Saturday, October 28, 2017

13th Age: The Death of Kalen Dan Hesperos (Lingusia in the Age of Strife)

Earlier this year I ran a reasonably long campaign that took a party of level 1 13th Age characters from 1st to 7th level. The initial story arc was as follows: escorting one of the PC's cousins, the knight Hesperos, to be buried after he was killed in a battle with trolls. Here's my very lightly cleaned-up main notes from that first story arc:

The Death of Kalen Dan Hesperos:

Opening Event: the group is part of a caravan that just arrived from the southern route to Dagger Falls in the city of Lancaster. The caravan has set up camp in the grounds outside the city when the Mihidir Trolls make a major strike! A Troll Warbrute is leading a charge to destroy the city gates….as the PCs seek to protect the caravan, the knight Kalen Dan Hesperos, who was negotiating a fair price for supplies with the Merchant Nesmith, asks them to aid him in fending off the attack. The city is more vulnerabile than usual as half the main garrison was sent east to investigate an attack on Baldric Castle. Most of the remaining garrison are fresh recruits from Octzel, assigned for a summer of drilling and general patrol duty. The trolls haven’t mounted any raids in nearly a year….

Encounter One: Lancaster, which is built defensively against a great wall along the mountain, is sieged by an army driven by the mihidir trolls, led by several massive trollish warbrutes…a 50 foot tall giant bred as a living siege engine. The trolls are led by the warmage Hanun-Daval, an ambitious mihidir warmage who seeks to destroy the human city and claim it for his people.

The PCs are pipsqueaks in this. They can run interference while Kalen Dan Hesperos tackles the warbrute. Hesperos will be picked up by his war griffon and start the attack, leaving the PCs to face a horde of mihidir shock troops:

Encounter #1:
1 Troll leader (troll, main book)

1 Mihidir Warmage
1st level caster (humanoid, lesser giant)
Init +4
AC 17 PD 11 MD 15 HP 26
Black Bolt +6 ranged attack against up to 3 nearby targets, 2 necrotic damage per bolt
Claws +6 attack, 3 damage; on a 16+ target takes 6 damage from a rend
Dread Growth (5-6); pick one Mihidir grunt. The grunt grows to large size for the remainder of the combat, gaining 20 hit points and doubling its claw and rend damage, but discards its cleaver.
Trollish Regeneration 5: when damaged the mihidir warmage heals 5 damage at the start of its next turn. It has 5 regeneration tokens. It does not regenerate and loses a token if dealt fire or acid damage.

The mihidir war mage is a clever troll of the mihidir kindred, born and bred in the depths of the Ancient City of their kind for war and magic. The warmages are indoctrinated at an early age in to the teachings of the god Thasrik, lord of slavery and domination. They learn to abuse and subjugate the grunts to tortures considered “humane” and “character building” in the eyes of the mihidir elite. Over time, the best are culled from the chattel and taught a mixture of necromancy and polymorphic magic, especially the ability to enhance the already volatile chemistry of trollish flesh.

20 Mihidir Grunts (mook)
1st level troop (humanoid, lesser giant)
Init +3
AC 17 PD 15 MD 11 HP 7
Cleaver Strike +6 attack, 4 damage; on a 1 or 2 attack roll cleaver breaks!
Claws +6 attack, 3 damage; on a 16+ target takes 6 damage from a rend
Trollish Regeneration 5: when damaged the mihidir grunt heals 5 damage at the start of its next turn. It loses this ability if dealt fire or acid damage. The troll may make a save (11+) when dropping 0 HP, so long as it has not taken acid or fire damage it will restore 5 hit points.

The mihidir grunts are medium sized trolls by any other standard, but still stand at least 6-7 feet tall against men and elves. Bred in the breeding pits of Thasrik, the grunts know only slavery, subjugation and torture. They are raised and released as dogs of war, chattel to be thrown against the enemy. The average grunt is an adult by age 6 and dead by age 7.

If the PCs somehow get in to a major tussle with the warbrute:

Mihidir Warbrute
5th level huge wrecker (greater giant)
Init +8
AC 22 PD 20 MD 13 HP 220
Claws +10 attack (two attacks), 30 damage per hit. If both attacks hit a living target it deals 20 extra rend damage and tosses the target 15 feet.
Siege Strike: If both claw attacks hit, and the target is an object (such as a porticullis or defensive castle wall), then double the damage and target collapses if both attack rolls were 16+.
Trollish Regeneration 5: when damaged the mihidir warbrute heals 20 damage at the start of its next turn. It has 5 regeneration tokens. It does not regenerate and loses a token if dealt fire or acid damage.

The worst spawn of the breeding pits, the warbrutes are shaped and morphed into monstrous savages by the mihidir elite to become living siege engines. The warbrutes are so large, some up to 50 feet tall, that they are often mistaken for giants. They can transport dozens of mihidir grunts and are usually “directed” by a mihidir troll.

Side Action: Kalen Dan Hesperos will slay a warbrute on his own, where the troll lord Hanun-Daval is mounted, and almost kill him as well, but not before Hanun-Daval rips his heart from his chest and then somehow manages to slink away, calling a retreat as he does. The green troops of Lancaster rally, when the High Priestess Elana Tovarei (of Mitra) appears and aids them with columns of fire. She seems to take a great toll in calling this magic forth, however.

 The PCs should, ideally, be regarded as exceptional for their efforts in the battle, and if possible their close proximity to where Hesperos fell.

Elana Tovarei will rush to the aid of Hesperos, but see that he has been mortally wounded (and his heart missing). She will grieve, but after a day’s ceremonies she will announce that he is to be canonized for his great deeds over many years as a defender of Lancaster, and so the duke Maldric Gonn Esantras will declare that a procession shall carry his remains to the Island of Mitra off the coast of the capitol for burial in its tombs as a saint in the goddess’s honor.

Either their presence on the battlefield or their relationship to the Dann will lead the PCs to be invited to escort the procession.

The procession will start off well enough; the journey will be led by priestess Elana Tovarei, who PCs may deduce had some sort of relationship with Hesperos. Thirty pilgrims of the High Temple of Mitra and ten monks of the Order of Graethos will accompany the procession and carry the decorated coffin by hand. It makes for slow going, but seems to be the proper ritual. A dozen additional soldiers who all served under Hesperos also volunteer to accompany the procession as guards, along with the PCs.

Travel Encounters:

1.       A farmer with his family have a broken wheel on their melon cart. Their two horses are a bit sickly. It’s raining and they need assistance.
2.       An area has washed out and revealed a stream exposing bones and old armor. The armor has ancient marks on it; it looks like old Halic armor, from the barbarian peoples of old, predating Octzel’s founding. The stream cuts through an innocuous hill, but a partial dolmen has been exposed. 50% chance of a wight and skeletons inside….
3.       A caravan of musicians and murmers passes and tries to entertain, despite the dour nature of the funeral procession. Before being run off by the priests a woman dressed as death will proclaim that the funeral is a farce, and that she senses no soul to be buried….if pursued, the high priestess will contend she is a fraud, and expose her as such rather cruelly.
4.       One day a horse in the group collapses and dies. It seems to have some sickness that made it overly pale and weak.
5.       An orcish warband will be spotted in the distance and pace the group, waiting for an opening to strike, or maybe just to suss out vulnerabilities before deciding to look for easier prey elsewhere. The orcs are led by Huul Drag, a younger warrior looking to make a name for himself. They will follow for at least 3 days to assess weakness, and prospect of making a name for their band if an attack succeeds.

Days 1-3: uneventful, but slow due to rain and mud. Each PC makes a DC10 save vs, CON to avoid coming down with a cold or flu. Failure means they must roll again each day and take -2 penalties on all actions until better.
   Observant PCs will notice that Elana seems to be sick as well, and gets worse as the procession continues.

Day 4: The procession arrives at the mountain overpass, where a crossroads with a hangman’s tree is located, as well as the nearby Inn of the Croaking Raven. The skies remain dark and dour, the rain almost constant. Everyone is ill and there is a worry the pass will suffer from flooding and washouts. Elana calls to stay the night here, and wait out the rains.

The innkeeper, a stout fellow named Taunten, offers his cellar for the body, but several customers will quietly steal away. These four men will make their way to the bandit enclave where the brigand Artosios Valdurante operates….a former Hyrkanian soldier who went awol two years ago during the war and has set up his private army as a bandit prince. He is intrigued at the idea that the coffin may contain a saint’s body, and associated magical reliquaries. He decides to take it…

Day 5: the group finds the rains unabated, and three trappers arrive saying that they saw a storm giant in the pass. Elana grows sicker, and that afternoon the innkeep tells the PCs his daughter Masra has gone missing, and he is worried she may have been lured away by the local bandits (he’ll speak of the brigand Artosios). If they take his offer of 100 gold to look for her while the group is stuck here, he will do his best to describe where she might have gone. Tracking is impossible in the rain and mud, however.

If the group leaves for a day to look for the daughter then they will be absent when the group is attacked that night and the bandits haul the coffin off. If they do not go, then they will be there when approximately 40 bandits and the brigand prince Artosios attack.

(32 level 0 bandits L1)
(8 level 1 bandits L2)
(1 level 3 bandit prince L4)

They’ll try to abscond with the coffin in a bargain for the lives of the priests and monks. Failing that, they’ll try to torch the inn. If the PCs are absent, they will return to find that the bandits escaped with the coffin after taking the priestess Elana hostage, but three knights defending the coffin fell, though not before a dozen bandits were killed. The rest of the knights are out trying to find her in this event.

Day 6: The bandits are back with the coffin and possibly Elana by midnight, assuming they succeed. If they failed, then this event does not happen and there is one more day of dreary rain and flooding.

The bandit caves are north of the crossroads, not far from an abandoned lumber mill (about 7 miles). Locals, such as the trappers, will mention that they have seen the bandits going in to and out of a valley beyond the old Harrid Mill. They also warn that the mill is haunted. Leaving in the morning will mean most of the day is spent travelling due to the horrible weather conditions.

The Harrid Mill: Vance Fatterad ran this mill long ago and stripped the region of trees. He and his boys were rough woodsmen, but they were all curious looking souls, overly large and ungainly. No one ever spoke of their mother…..because as it turns out she was a gruesome ogre woman named Abara, kept deep in a basement below the mill!

After a major fire the mill was abandoned, Fatterad and his boys were run out when accusations of their impure blood were leveled. They left Abara behind, though….stories are the place is haunted by Fatterad’s wife, but they are only half true. She’s still alive, and lives in a carefully dug out complex beneath the mill where she and a new pack of ogre children now reside.

Anyone poking around the mill will risk getting caught in a spike or pit trap, or spotted by ogres. A careful search can reveal the secret trap door that opens up to the compound below. Abara has grown to immense size, unable to move from her bed chamber, but her boyz are busy expanding the complex and providing for her.

Regardless….anyone searching for Masra will find her blue scarf in the ruins. Turns out she may have been taken by the ogres below…in fact, interrogating an ogre will reveal they captured her, but then their brother “Ghasambad” stole her away!

The Valley:  The valley has several denizens of note, including…
1.       Ghasambad, son of Abara – an ogre penitent who regrets the family he grew up in, but remains close to his mother to try and mitigate the evil his siblings may commit to. He just rescued Masra and is keeping her at her camp to heal her wounds. She has taken a liking to him.
2.       Near the entrance to the cave is a scout lookout point where usually four bandits are assigned to guard at any given time.
3.       A wild bullette roams this area, and likes to stomp and churn and prance and threaten any who approach its territory at the base of the valley. Astute trackers will notice the embedded trails go well around the valley floor.

The Bandit Cave: The cave entrance is shadowed and hard to spot along the cliff walls toward the valley’s end. The entrance contains tall pillars of stone carved into crude images of ancient solders and monsters, and the walls are covered in the main entry with ancient petroglyphs of Halic design. Inside the main entrance is a passage opening into a huge amphitheater-like cave where an immense stalagmite has been carved in the crude image of a giant, ancient mother goddess figure which resembles an ancient rendition of the goddess Hellias, or possibly Karsyllym.

The bandits have turned this chamber into a large encampment, and a hole in the ceiling with ladders leads to a smaller upper chamber where Artosios dwells with two women, Kala (human) and Etana (tiefling) serve as his consorts. He also keeps a small horde here of some 3,200 GP, 3 potions of healing, a potion of strength (+4 STR 1 hour), a quiver of ten twin strike arrows and a longsword +1. Lots of trade goods are here as well, and a crude rope pulley system for lifting and lowering goods. He’ll have the coffin in the lower area, having not yet raised it.

Below in the encampment are his fifty-odd followers, less any lost in prior excursions.

If the adventurers arrive here within hours of the coffin’s capture, they will find the entire camp abuzz with activity. Assuming they are looking for the girl and not the coffin, they will find the same. 

If the coffin has been here a day or more, they’ve opened it and discovered the secret within: Hesperos has become a vampire with his heart captured by the troll warlord! He has slain the bandits and they have been raised as an army of undead…..but Hesperos will lie dormant in the coffin. If Elana was captured, she will be silent and terrified in the upper chamber, protecting the two women and possibly the bandit prince. If forced to confront what happened, she will reveal that she needs to get Hesperos to the temple to purify him and save his soul from the troll warlord….nothing else will work. But so long as the coffin is not opened, he will remain at rest!

Part II: this could go a few ways, but in the campaign as run the adventurers made it to a port where they took Hesperos, contained once more, by sea to the Isle of Enki where he was properly put to rest by the priests. Perhaps more on that soon!

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