Runequest - Adventures in Prax

Nov 29
Episode 4: Escaping Tikkillittikkarri

Note: This episode was inspired by Nick Fortune's excellent The Tale of the Normal Newts, which can be found in the Background section.

As the three bondsmen pondered their next move, the door to the tavern opened to reveal a familiar face. Rile, his clothes and hair caked with dust from the storm outside, stumbled in and made his way over to where his comrades sat. He too had become separated from the duke’s retinue, and had stumbled across the city in the gorge. Just as in the case of the others, dragonewts guarding the gate had beckoned him enter, and a crested dragonewt then led him to the nearest tavern, where his friends sat trying to decide what to do.

After filling Rile in on their predicament, they tried questioning the locals in the tavern once again, but they clearly had no time for these strangers, and were of no further help, deliberately turning their backs on them and their questions. Rile also felt a terrible loneliness here, as though something very important had been taken from him, but could not immediately determine the reason for this disturbing phenomenon.

After a long discussion they decided that the two most likely scenarios were that either they had been transported back in time (and across a great distance) to the time of the Empire of the Wyrm’s Friends, or that the city had somehow been pulled forward to their current time and place. They would later discover both to be wrong, but they rightly figured that the best way to leave was to seek out someone in authority .

It was then that they noticed the huge tower standing in the centre of the city. How they had not noticed it up until now was quite baffling, as it dominated the entire city, rising hundreds of feet up into the air. It was shaped in the form of a huge dragon, and spiralling around it was what appeared to be a road, winding its way to the very top.

They set off toward it, but were quickly lost in the maze of streets that twisted and turned about the city. Roads that they thought would lead them to their destination would veer off in a completely different direction, and attempts to backtrack would often meet with confusion, with paths seeming to change or disappear behind them. During this time Karnak was separated from them, lost amidst the maze of backstreets, and they would not see him again during their time here.

As night approached the three remaining bondsmen decided to rest up for the day, the exertions of their time in the storm beginning to take its toll. They found a small house which was empty except for the small crested dragonewt that danced and weaved in one corner, seemingly oblivious to the presence. As these creatures had shown them nothing but hospitality, they chose to bed down here for the night.

They were awoken the next morning by a loud boom from somewhere out in the street. Gathering their gear together, they headed out and saw smoke billowing from a small shop across the street. As they watched, a small stout figure with a large beard came staggering out, coughing and spluttering, his face slightly blackened. Rushing over to help, they found themselves confronted by the rare sight of a Mostali, who had obviously been working on a contraption of one sort or another. Behind him was his store, a treasure trove of mechanical gadgets that gave out a constant stream of ticks, tocks, and hisses.

After making sure he wasn’t hurt, they helped him clear up a little of the mess. Rhodrin in particular was very excited at meeting a Mostali here, as he had spent many hours in study of this ancient race, and was considered one of the most knowledgeable men in northern Sartar on the subject. Likewise the Mostali, who’s named turned out to be Clayweaver, was delighted to find a human with such a broad knowledge of his people, and they sat and talked for some considerable time as Rhodrin tried to explain their predicament. Strangely, the Mostali seemed to have no real memory of his time in the city – he knew he traded with its occupants on a daily basis, he knew the goal of the people of the city, but he had no recollection of how long he’d been there or where he had come from before he arrived here. While he also found Rhodrin’s story very far fetched, he was nonetheless fascinated by it, and before they left he gifted Rhodrin with two items from the store, a small timepiece for which he had no need, and a tubular device that would “illuminate without light”, as he described it.

Leaving the Mostali, they eventually arrived at the central tower, and began the long climb up its winding road. The higher they climbed, the more spectacular the view became, and as the storm had cleared up some time during the night they could see beyond the city walls, where a long silvery road wound its way off into the distance. The city was much larger than they had first realised, and was filled with architectural wonders such as ornamental gardens and intricate buildings. It was only then that Rile discovered the reason for his terrible feeling of loss – there was no moon. Where his goddess should be was just empty sky.

The top of the tower was shaped like a dragon’s head, and around its neck was a ruff that formed a platform of sorts. As the three men arrived at the top, they were confronted by two dozen dragonewts conversing in their own tongue. Beyond these was a narrow path that led out to the dragon’s outstretched hands, and sitting on the hands was a large bell. The dragon appeared to be staring straight at the bell, as though it was an object of utmost beauty, worthy of great contemplation.

As they approached the path, two large beaked dragonewts stepped in front of them, blocking their way. “I’m sorry”, the first said, “you can’t go up there. Ringing that bell would spell the end of the world, and we wouldn’t want the world to end before its time now would we.” Still unaware of the nature of this strange place, the three men did not argue, and instead decided to attempt to retrace their steps back to the main gate of the city.

After another long trip back down the tower, they were surprised to spot a Sun Dome templar walking across the plaza. Unlike the other occupants of the city, this one did not appear to be wearing clothes of a bygone age, and instead seemed to in a hurry to get somewhere. As they hailed him however, he stopped, then quickly approached them, a combination of surprise and relief on his face.

Surik Brighthelm claimed to have been in the city for around five years, but upon further questioning they discovered that he had entered the city in the year 1535 ST, over eighty years previously. However, he was aged no more than thirty five years old, so something was very wrong with time in this place. They then had the idea of asking if he had kept any sort of journal when he arrived, and while Surik couldn’t remember doing so he led them to the house he occupied to see if clues could be gathered. Just like the mostali they had met earlier, Surik’s memories of his time in the city seemed to be fading, although they were not yet completely gone.

By good fortune Surik had indeed kept a record of his findings when he first arrived, and in them he had written of his desire to ring the bell at the top of the tower in order to end the dream. At this point the bondsmen realised that the entire city was the product of a dragon’s dream, and everything began to make sense. They resolved to ring the bell as Surik had suggested, certain that this was likely the only way to escape this strange place.

Back at the top of the tower, only a handful of dragonewts remained. Before they arrived the bondsmen prepared themselves for a fight, certain that the dragonewts would try to prevent them from ringing the bell, which of course turned out to be true. It was at this point that they noticed that Surik had become almost ethereal this close to the head of the dragon, having spent too long within the dream environment, and so would be of no help in the ensuing melee.

Once again two beaked dragonewts blocked their path, but this time Strum drew his axe and severely wounded the first. Rhodrin attempted to duck past the other, but was way too slow and found himself facing an enraged dragonewt warrior. Rile was more skilled in these ways though, and after tumbling smoothly past a third warrior he sprinted for the path. A tailed priest began summoning powerful draconic magic, but Rhodrin managed to counterspell it before it could take effect. His attention distracted, he was not quick enough to avoid the huge klanth thrust towards him, and took a vicious wound to the gut, the pain almost overwhelming. Strum’s axe swung again, and the tailed priest fell to the ground, shrieking in pain at the terrible wound in its leg. Meanwhile Rile reached the path and dashed across, at one point stumbling and almost falling to certain death. Incredibly he managed to catch himself just in time, and with a smooth leap made it to the bell.

Fortune indeed favoured the bondsmen that day, for one of the beaked dragonewts facing the others had almost put out its own eye with its klanth, before dropping the fearsome weapon in pain. Before they could deal with the last one, Rile rang the bell and everything disappeared.

Rile found himself standing alone, in front of the most terrifying creature he had ever seen, a dragon so vast he could scarcely conceive it. The dragon spoke. “Little human, you dare to awaken me from my slumber. I admire your courage, and so shall answer three questions truthfully. However, for your impertinence you must be punished and so after I answer your questions I will devour you. Be swift with your questions, for already I lose patience.”

Rile’s first question, “How can I prevent you from devouring me?” , was of little help, as the dragon simply replied “Do not awaken a sleeping dragon” However, his next question was far more effective. “How can I put you back to sleep?”

At this the dragon looked perplexed, as it began to realise that it was actually still asleep and had not yet woken up as it first thought. As it did so, it began to fade from Rile’s view, and he shortly found himself lying face up in the sands of Prax, the hot sun beating down on him. Next to him lay his companions, along with Surik who had also been freed from the dream. In the distance he could hear the sounds of people calling for them, and recognised the voices of the duke’s nomad riders.

Upon questioning by the duke they eventually told him of the city, but while an exploratory party was put together, no trace of it was found. Eventually the duke gave up, and they left this strange place and headed for the final oasis in their journey, that of Horn Gate. Beyond Horn Gate lay the duke's domain, and the final destination of their long journey, his home.

gamesmeister • Campaign SessionsPermalink
Nov 21
Or this week!

Once again real life has got in the way of gaming, so no session this week.

gamesmeister • Campaign SessionsPermalink
Nov 14
An update to the combat rules

So far we have been playing combat using the rules found in the original core rulebook i.e. no opposed rules, just use the combat tables as they stand. Last week's game demonstrated just how powerful Precise Attacks are under those rules when used by high level characters. Every attack bypassed armour, so even a successful defense was rarely good enough to prevent considerable damage and the loss of combat actions. The result was that the first player to take even a minor wound was doomed, as that player never managed to regain the initiative and just kept losing more and more combat actions.

The upshot is that I'm going to use the opposed roll system as found in the players update and the deluxe rulebook, in addition to the original rules. This is a very simple house rule - here's how it will work.

The players will have 4 defense options rather than 2...Parry, Block, Dodge, Evade.

Parry - use the opposed roll rules. If you succeed with a parry and win the opposed roll, you'll take no damage, if you lose the opposed roll your parry is downgraded to a failure. Use this against targets with huge damage bonuses, against precise attacks, if you only have a very weak weapon, or if you have a significantly higher skill than your opponent.

Block - no opposed roll, use the table only. Even if you succeed with a block, you could take damage through the parrying weapon. This is a good option if you use a shield.

Dodge - use the opposed roll rules. If you succeed with a dodge and win the opposed roll, you'll take no damage, if you lose the opposed roll your dodge is downgraded to a failure. Use this against targets with huge damage bonuses, against precise attacks, or if you have a significantly higher skill than your opponent.

Evade - no opposed roll, use the table only. A successful evade will still suffer minimum damage against a successful attack.

So in other words, the defending player has a choice whether to use opposed rolls or not. Doing so is a much better option against very large opponents with overpowering damage bonuses, particularly if they have low combat skills, and those trying Precise Attacks. In fact, Precise Attacks are very difficult when using the opposed roll system, and rightly so.

gamesmeister • House RulesPermalink
Nov 14
No game this week

Unfortunately there's no session this week - normal service will be resumed next Thursday.

gamesmeister • Campaign SessionsPermalink
Nov 9
Episode 3: Tourney Altar to Scalegate

Leaving behind the pyre of smouldering corpses, the caravan continued on its journey, arriving in Tourney Altar later that day.

Tourney Altar is a place held sacred by worshippers of the death god Humakt, and reputed to be the place where he fought many foes. It is a small oasis, with no town to speak of, a small lake surrounded by a scattering of date and olive trees. On the eastern side of the lake sits the altar itself, a natural ampitheatre surrounded with a series of pillars, weathered by centuries of Praxian dust storms and a monument to a bygone age.

As the caravan approached the oasis, a man could be seen standing in the middle of the trail, his sword planted in the ground before him. Lollos called the caravan to a halt, clearly unsure what to do in the circumstances. Rhodrin noticed Daine in animated conversation with the duke, and overhead the latter say “You must do what must be done, and so must he”. Daine’s shoulders visibly slumped.

The man approached, and it was clear that he was a devotee of death, for his armour was covered in depictions of its rune, and similar tattoos marked his face. A sense of foreboding fell over the caravan as he drew near, as though death itself walked among them. The man’s gazed flickered between Daine and Rile as he spoke, his voice harsh.

“Oathbreakers. You have been summoned, and you have answered the call as you must. You know why you are here”. It wasn’t a question, but both Daine and Rile nodded, their faces grim. “You will enter the arena at the appointed hour, where death awaits you. My lord shall be avenged for your betrayal”.

With that the man abruptly turned on his heel and stalked away towards the monument, and for a brief moment, Rhodrin spotted what appeared to be a great number of warriors through the trees, the Praxian sun glinting off their armour.

The caravan pulled up near the lake and began to break camp, but while the other bondsmen went about their duties, Rile followed Daine to a place of solitude, and there they began to pray, and to seek guidance from their god Yanafal Tarnils. Tonight they would stand in his place, defending the honour of their god against Humakt, and champion the cause of the red goddess.

Some hours later, the two men walked through the darkness among the trees and into the bowl. As they crested the lip of the natural amphitheatre they realised that there must have been dozens of warriors, all wearing full armour as though preparing for battle. A low chanting could be heard, which did not pause or falter as the two men walked towards the centre of the bowl. In several places could be seen warriors duelling in slow motion, attack and counter, their faces a mask of concentration.

Two figures stepped from among the crowd, selected above all the others to represent Humakt in the upcoming ritual. A human called Mondar and a duck named Nelkark, both wore heavy armour and carried supernaturally gleaming swords, iridescent in the faint moonlight. Both were highly skilled, and both were questing for the status of Death Knight. Victory tonight would continue their progress towards that exalted position, failure meant the very real prospect of death. Neither of them feared the latter.

As the two men faced the Humakti, the chanting increased, rapidly reaching a crescendo, and the world about the men began to blur, the land about them becoming increasingly indistinct, until each was alone except for his foe. Rile felt the air around him chill, saw the ground beneath him was bare and broken, and became aware of a towering cliff to his right, stretching up as far as he could see. He turned to the duck, gave a final prayer to Yanafal Tarnils, and advanced.

Rile had fought many foes in his time in the red army, but none had he met with the skill and speed of Nelkark. Every swing he made was countered with ease, every thrust he made met air. The duck seemed content to size up his opponent, making no overtly aggressive moves until it was ready. When that moment arrived, Rile suddenly found himself facing a wall of steel, the ducks sword a blur in its hand. He desperately tried to parry the assault, but ultimately could not counter every attack and blood began to pour from a dozen wounds. Weakening through blood loss, he could no longer hold back the storm, and gasped as he felt the opposing blade shear through his upper left arm, slicing through bone and sinew as though they were paper. As he slumped to the ground and darkness began closing in, he felt a strange tugging sensation, as though someone was trying to reach him, to pull him back from the void. A beautiful song flittered around the edge of his perception, but try as he might, he could not focus on it, could not answer the call. Tonight he would fail the red goddess.

Daine had fared little better, even though he was more skilled than the man he faced. Hamstrung by his opponent early on, he could not counter the blows that rained down on him, quickly crumpling to the ground. Mondar the Humakti gave out a great roar, holding his sword aloft in victory to his god. But Daine had spent a lifetime in service to Yanafal Tarnils, and knew the call of the lady when it came. Just like his god had done, he rejected the finality of death, climbing to his feet in defiance of his former master. He struck Mondar several terrible blows, and the potential death lord collapsed into the dust, his eyes glazing over.

Daine found himself back in the amphitheatre, the chanting now reducing in intensity. Nearby Rile lay unmoving, a Humakti leaning over him stemming the blood from numerous cuts over his body. His arm was still attached, but was blackened and discoloured, as though suffering some great trauma. Rile groaned, and staggered to his feet, his arm strangely numb. The Humakti who had met them the day before stood before him, then reached down and took Rile's sword.

“Tonight Humakt has taken death from you, just as I take it from you now.”

He slid Rile’s sword into his belt, nodded once at Daine, his dark eyes brooding, then turned and walked over to the still body of Mondar the fallen Humakt. Taking this as their cue to leave, Daine and Rile left the arena, the latter unable to walk far without help from the old rune lord.

The next morning the caravan left early, with Raus keen to push on away from this dread place. Daine spoke to no-one of the previous nights events, and Rile too was very quiet, the enormity of what had happened still playing on his mind. He had some feeling in his arm, but the discolouration showed no sign of going, and the wounds inflicted on it would take an age to heal.

The caravan headed across the Praxian steppes towards Biggle Stone, the final oasis on their journey before Raus and his party would leave the safety of the caravan and make their way across the Eirithan Hills towards Horn Gate and his home. The four day journey passed with little incident, save for a brief encounter with members of the Basmoli tribe, who tracked the caravan for several hours. Sisko was happy to talk to the bondsmen about these strange but disappearing denizens of Prax, telling them of nature of the tribe and their worship of the lion god.

Eventually the caravan arrived at Biggle Stone, a relatively large oasis with a small town next to the lake. Temples and shrines to various gods were present, and the few vendors who had set up shop here were keen to trade with the caravan. Of more interest to the group was the large forest of mushrooms that had grown up some distance from the oasis. Questioning the nomads, they discovered that the ‘Twisted One’ had appeared some thirty years ago, and the mushroom forest had grown almost overnight around him. The Biggle Stone itself had not been seen since the arrival of the forest. The Twisted One was reputed to be keen to trade goods and information, and was known to brew many strange potions from his grotto in the centre of the forest. Keen to trade with him, but having nothing to offer, Karnak attempted to steal several small bags of exotic spices from one of the caravan wagons, while Strum created a diversion elsewhere, which he was happy to do. Spying two of the irritatingly smug Sable riders nearby, he proceeded to question the lineage of their mothers, fathers, grandfathers, and would have moved on to more distantly related kinsmen had the sable riders not launched themselves at him in fury. He floored the first with a single punch, and the second, finding himself suddenly alone against the huge storm bull warrior, beat a hasty retreat, dragging his friend with him, and yelling a whole range of threats and curses at the big man.

Despite this excellent distraction, Karnak proved to be a singularly incompetent thief (presumably the reason why he had been arrested by the Lunars in the first place), almost dropping the first bag he tried to lift, spilling the contents of the second all over the floor, and only managing to grab a single bag before several lunar cavalryman guards rounded the corner and he had to make good his escape before he was noticed.

Armed with this one bag, Karnak, Rhodrin and Strum headed for the centre of the forest, but were met midway by a small group of dark trolls and trollkin, who demanded payment to use ‘their path’. The bondsmen turned down an offer of a contest, but offered some of the spice to the dark trolls, which turned out to have slightly narcotic properties to the race of darkness creatures, who were happy to let the three men past after snorting the powdery substance.

The Twisted One, who turned out to be a dark elf, was very pleased to see them, and they sat for some time talking of many things, although he would brook no discussion on the whereabouts of the mysterious Biggle Stone. Eventually the talk turned to trade, with the elf pleased to get the spice while the three men each received a potion of vitality which the small elf insisted was “strong stuff”. Bidding farewell, they returned to the caravan, stepping past the two snoring dark trolls as they went.

The duke had managed to employ the services of a young nomad woman, who would lead them through the Eirithan Hills, and he had sent Brakiri on in advance to scout the area. The other bondsmen each went to their respective shrines to pray, with Karnak eager to prepare for an approaching Orlanth holy day. He would not be able to join a ceremony at a temple, and therefore was very keen to obtain the necessary holy items that would allow him to perform the appropriate rituals himself. Strum visited the Storm Bull shrine, and while there was hit by a sudden burst of energy, signalling that the bull was very active at this time. What the meaning of this was, he could not say.

The next day the duke and his party, consisting of Daine, the bondsmen and the six nomads, set out along a secret trail over the Eiritha Hills towards Horn Gate. Within a few hours they met a small group of Morocanth descending in a hurry. (The Morocanth are one of the great tribes of Prax, humanoid tapirs who were the only animal tribe to win the contests of intelligence that Waha held - to discern who would eat and whom would be eaten. As a consequence the Morocanth herd unintelligent human seeming ape-men, the descendents of the human tribe that lost in the contest.) Karnak was outraged at the sight of these seemingly human people being treated in such a way, and although the nomads explained the story of the Morocanth to him, which seemed to placate him somewhat, he was clearly still struggling to understand this strange phenomenon. One Morocanth was a Storm Bull and called out to Strum that the might of the bull was approaching, although he refused to speak any further to them. Raus insisted that they press on, but that night a terrible storm began building and by the following morning it had quickly become a sandblown hell. The noise was deafening, and they could barely see more than a few feet in front of their faces, as they struggled forward looking for some semblance of shelter.

Strum remembered his encounter with the Father, and tried to call on him to see them through this supernatural tempest, but the winds and driving sand proved too much and he lost his balance, tumbling down a rocky slope and landing winded at the bottom. Rhodrin and Karnak attempted to catch him but could not, and were both blown down the slope, with Rhodrin also tumbling some way down. Karnak dragged them both to their feet and they stumbled on for no more than a few dozen yards when they could suddenly scarcely believe their eyes. There in front of them lay what appeared to be a small city, a shimmering shield of energy protecting it from the storm, and even more amazing were the dragonewt warrior guards who opened the gates and bid them enter, greeting them happily.

Once inside they could see the storm raging above them outside, but were completely protected from it within the city. They found shelter in a nearby tavern, but the innkeeper seemed very surly and served them only after several attempts to catch his attention. The Lankhor Mhy sage Rhodrin in particular was amazed at his surroundings, quickly spotting that both the dress and equipment of the people resembled that of the Empire of the Wyrms Friends, an empire that was wiped out over five hundred years previously. While Karnak and Strum sampled the ales of the tavern, Rhodrin quizzed everyone who would talk to him, although very few would, calling him an ‘Old World Traditionalist’, one who had no concept of the great dragon to come. He learned that the city was called Tikkillittikkarri by the Dragonewts, but more commonly Scalegate by the humans who inhabited it, and it was situated in the area known as Dragon Pass. References to places such as Sartar or Boldhome were met with blank stares, and Rhodrin soon returned to his companions, both confused by the situation he found himself in, and elated at the thought of all this lost knowledge sitting at his fingertips.

gamesmeister • Campaign SessionsPermalink

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