Sunday, December 14, 2008
So avid readers will remember that I DM'd an online Ravenloft 3.5 ed game on Fantasy Grounds with some buddies of mine a while back. Specifically the "Expedition to Castle Ravenloft" game, though we never got into the Castle itself. This was my fauilt, as I didn't have the patience anymore to convert maps and dialogue into type form anymore, and the Castle itself is such a huge project I just gave up. It didn't help that I had made an agreement with a guy on the FG forums that I would convert the realm and encounters around the Castle and village, etc. into FG format and he'd do the Castle itself, except after I sent him my stuff he never reciprocated. That was pretty much the end of it.
Anyway, avid readers will also remember that I have a new local 4e D&D group I have weekly games with (in-person!). Well, they just got transported into Ravenloft (Barovia, specifically) and fought their way into the center of a besieged town, which is under seige by '30 Days of Night'-style zomb-ires (I've altered the EtCR a lot for 4e). Anyway, one of the players plays a halfling ranger/rogue who's a living turret (*pew pew pew*), and he writes a bi-weekly journal of our games in-character. As his last game was their first foray into Ravenloft, I figured my old players and fellow Ravenloftians might appreciate reading it. I've also come up with a new Fear/Horror/Madness percentile-based system into our Ravenloft games that is very Call of Cthulhu-oriented. So far its worked out pretty good and the players seem to like it, so I may post the details of the system in another post.
Just for reference, the characters are Rong the Dragonborn Cleric of the Raven Queen, Arjan the Half-elf Paladin of the Raven Queen, Wil Blackburn the Human Man-at-Arms, Colibri the Tiefling Fire Mage, and KinKal the Halfling Ranger/Rogue.
Journal of KinKal Issue R1
There was a chill in the air as we got our bearings in this new place. It was dusk and a thick fog hung about the forest the bordered the road. The land we had left was snow-covered but here there was none.
We started off in the direction of the town – perhaps someone there could explain where we were. As we moved down the road the fog seemed to get even thicker and a misty rain began to fall. Though I believe the actual temperature was warmer than where we left, the wet air chilled me. And I had a feeling in my gut…something here was just not right.
We eventually reached a gate in the road flanked by two large statues whose heads had been removed. There was no wall beyond the gate or any other reason for it to be there. The thick forest was as it had been on either side of the road.
The gate creaked open – probably a bit of breeze…though it seemed pretty calm. It just seemed creepy but I wasn’t about to let a creaking gate scare me and strode forward. As the rest of the group followed through the gate slammed shut behind us. The hair stood up on the back of my neck and the feeling of dread increased – that was clearly not natural.
I shook off my doubts and we continued forward but there was still that nagging feeling in the back of my mind that something wasn’t right.
We broke from the woods as the rain increased from heavy mist to a constant drizzle – not enough to soak you, but enough to be cold and annoying. A town lay in a low spot thick with the ever-present mist. However, we did not see any signs of life – no fires, no light, no smoke from chimneys. As we got closer we could see that the doors and windows of all of the buildings were boarded up.
The muddy road showed signs of recent foot travel from many sets of boots, and with the puddles on the ground and rainy weather they couldn’t have been very old. So someone had to be here, somewhere.
A noise up ahead grabbed our attention – there seemed to be an overturned cart of some sort with humanoid figures around it. It was hard to tell what exactly they were doing though the thick fog…but as we got closer it became clear – they were some sort of sick undead creatures feasting on dead humans!
I felt the bile rise in my throat; these were no simple mindless zombies but were instead actively feasting on the dead bodies! Our new addition – I had learned his name was Wil Blackburn – charged forward but the sickly creatures were faster than they appeared and after deftly dodging his blows started swarming around him.
As the paladin marched forward and launched into his attack, he was assaulted from the flank down another street. Fortunately he avoided the attack as the rune-covered creature caused the ground beneath him to open and attempt to swallow him.
The fast zombies gave out a high-pitched scream which was answered from distant rooftops. As we cut down the zombie hoard more of them poured in from the rooftops, surrounding Wil and Ahrjan, while the rune-covered enemy pressed forward. Wil managed to get tangled up with a zombie during an attack and dropped to the ground, managing to get a face full of muddy water which momentarily blinded him.
We were looking a bit pressed and I still felt the horror in my gut. Still I pressed forward a bit as the rune-covered evil sent a wave arcane fear over our front rank. Meanwhile Wil had gotten up and cleared his eyes, but in his drive to strike his foes got his flail tangled and tossed it across the road.
The cart we had seen was now an inferno as Colibri’s bursts had caught that as well as the enemies. I saw a cold determination rise in Rong as he stepped forward and called on the power of the Raven Queen. A shadowy burst of divine energy radiated out from him and several of the creatures screamed as they turned to dust! Ahrjan pressed forward but was trapped by the earth attack and could not reach the runed enemy.
My arrows finally started flying true and I felled a pair of the disgusting creatures that were coming over the rooftops. We had now turned the tide, but the leader was still standing. Rong stepped forward, again invoking his god, and smote the thing. There was a terrible scream as the runes glowed and the creature seemed to collapse in on itself.
Ahrjan yelled some nonsense about that being “his” enemy to defeat but most of us figured it was just more of his “life is pain” morose crap and just nodded until he stopped. Rong seemed a bit surprised at the reaction but little seems to shake the huge Dragonborn. But then again he could have had a look of complete fear for all I knew – his face never seems to change no matter what the situation.
All was quiet…for a moment. Then we heard the scream of another of these wild zombies. The fire – it was clearly visible from most of the town and we pressed on to get away from it before we had more visitors.
Clear of the fire we came upon an open crossroads. In the middle there was a man lying face down. We all suspected…well something. Colibri poked the body with some magical force to see if it would arise as a zombie but it was truly dead…for now. Still, I’d seen enough ambush situations to go marching into this. No, always change the rules when you suspect an ambush. So I quietly climbed to the roof of one of the buildings to our right. Moving stealthily I noted a figure on a roof opposite, seemingly watching the corpse. It was hard to see through the fog but it seemed to be crouched in a pose suggesting a zombie, not a human. I took careful aim and fired – the arrow neatly pierced the creature’s neck and it pitched forward onto the street with little more than a thump.
The group approached the man and he seemed to have some sort of amulet on him – an old symbol of a sun god of some sort. I stayed on the roof, watching for more enemies while the group searched the body. Suddenly they looked up at the building he appeared to be fleeing when he died. I could see in their eyes that something inside was not right. Colibri gave out some sort of scream and started looking around as if he were surrounded by enemies. Before we could act he had launched a spell at Ahrjan. A moment later the madness seemed to clear from his eyes and he looked confused. Ahrjan slapped Colibri to try to clear his senses but it was obvious he now knew he had been affected by some sort of delusion.
Meanwhile Rong and Wil had gone in and taken care of the floating apparition practically before I could get into the building.
We sat to rest a moment but heard the sound of combat farther along the street. It appeared we were not the only ones fighting zombies in this dread place! So off we raced toward the sound. I checked my supply of arrows on the way; a little more than a single quiver. Hopefully there was someone in this forsaken place that could make a straight shaft and put steel to its tip [after all, in 4e I can’t craft anything…].
We came upon what appeared to be the city center. There were barriers constructed across the roads entering the square but one was broken and zombies flooded through the breach. In the middle a single armored female struck down zombies with gusto, but was hard pressed and wounded.
The barriers were high – clearly made to slow the advance of the quick zombies. It took some of my teammates a bit of effort to clear the obstacle, but it hardly slowed me down. Two arrows took care of two zombies currently attacking the armored lady. She looked up a bit surprised at the sudden aid and I simply smiled; “Yes ma’am, the heroes have arrived.”
With our help the zombies were quickly dispatched – even those foul things that hurled globs of putrescence at us. Without hesitation the lady – who we later learned was Ashlan and a Paladin – started directing people to rebuild the barrier. But before we could get very far with that the ground shook with giant footfalls. I could help but wonder what this place was? Where had we ended up? Was this some sort of slow death set upon us by some evil god? Perhaps there was no end to the flow of living dead and it was simply an inevitability for us to join this army? The thought shook me – slaving was my most hated issue but eternal servitude with the torture of the cold pain of death lingering forever?
A barrier burst open, shaking me out of my thoughts. A zombie the size of a house stood in the newly made breach. I hesitated, wondering how something this foul could even exist. Well, that didn’t matter now, let them come and keep coming. I will fill them with arrows until I have no more, then I will cut them with my swords until I create a pile of bodies so high they can no longer reach me! And somewhere, somehow a bard will sing songs of the crazy Halfling that slew an army of zombies!
I let fly with arrows but the shaking of the ground threw off my aim. Wil strode bravely forward but the creature swung its massive hand at him. Though it struck Wil with the force of a battering ram its back swing had hit a building, knocking lose a tall tower. The tower collapsed on the giant zombie causing massive damage!
The group pressed hard, seeing even more, smaller zombies following the giant beast. Apparently the falling tower had done a lot of damage as the big zombie fell under our assault. Still I had a feeling – something was not right. And correct I was, as moments later the thing got back up! I launched arrows burring several deep it its rotting flesh. Rong, Arjan, Colibri, and Wil smashed, burned, and cut not only the giant zombie but all that followed and soon all of the dead had been returned to their rightful state.
Ashlan thanked us and introduced herself. She indicated that the attack seemed to be over for now and we should retire to the tavern to rest and recover.
Even in the warm tavern I could feel the chill inside me. This was not the normal chill of wet, cold weather but a chill that touched something deeper. Should I fall from this evil and rise as one of these foul creatures I truly hope that my companions will destroy me and ensure that I do not rise again. I most certainly will not hesitate to do the same to them.
Maybe this is some test from the Raven Queen for Rong and Ahrjan? Perhaps I was just unlucky enough to be caught up in the “test”? Whatever the case, perhaps I should at least learn a bit about this Queen and what it is I can do to keep her satisfied.