brought along a dragon to fight in Grimtusk's arena, and the orc led the bard towards the edge of the circle to watch. The orcish MC introduced the dread Kallig the Killer, son of the Great Gold Worn himself etc etc etc into battle against the Foul Beast of the Deeps, Suckled on the Blood of Demons etc etc etc. A large crowd of orcs (easily a few hundred) gathered to watch and cheer the battle on. Kalycgos (partly aided by Darrell's blessings and prayers) managed to defeat the demon dog with relative ease, and the roar of the crowd was deafening. Over the racket Grimtusk and Goghwim negotiated - Goghwim explained that they wanted to pass through the Great Gate, and Grimtusk explained that he wanted their aid in overthrowing the true leader of the orcs, Fangrot. A deal was struck - the party would help Grimtusk's orcs defeat Fangrot and his allies, and Grimtusk would allow them further into the dungeon.
 

Kath

The Furthest Away
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Season 2, Session 33 - Third Time Lucky, Part 3

PCs present:

  • Nuin (and his brother, Kalecgos, a young gold dragon)
  • Darrell
  • Brugh
  • Green Slug
  • Goghwim
Almost immediately afterwards, Grimtusk began to put his plan into action, fearing that any delay would alert Fangrot. Grimtusk and his orcs, plus the heroes approached the Deep Keep, and entered within. Almost as soon as they entered, Fangrot's allies sprung into action, and battle was joined!

The heroes decided to remain the middle ranks of the (allied) orcish horde. goghwim was able to instill some martial discipline into their allies; it was clear to the bard that the orcs down here had spent too long raiding shocked villagers, and not enough time in proper battles. After defeating Fangrot's forces, the heroes were pushed towards the vanguard as the army attacked the great hall. Grimtusk was right behind them as they went to attack Fangrot, but didn't want to get in their way.

Fangrot marched out himself and face the heroes, flanked by a trio of guards. The orc warlord struck first, moving ahead of his guards. This proved to a tactical error, as the heroes unleashed a wave of powerful attacks upon him. Seeing their master on death's door, and their army defeated, Fangrot's bodyguards changed sides and administered the killing blow.

The death of the warlord alerted the dungeon that something was up, and it began the submerge. The heroes debated whether to push on (using their earth spears to keep the dungeon at the surface), or take the opportunity to rest up and wait for it to resurface. After some discussion, they decided to wait.

Time was hard to track within the depths of the submerged dungeon, but the group spent what felt like a few weeks with the orcs. Grimtusk hosted them as heroes and warriors of renown, and much feasting and celebration was had. Darrell had to restrain himself from helping the orc's slaves, though he and Green Slug did work to confuse the senses of the Stone Thief, sending it away from a major city to a quieter (though magically potent) location. Though they didn't realise at the time, their redirection sent to Thief towards the monastery of the Raven Queen on the edge of the Moonwreck - but better that than Axis or Santa Cora.

The dungeon finally surfaced, and the orcs made ready to raid the surface. Before leaving, Grimtusk opened the great gate that guarded the lower reaches of the dungeon, and let the heroes through. They found themselves at the top of a vast spiral staircase - the Maddening Stair.

Their descent took hours, as the stairs wound on and on. The walls were decorated with murals depicting the history of the Cult of the Devourer, and their origins from the time of the Tyrant Emperor. The ancestors of the cult had been driven from the Empire by the mad ruler, and had ended up allying with other anti-Imperial forces to bring him down. After the Emperor was defeated, their allies 'betrayed' the cult by refusing to destroy the Imperial Throne itself. In retaliation, the cult stole some texts from their allies (including a series of tomes from the Grandmaster of Flowers, one of which had been scribbled in by a time-traveling halfling monk, and told the cult founders about the existence of the Stone Thief...). The rest of the murals depicted the cult being founded, learning how to summon the Stone Thief, and feeding it upon the riches of the Empire.

The stairs also contained various buildings eaten by the Thief over the ages, including a crumbling castle (Darrell ended up dangling on the end of a rope again), a temple to the Raven Queen, and a massive clockwork set of doors. Nuin and Darrell recognised them as the fabled Clock of Hell, a vast portal that would open when the clock had finished counting down. The Clock had been lost long ago - clearly swallowed up by the Thief. The heroes wondered if this gateway would bring through the demonic invasion the Crusader's future had been ruined by, and briefly discussed whether there was anything they could do here and now. Once again, pragmatism ruled and they pressed on.

At the bottom the stairs was a vast mural, depicting the glorious future of the Cult - the Stone Thief rising as a god to devour the entire Empire. As they looked at the mural, the heroes fell into a deep slumber, attacked by the dream magic of the Secret Masters of the cult.

They awoke in Kernharrow, knowing this was a dream. The village was ruined, as they Stone Thief had grew to devour the world entire. The sky was the colour of ectoplasm, and strange monsters roamed the twisted land. The heroes felt themselves called towards Axis, and began journeying there. They encountered horrors on the way - Brugh's foster father in the service of the Stone Thief, a temple of people worshiping the terrible Thief, [Nuin], [Green Slug], and most terrifying of all, a land without music.

In Axis, they walked to the palace and the throne room. The Empress sat upon her throne, but was wrapped in chains that led to the Secret Masters, who controlled her like a puppet. The heroes fought to free themselves from the dream, inspiring themselves and the dream world around them. They managed to break free, and awoke to find themselves still in the Stone Thief, with a man garbed in the robes of the cult approaching them, saying "Hello".
 

Kath

The Furthest Away
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Season 2, Session 34 - Third Time Lucky, Part 4

PCs present:

  • Nuin (and his brother, Kalecgos, a young gold dragon)
  • Darrell
  • Brugh
  • Green Slug
  • Goghwim
  • Glorta
The cultist introduced himself as Maeglor, and made a valiant attempt to persuade the heroes to work with him, on some complicated cult-ish scheme. Green Slug took objection to being re-recruited into the Cult of the Devourer and punched him before he could finish explaining. Brugh offered the by then heavily wounded Maeglor the chance to surrender, but Maeglor rejected it (as the heroes clearly weren't interested in negotiating with him). Thankfully, they were able to defeat him before he could awaken the Alabaster Sentinel; the massive golem statue that guarded the entrance into the next part of the dungeon.

As Maeglor was slain, Goghwim used a magical tome empowered by the Blue to steal one of Maeglor's arcane secrets - in this case, how the Alabaster Sentinel worked. This information was combined with Green Slug's insights from the Eye he held to guide Darrell through a ritual to invoke the tricksy power of Garl Glittergold. With the god's protection hovering over them, the heroes were able to walk past the Alabaster Sentinel, fooling its senses and preventing it from awakening.

As part of this, it was established exactly how Green Slug had escaped the Cult without dying - he had found a loophole in the rules covering membership of the cult (rules that were based on his writings) that gave him free will so long as a small corner of his mind continued to chant a mantra of devotion to the Great Devourer.

Glorta also rejoined the party. He'd been dropped into a lava-filled part of the dungeon by the Mad Butcher, but had managed to overcome the lava sharks (ridden by minotaurs) and defeat the lava hydras to escape. He'd sheltered with his old tribe while the dungeon submerged, and had finally managed to catch up with the rest as they reached the base of the stairs.

Moving past the Alabaster Sentinel, the heroes found themselves in the Labyrinth of Darkness, a terrible obsidian maze of overwhelming darkness. They were attacked by some of the beings that lived within the maze and Darrell was very grateful he'd brought a potion along to ward off Mummy Rot and its variants [GM note: Spent a Lich King icon advantage]. After defeating the monsters, the heroes pressed on. Green Slug remembered some tricks from the Prince of Shadows about how to navigate mazes (look for the oldest bits first), and Glorta remembered hearing some conversations among the goblins and orcs about how to navigate the dread maze (orcs always being on the look out for how to overcome their 'allies' defences). Nuin attempted to follow mummy tracks through the maze, but failed. Finally, Goghwim was able to follow the sounds of eerie chanting to lead them out the rest of the way.

In front of them spread a large open cavern, dominated by a vast citadel at the end and also five glass towers . The cavern was home to the devout warrior monk fanatics of the cult, and the heroes could see and hear them practising their kata in front of the citadel.

Three of the the glass towers were full of arcane energy, and a fourth was partially filled. The heroes guessed this was some scheme of the Cult's, as the dungeon itself couldn't access the magical power within them. There was some debate about whether to try and use or destroy this arcane power, or if they should press on towards the citadel directly.

Nuin then revealed the seed he'd found on the first trip into the dungeon. If planted in a wellspring of arcane power, it would grow into a large tree, which would convert arcane energy nearby into primal druidic power. He suggested that they plant the seed in one of the glass towers, and use it to effectively destroy all of the arcane power within. As an added bonus, the forest this would create would effectively neutralise any arcane rituals - including necromantic rituals to raise a dead Stone Thief...

The party agreed to his plan, and made their way to the nearest glass tower. Glorta was able to open the locked door at the base without tripping the alarm, and Darrell's ritual magic empowered them against the energy drain imposed by the stairs going up the inside of the tower. At the top, they fought and defeated the thaumaturgical guardians.

Finally, Nuin started his ritual. Firstly he channeled the remnants of the broken teleportation spell that clung to them, using it to teleport the seed within the glass sphere holding the arcane energy [GM note: Archmage icon advantage]. Then, he used his druidic powers and the power of the High Druid to cause the seed to start to grow rapidly, and for it to spread its roots to the magical towers [GM note: ritual casting of Grabbing Vines plus High Druid icon advantage]. As the seed took root, the heroes felt a breath of fresh air for the first time since entering the cultist lair.

Meanwhile, Darrell called upon the army of undead they had freed from the Flesh Tailor, telling them they had earned their freedom. As they appeared, Brugh handed them two banners emblazoned with the Raven Queen which would help ward off any necromantic spells from weakening or controlling them [GM note: two Lich King icon advantages, and a flashback to crafting the sword].

The heroes raced fourth with their undead allies, making directly for the Citadel of the Secret Masters, and access to the Heart of the Stone Thief!
 

Kath

The Furthest Away
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Season 2, Session 35 - Third Time Lucky, Part 5

PCs present:

  • Nuin (and his brother, Kalecgos, a young gold dragon)
  • Darrell
  • Brugh
  • Green Slug
  • Goghwim
  • Glorta

The heroes charged towards the Citadel of the Secret Masters (except for Nuin, who stayed behind to talk to the newly planted tree), leading their undead army into battle. They faced off against the warrior monks of the Cult, who were led into battle by whip-wielding commissars. Brugh called upon his mastery of dwarvish law to assemble the ghosts of the dwarven warriors into a formidable testudo, while Glorta led a squad of goblin monk ghosts through the mess of battle to cut down the leaders of the Cult. The death of several commissars created an opening for Green Slug, who called upon the monks of the Cult to abandon their masters and join with him, by telling them the secret of how to avoid the Cult's wrath. Meanwhile, Darrell empowered their army with the blessings of Raven Queen, but Goghwim was unable to inspire their forces with battle music - the dead clearly have no appreciation for death metal, no matter how well played.

Having defeated the army of the cult, the heroes (plus six surviving monks who followed Green Slug, and Nuin who had finished talking to his tree) began to climb the great stairs leading to the doors of the Citadel. At that point, the Secret Masters completed a ritual to make the walls of the Citadel melt like wax, and the heroes had to fight teir way up a partially molten slope of waxy rock. The Cult sent in aeriel warriors to harrass them, and large archivults swooped down on their heads. Green Slug was able to ride one of the great birds (after Nuin dislodged its rider by turning the man into a bonsai tree for a few critical moments), and this allowed the heroes to safely make it to the doors of the Citadel.

Taking barely a moment to catch their breath, the heroes struck at the centre of the Cult of the Devourer, the chamber of the Secret Masters themselves. Glorta and Green Slug's acolytes made quick work of the slumbering masters, while the rest of the group took on the two masters who were awake and their bodyguards. At one point Brugh was entombed in solid rock, but Goghwim was able to save him by transposing their positions - the bard was happy to swap being barely alive next to a Secret Master and his bodyguard for being safely entombed in rock. As they slew the last of the Secret Masters, the heroes drew hope that their long mission was nearly complete.

Moving along the final corridor towards the Thief's heart, the dungeon threw its last defences against them - trying to trap them individually in rapidly reconstituted rooms, and luring them with the promise of treasure. The party remembered their motto ("Stay on target!") and kept on straight towards the sound of the heart. The heart was a massive crystal, and it almost seemed too easy for Brugh to smash his hammer against it.

The crystal shattered, and all hell broke loose. The dungeon began to buck and writhe like a wounded animal, and the heroes were thrown around as it went through its death throes. Finally, the dungeon breached the surface world (close to Fort Thunder, last seen many sessions ago) and the heroes enjoyed a moment of respite as they breathed in fresh air and felt the sun on their faces.

And the dungeon rose again, knitting itself together from scattered bits of masonry and rubble. Battle was joined one final time! Green Slug was almost slain early during the battle, and Goghwim made good use of Overworld Two-Step to rescue Brugh from another stony prison. Glorta and Nuin rained down terrible punishment upon the Thief, while Darrell kept the party alive and called upon the gods to bless their fight. Finally, Brugh struck the killing blow, and the Stone Thief was slain!

Victory was short-lived though - a cold fog rolled in from the Inland Sea, and the sinsister presence of the Lich King was felt by all. Forewarned by Glorta when they entered the dungeon, Darrell quickly called upon the gods to sanctify the Thief's resting place and protect it from the Lich King. Meanwhile, Nuin's tree had grown into a small grove of trees - trees that would consume the necromantic powers of the Lich King and turn them against him. The Lich King hadn't reached his great age by taking risks, and so he withdrew from the battlefield - but not before throwing a small army of skeletons and zombies against the heroes in a fit of pique, as he pulled back to Omen to plot his revenge.

The End (for now)
 

Aegypto

Treelicious
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Thank you for posting this. It's been great reading about your campaign and characters.

(I fully admit that I stole the idea of going back in time to the Age of the Terrible Emperor for my own game)
 

Hituro

Eager Critmouse
Validated User
Thank you for the actual play, I've really enjoyed following along with your group's many adventures!

I almost feel sorry for the Stone Thief though :p
 

Kath

The Furthest Away
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Thank you for posting this. It's been great reading about your campaign and characters.
I've glad you've enjoyed reading it - it's been a total blast to run! We're talking about doing an epic tier sequel campaign, which will be focused on foiling the sinister plans of the Priestess and avoiding the terrible future the Crusader traveled back from.

(I fully admit that I stole the idea of going back in time to the Age of the Terrible Emperor for my own game)
Awesome! I stole the basic idea from Chrono Trigger, with a medium dose of Bill & Ted for the temporal 'logic'. I'd be interested in hearing about how your campaign's time-travelling works out!

Thank you for the actual play, I've really enjoyed following along with your group's many adventures!

I almost feel sorry for the Stone Thief though :p
I'm glad people have enjoyed reading it :) I almost felt sorry for the dungeon a few times too, though my players were far more merciless. They cut through it's 700 HP in just a couple of rounds - it turns out giving a barbarian a weapon that does +20 damage, and cleric and druid buff spells makes for a crazy damage output. Brugh's final attack did about 180 damage on a critical.
 
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